Studio pottery is big news – and getting bigger. Ceramics by 20th century British potters have been a strong if niche collecting area since Bernard Leach started the movement in St Ives in the 1920s but now it’s gaining more mainstream ground as people realise its artisan beauty.
‘Pots get under your skin,’ says Marijke Varrall-Jones, director of Maak, the London auction house that specialises in British studio ceramics, ranging from tableware by Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie at one end of the timeline, to bowls and vessels by Edmund de Waal and Rupert Spira at the other, with around 80 other potters in between. ‘You buy one pot and it leads to another. They have such strong aesthetic appeal. It’s a market driven by passion and people become very knowledgeable’.
And, it’s not as expensive as you might think. Comparatively, studio ceramics are more affordable than paintings, prints or sculptures by artists of equal stature. So you can easily pick up pottery at auction by some of the biggest names of the 20th century for just a couple of hundred pounds.
Once you’ve started your collection, it’s easy to incorporate them into your home. These seven steps provide easy ways to use studio pottery to bring a relaxed artisanal feel to your living space.
To show off a studio pottery collection to maximum effect, combine different shapes and styles that work together tonally against a plain background
Pottery, from left: Spherical Hans Coper pot with disc, from a selection, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Lucie Rie tall cylindrical vase with sgraffito design, from a selection, Joanna Bird. William Marshall yunomi cup, £350; William Marshall bottle vase, £550; David Leach lidded pot, from £245; Okinawa bowl, £6,500, Sho–ji Hamada; Hans Coper hourglass vase, from a selection, all Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Michael Cardew pitcher, from £300; Michael Cardew stem cup, from £300, both Joanna Bird. ‘Club Yellow’ linen, N012, £96 per m, Fermoie. Gold stripe linen grain sacks, £50; roll of vintage linen, £25 per m, all Beyond France. Wall painted in ‘Dolphin’ Intelligent matt emulsion (246), £43.50 per 2.5l, Little Greene
Use rough linens and reclaimed wood to contrast with smooth ceramic surfaces on a dining table
Pottery on table, from left: Sho–ji Hamada plate, £2,450 for pair; Janet Leach small bud vase, £525, all Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Michael Cardew large bowl, from £300, Joanna Bird. Sho–ji Hamada plate, as before. Four Lucie Rie white bowls, £6,450, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Michael Cardew small jug, from £300, Joanna Bird. Michael Casson tall jug, £850; Sho–ji Hamada early slipware yellow vase, £6,500; Rupert Spira white open bowl, £1,450, all Oxford Ceramics Gallery Other items: Logan’ oak dining table, £529, Swoon Editions. Reclaimed stool, £40, Lost & Found. Blue spindle chair, find similar at Ines Cole. Reclaimed bench, £125, Ines Cole. Pendant lamp, £90, Retrouvius. Fabric tablecloth in ‘Skye Check Oatmeal’, £39.50 per m, Ian Mankin. Grain sacks, as before. Cushion (on stool) in ‘Linhope Stripe Green’, J873F-01, £46 per m, Jane Churchill. Folded cushion covers (on chair) in ‘Dandelion’, £38 per m, St Jude’s. Yellow linen cushion, £32, Annie Wharton. Green and yellow glasses, £9 each, Ines Cole. Glass bottle, £5, Lost & Found. Curtain in ‘Chiltern 013’ linen, £96 per m, Fermoie. Dash & Albert ‘Annabel’ rug in grey, £429, Kensington Design. Mango chopping boards, £45; woven basket, £75; saffron waffle throw, £115, all Ines Cole. Wall painted in ‘Dolphin’ Intelligent matt emulsion, as before
The earthy colours and painterly glazes of studio ceramics combine to create a rich table collection
Bernard Leach square slipware dish, £1,500; Sho–ji Hamada hexagonal dish, £1,450 for six;
Sho–ji Hamada plate, £2,450 for pair; Sho–ji Hamada plate with trailed glaze, £2,450, all Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Michael Cardew bread plate with swirl, from £300, Joanna Bird. Janet Leach faceted bowl, £650; Bernard Leach lidded conserve jar, £850, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Cutlery, from a selection, Briggs & Oliver. ‘Stirling’ flax fabric, £59.50 per m, Ian Mankin. Yellow ‘Mendip’ fabric, L292, £96 per m, Fermoie. Glass, £9, Ines Cole. Antique cross-stitch napkins, find similar at Pimpernel & Partners. Italian striped linen napkins, £12 each, The Linen Works
Warm hues of mustard yellow and antique oak combine with cool stone grey pots to create a soothing and relaxed living space
On wall: Michael Cardew charger plate, from £300, Joanna Bird. On shelf: Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie candlestick, £325; Michael Casson tall jug, £850, both Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Jim Malone large moulded bottle vase with glaze trails, £1,700, Joanna Bird. Bernard Leach lidded conserve jar, £850, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Michael Cardew black milk jug, from £300; William Marshall stoneware lugged vase, £1,800, both Joanna Bird. Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie lemonade cup, £650 for set (jug and two cups), Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Antique brush, from £20; antique books, £250 for nine, all Appley Hoare Antiques. Antique mirror, £480 (part of four-piece set), Puckhaber
On coffee table: Janet Leach plate, £645; William Marshall large bottle vase, £950; William Marshall porcelain vase, £650; Janet Leach cut bowl, £350, all Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Richard Batterham glazed jug, £75, Joanna Bird
Other items: Antique oak shelf, find similar at Lassco. ‘Bluebell’ sofa in ‘Ash’ soft wool, £1,600, Sofa.com. ‘Poste’ coffee table, £245, Loaf. Bamboo chair, £650 for pair, Puckhaber. Reclaimed wood stool (used as side table), £59, Ines Cole. Cinnabar rug, £195, Loaf. Curtain in ‘York Stripe Green’, £95 per m, Fermoie. ‘Gaston’ lamp, £95, Loaf. Grain sacks (on sofa), as before. Cushions, from left: Geometric cushion, £100, Appley Hoare Antiques. Yellow ‘Rabanna’ fabric, £96 per m; green ‘York Stripe’ fabric, £96 per m, both Fermoie. ‘Angus Stripe Nordic Ivory’ linen, £39.50 per m, Ian Mankin. Decorative cushion, £35; hound and linen cushion, £38, both Annie Wharton. Yellow ‘Chanterelle’ linen, £96 per m; green ‘Hamble’ fabric, £96 per m, both Fermoie. Geometric cushion, as before. Other items: MDF tongue-and-groove panelling, £69 per 1.22 x 2.44m panel, Scumble Goosie. Painted in ‘Yellow Pink’ Intelligent matt emulsion, £43.50 per 2.5l, Little Greene. Wall painted in ‘Old White 4’ Estate emulsion, £39.50 per 2.5l, Farrow & Ball
Mix and match studio pottery for a relaxed look. A varied collection is easy to add to and doesn’t feel too precious for everyday use
On table, from left: David Leach cut sided jar, £550; David Leach large teapot, £650, both Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Richard Batterham black glazed jug, from £75, Joanna Bird. William Marshall yunomi cup, £295; Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie tankard, £265, both Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Grain sack, as before On shelf: William Marshall coffee pot, £450, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. All other items, as before
White tongue-and-groove boards, hessian curtains and vintage wood create a calm and creative work space, creating a studio feel that’s ideal for displaying pottery
Pottery, from top left: Yunomi cup; hexagonal bowls, all as before. Lucie Rie bronze sgrafitto vase, from a selection, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Richard Batterham tazza bowl, £175, Joanna Bird. Janet Leach faceted vase with stoneware basalt body, £1,200, Joanna Bird. Slipware vase, as before
Other items: ‘Crate Mate’ side tables used as shelves, £125 each, Loaf. 1930s black base table, £550; large antique paintbrush, from £15; confit pot, £60, all Appley Hoare Antiques. Craftsman stool, £155, Ines Cole. Green antique book; wooden ruler, both from a selection, Briggs & Oliver. Yellow ‘York Stripe’ fabric (underneath), £96 per m, Fermoie. Yellow ‘Arley Stripe’ fabric (on top), £46 per m, Jane Churchill. Ceramic tools; apron; brushes, loaned by potter Carina Ciscato
Take inspiration from the chalky white backdrops of potters’ studios with natural textures and rustic furniture that echo the patterns and tones of the ceramics
Pottery, from left: Lucie Rie large black planter, £6,500, Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Hans Coper globular form stoneware vase with sgraffito design, from a selection; Michael Cardew large black jar, from £300, Joanna Bird. On tall stand: David Leach black bottle vase, £795; Sho–ji Hamada squared vase, £5,500, both Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Jim Malone tall bottle vase, £1,800, Joanna Bird. Tall French sculptor’s stand, £850, Appley Hoare Antiques. Low potter’s stand, £330, Puckhaber. Vintage ladder, £10, The French House. Tiled number hook rack, £65, Ines Cole. Black hanging lamp, find similar at Graham & Green. Linen artisan pinny in charcoal, £58, The Linen Works. Striped yellow fabric, as before. Striped green ‘Linhope’ fabric, £46 per m, Jane Churchill. Curtain in ‘Birch Tree Sun’ fabric, £54 per m, St Jude’s. Pottery tools, loaned by potter Carina Ciscato. Flooring in ‘Seagrass Balmoral Basketweave’, £27.16 per sq m, Alternative Flooring. Wall painted in ‘Pointing’ Estate emulsion, £39.50 per 2.5l, Farrow & Ball