RYE POTTERY

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Tidying up my papers, I came across this old postcard, which I’d picked up at Gary Grant’s shop in Arlington Street behind Sadler’s Wells. The shop has been closed for many years, but I liked to pop in when I was going to the theatre to look at his excellent collection of mid-century pottery, especially his collection of Rye Pottery. These are Rye butter dishes.

The Rye Pottery was set up by Wally and Jack Cole and thrived after the war, capturing in their bright, whimsical ceramics the spirit of he Festival of Britain. They made tin-glazed tableware and decorative figures, which were very much of the time. The same spirit was expressed in the contemporary pottery of the Bayswater Three, William Newland, Margaret Hine and Nicholas Vergette, who made a good living decorating the interiors of coffee bars. This sort of pottery ran against the Leach current of Chinese-inspired stoneware. Newland found Leach’s dominance irritating but the Coles just got on with it. Their pottery still exists in Rye, still making tin-glazed wares.

Walter studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in the 1930s, when Dora Billington was teaching there and at a time when she was making exquisite tin-glazed ceramics, and he was subsequently a member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, of which she was a leading member. Rye was a rare example of a commercially successful craft pottery. Kenneth Clark and Ann Wynn-Reeves ran a similarly successful enterprise, concentrating on tiles but also making use of decorated tin-glaze; and they were also graduates of the Central pottery course.

 

TEXTILE INFLUENCES: ROBIN AND LUCIENNE DAY

Calyx, the textile designed by Lucienne Day that became an icon of the 1950s
Because surface design is an important part of my work I take my inspiration from arts other than studio pottery, which is a bit sniffy about decoration. Lucienne Day’s textiles are an important source. Her iconic “Calyx” design, made for the Festival of Britain in 1951, makes clever use of five colours, selecting eight contrasts out of a possible twenty. I like this disciplined treatment of colour and it’s essential to my patterns as I use only six colours on all my ceramics.  If you ring the changes like this, you can get unity in variety and make your work recognizable from its colourways without being monotonous.


Here is a video about Lucienne and Robin Day. 


Contemporary Days: The Designs of Lucienne & Robin Day from Design Onscreen on Vimeo.

The rational optimism of Lucienne and Robin Day, which comes across in this extract, is uplifting.  Robin says he thought that it was possible to improve people’s lives through good design, an essentially modernist idea out of fashion today, but a valid one.