In recent years the Leach Pottery in St. Ives, Cornwall, has been run by a trust as a museum and a workshop for potters, and they have revived the idea of standard ware, which was the backbone and the daily bread of Bernard Leach’s pottery after the second world war. A stream of apprentices and trainees went through the Leach pottery, latterly cutting their teeth on standard ware.
In the early 1970s I was living in Cornwall, struggling to set up my own pottery in the unromantic town of Camborne, part of the Cornwall That Nobody Knows, one of the inland working towns that offer little to tourists. The main industry of Camborne wasn’t fishing, farming or tin mining, but the manufacturing of compressed air machinery at Holman’s.
Naturally, I looked in at the Leach Pottery, but I never met Bernard Leach because causal visitors weren’t allowed further than the showroom. There I picked up the catalogue of standard ware, which shows what they made then. They charged for the catalogue, their main marketing tool, a bizarre decision indicative of how uncommerical Leach was. I bought a couple of bowls (No. 8, 52 pence each) and an ashtray (No. 5, 22 pence). They were practical and hardwearing, though rough and unsuitable for polished tables. I gave up smoking years ago but I still have the ashtray.