17 January - 7 March 2020
Shoji Hamada, Very Large Bowl, 1954



Dates: 17th Jan - 14th March 2020


Private View: Friday 17th Jan / 5-7pm


Oxford Ceramics opens it's 2020 season celebrating the centenary of one the mostsignificant ceramic studios founded in 1920; The Leach pottery. This pottery has shaped studio ceramics as we see it today and is a cornerstone within ceramic history.  With over 200works sourced from acrossthe globe from the late masters of ceramics, Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Michael Cardew, Kawai Kanjiro, Tomimoto Kenkichi; as well as antique English Slipware from as far back as the 18th Century.

This is a show that weaves together both influence and the finished article there is something for both collector, ceramic enthusiasts and the plain curious. 


"As far back as one goes in time, the works of humanity from prehistoric times have reached us not through stone which crumbles and wears away, or through metal which oxidizes and becomes like powder, but through slabs of pottery, the writing on which is as clear today as it was under the stiletto of the scribe who traced it." (Bernard Leach, A Potter's Book)


For James Fordham, the creative director of Oxford Ceramics, 'This was always going to be a significant show for the gallery, as The Leach Pottery is one of the most respected and influential potteries in the world. They've shaped and influenced ceramics as we know it. I wanted to mark this anniversary with a show that explored not only the work of Leach & Hamada,  but looked deeper into the influences on their work.'


'Many great potters studied under Leach and many more inspired by his written work including a potters book published in the 1940s'


'Bernard Leach is often called the father of British studio pottery and played a leading role in the growth of the studio pottery movement, not only as a maker but also through his writing, lecturing and training of future potters. He set up the Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall in 1920, which became a magnet for potters from around the world who supported his views on pottery and wanted to learn from him.' (David Whiting, 2019)


Over the last 18 months James has brought together several museum quality pieces from opposite ends of the globe, including works from the New York collectors Nancy & Andrew Ramage, whose collection amassed over 20 year and includes important early works from Leach & Cardew - particularly slipware. Alongside these are works from distinguished Japanese collections, including two rare works from Tomimoto Kenkichi and Kawia Kanjiro - both figures in the formation of the 'mingei movement'


These are complimented with several rare books published by Yanagi in 1935 that document the folk craft movement in Japan which influenced Leach and Hamada. 


'These were the equivalent to today's 'weekly magazines' but produced in small numbers, with handmade textile covers, woodblock prints on pages, original photos of pots and antique craft documented.' 


Fordham's highlight for this show are:


Pictured: Squared Plate by Tomimoto Kenkichi, 1940, in signed, fitted box, with enamel decoration, 7.5 x 28.5 x 28.5 cms 


A Tomimoto dish which was made in the winter of 1940, describing the piece as "exceptional and rarely seen outside of museum collections". All of Tominto's work is unique and very few pieces are in the UK. There are a handful in UK museum collections, more in Japan.  Tomimoto was a trained painter, like Leach, and they met in 1913. As Leach wanted to learn more about Japanese potters, he enlisted Tomimoto's help. They befriended Hamada and it's through Leach he was introduced to the craft. Tomimoto is considered a true master of ceramics."


Pictured: A rare and important Leaping Salmon Vase by Bernard Leach, c1950, BL and St Ives and 'England' seals near base, stoneware, 28.5 x 15 cms / with Okinawa Style Tea Bowl by Shoji Hamada, 1970, 8.5 x 13 cms


A Leach vase with a leaping salmon design very similar to a piece in the collection at York Art museum from the Milner -white Collection which has been described  as "York's most important pot". That piece was made around 1930-31 by Leach and is considered by many (including Leach himself) to be his best work. It features the famous bracken-ash glaze and is one of the rare pots where the glaze was completely successful. This glaze along with the Chinese influenced shape and skilfully painted leaping salmon motif (which consists of only 26 brush strokes) combine to produce one of the UK's finest and most famous studio pots of the 20th century. (A BBC History of the world)


Pictured: St Ives Slipware Jug by Michael Cardew, MC and St Ives seals, 22 x 19 cms / with 2 Tankards by Bernard Leach, St Ives seal on both and BL script mark to one, slipware with incised text 'Drink about brother, when this is down we'll have another' and 'St Ives, 1929'. 11 x 8.5 and 11 x 8


An early Slipware Tankard by Bearnard Leach and a Devon Harvest jug with script lettering made by Cardew, c 1925.


Pictured: 18th Century Boney Pie Dish, slipware, 5.5 x 24.5 cms / with 18th Century Slipware Dish, 7 x 33.5 cms.


An antique piece of early english slipware which Hamada, Leach and Cardew would have drawn inspiration from - the 'Boney Pie', of which there is a similar example in the kitchen at the pottery at St Ives above the fireplace. Leach said  "It seems reasonable to expect that beauty will emerge from a fusion of the individual character and culture of the potter, with the nature of his materials." (Bernad Leach)


For more informations or images, please contact:


Oxford Ceramics Gallery, 29 Walton St, Oxford, OX2 6AA, UK

+44 (0)1865 512320