BERNARD LEACH AND GWENDOLEN PARNELL

I said in my last post that the inspiration of the ceramic modellers – Gwendolen Parnell (above), Charles Vyse, Stella Crofts and others – was very different from that of the Eastern and country pottery influence on the studio pottery of Bernard Leach, State Murray and their followers, and that their philosophy was very different as well. That’s true, but they had friendly relations in the early days of studio pottery and they exhibited and organised together.

For a while they joined together in The Guild of Potters and organised joint exhibitions. For us, who see them as very different, it’s not easy to understand what they had in common. Jeffrey Jones in his book on 20th-century studio pottery records some dismissive comments by Leach about the modellers. And so it appears that the modellers dropped out of the picture and had had their day by the Second World War.

I just came across a 1951 review by Bernard Leach of Reginald Haggar’s book on Country Pottery, which was in fact about more than that, and was surprised to find that one of Leach’s reservations was that it said nothing about Gwendolen Parnell. Leach knew Parnell from twenty-five years previously when he attended meetings of the Guild of Potters in her Chelsea studio, and it’s clear that he had more respect for her than Jones suggests and that you might expect from the vast difference in their work.

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