Bernard Leach

(1887—1979) potter and writer

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British potter, who was the major figure in modern studio pottery in Britain. He became a CH in 1973.

The son of a colonial judge, Leach spent the first ten years of his life in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan before going to school in Britain in 1897. He attended the Slade School of Art (1903–08) and in 1909 returned to Japan, where in 1911 he took up pottery, apprenticing himself to the sixth generation of Kenzan potters. Apart from two visits to China, Leach remained in Japan until 1920, when he returned to Britain with fellow potter Hamada Shōji and set up his studio pottery in St Ives, Cornwall.

Leach's style – and the public response to his work – developed slowly. His products were designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional and at their best they combined the best qualities of both traditional English and eastern pottery. He visited Japan and China regularly in the 1920s and 1930s. The first edition of his A Potter's Book, which outlined his philosophy and methods, was published in 1940: it rapidly became a potters' bible and influenced potters all over the world. His ideas were also spread by the pupils he took. In the 1950s he paid a number of visits to the USA, where he met his third wife, and in the sixties and seventies he wrote two more books: Kenzan and his Tradition (1966) and Hamada, Potter (1975).

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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