Leach, Bernard

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Bernard Howell Leach is born on January 5, 1887 in Hongkong. He spent his first years in Japan, until his father moved back to Hongkong in 1890. Later, he attended the London Art School, where he studied drawing and etching. Here he became interested in Japan. In1909 he arrived for the second time in Japan. Here he taught etching. About 1911 he became fascinated by pottery in the Raku-yaki-style. In 1915 he moved for one year to Peking. It was the year 1919, when young Hamada Shoji visited Leach for the first time. In this period he decided to move to England. In 1920 he had a farewell exhibition in Tokyo. Traveling to england, he was accompanied by the young Hamada Shoji. The two established the Leach Pottery at St. Ives, Cornwall in 1920. They chose to build a traditional Japanese wood burning kiln. In their work they focused on traditional Korean, Japanese and Chinese pottery in combination with traditional techniques from England and Germany, such as slipware and salt glaze ware. In 1940 Bernard Leach published his A Potter's Book. In 1934 Leach and Mark Tobey - a fellow artist and teacher - traveled together through France and Italy, then sailed from Naples to Hong Kong and Shanghai and later to Japan. In 1940 Leach formally joined the Bahá'i Faith.

Many potters from all over the world were apprenticed at the Leach Pottery, and spread Leach's style and beliefs. His British associates and trainees include Michael Cardew, Katherine Pkleydell-Bouverie, Nora Braden, David and Michael Leach (his sons) and Richard Batterham. Bernard Leach married Janet Darnell in 1956. 

He continued to produce work until 1972 and never ended his passion for travelling. Bernard Leach died on May 6, 1979. He is regarded as the "Father of British studio pottery" (source text: partly Wikipedia).

Pictures: signature (source: The Pottery Studio); bottle about 1945 (source: Clark and Delvecchio); lidded pot (source: MAAK 2013).

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His ethical pots stand in opposition to what he called fine art pots, which promoted aesthetic concerns rather than function. Leach's pottery produced a range of 'standard ware' handmade pottery for the general public. At the same time he continued to produce pots which were exhibited as works of art.  

  • Leach, Bernard, A Potter's Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1940. 
  • Hodin, J.P., Bernard Leach, A Potter's Work, 1967.
  • New ed.; with introductions by Soyetsu Yanagi and Michael Cardew. London: Faber & Faber, 1976.                        
  • Beyond East and West: Memoirs, Portraits and Essays. New ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1985.                          
  • Drawings, Verse & Belief,  Oneworld Publications, 1988.
  • Thormann, Olaf, Gefäss / Skulptur - Vessel / Sculpture; Keramik / Ceramics seit / since 1946 Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig, 2013.