Welch, Robin

First name: 
Year of birth: 
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Country of birth: 
Great Brittain
Working period: 
Year of death: 

Robin Welch is born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on July 23, 1936. In 1952 he studied at Nuneaton School of Art. In 1953 he moved to Cornwall to study at Penzance School of Art where he was awarded a National Diploma in Design for Sculpture and Ceramics. He then worked between 1953 and 1959 at the Leach Pottery in St Ives. Between 1956 and 58 he undertook National Service with the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment. He continued studying at the Central School of Art, London (painting, sculpting). In London Welch was inspired by an exhibition for the great American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. He opened his own pottery in London's west end in 1960. This workshop ran to 1962. He than emigrated to Australia and returned home in 1965. He settled in East Anglia with his ceramicist wife Jenny Knowland. In 1965 they set up Stadbroke Pottery in Eye near Diss in Suffolk. They set up a cottage industry in an ancient barn, producing domestic ware with several assistants and winning major export orders to America. But the enterprise was gradually sunk by exchange rate issues, transport costs and, most of all, by Jenny’s having to give up pottery altogether due to neck and back problems. Robin has continued to carve out a singular career, with related prints, paintings and very sculptural pots. The baked earth, bright light and brilliant colours of Australia remain an abiding influence in pots which are thrown, hand-built and fired, often repeatedly, in an oil kiln. The rugged surfaces of his ceramics are adorned with brush strokes of slip, glaze or enamel colour and created alongside gritty paintings where the pigment may be mixed with sand. Hence the linking to desert landscapes of the Outback, and also of the Jordan he visited during national service with the parachute regiment. Trained first as a painter and then as a potter, he always felt it natural to put the two together - most especially in formal installations of clay and pigment. “There’s no divide between art and craft,” he says. “You decide to be an artist and you’ll use anything - if marooned on a desert island you’d use driftwood.”  Often outsized, his art reached a peak in a series of monumental candlesticks for Lincoln Cathedral fitting well with vast medieval masonry. Robin has designed for many major companies, including Wedgwood, Midwinter and Denby, and has done much teaching. Whilst he has always painted, his pictures have been seen more often in galleries in recent years. His images of vessels, in particular, reinforce the notion that his pots are three dimensional paintings, however his purely abstract mixed media work is particularly striking. Robin Welch has established an international reputation for his work, which combines his skills as a sculptor, painter and potter. In a career lasting more than more than 50 years, Robin Welch has exhibited throughout the UK and in the USA, Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Italy and Sweden. His work can be found in public collections in the UK, notably Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as collections in Australia and The Netherlands. Welch passed away on december 27, 2019.

Robin Welch has concentrated on creating individual ceramics pieces and painting since 1990 (text partly from: Ian Collins 20120326).

Images: Portrait (source Bevere Art Gallery); in studio; bowl form, h. 18,5 cm (source MAAK Auction London); deep bowl, ca. 1980, h. 25 cm (source MAAK Auction London); large bowl on foot, h. 27,2 cm (source MAAK Auction London).

  • Collins, Ian, 'The secret talent of Norfolk artist Robin Welch' in: Norwich Evening News, 20120326