‘Drawing and etching were Bernard Leach’s calling cards: the means by which his name was first made in Japan and his artistry made visible. The significance of this early work cannot be underestimated’. – Simon Olding
The Etchings of Bernard Leach is published by the Crafts Study Centre in association with The Leach Pottery. It researches the significance of Bernard Leach’s early career as an etcher, before he found fame as the 20th century’s most influential potter. It features over 80 of Bernard Leach’s etchings, many of which have never appeared before in print. The book tells the narrative of a young man’s artistic journey and his efforts to find his way as an artist in Japan from 1909 to 1920.
Bernard Leach held a generation of students, acolytes and friends in his thrall. The Potter’s Book, written by Leach in 1940, with a synergy of Western and Oriental ceramic traditions, inspired hundreds of people to take up a vocation in the crafts. His early artistic work, is, however, less well documented. Although Leach stopped etching by the mid 1920s, he continued to draw throughout his long life, remarking that: ‘to me, painting and drawing are as important as pottery’.
The Etchings of Bernard Leach features prints from the 65 etching plates generously donated to the Crafts Study Centre in 2007 by Stella and Nick Redgrave. Research prints have been commissioned by the Crafts Study Centre from artist Martyn Brewster. A certain intrigue surrounds the plates themselves. Leach claimed that he stopped etching because they were stolen. Yet at some point they must have been found, since the plates were rediscovered probably in the attic of the Leach Pottery in St Ives after his death. The publication also features works from private collections and Leach’s own archive.
About the contributors
Professor Simon Olding
Professor Simon Olding is Director of the Crafts Study Centre, University for the Creative Arts. He is a writer and curator with 30 years experience in the arts and museums sectors, including posts such as Director of Policy and Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund and Head of Arts and Museums for Bournemouth Council. He is presently a Trustee of the Leach Pottery, St Ives and President of Walford Mill Crafts. His research interests are often focused on makers based in the South West of England.
Dr Julian Stair
Dr Julian Stair (Chair) is a potter and writer. He has exhibited internationally over the last 30 years and has work in over 20 public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Council, American Museum of Art & Design, Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Netherlands. In 2004 he was awarded the European Achievement Award by the World Crafts Council and in 2008 the Art Fund purchased ‘Monumental Jar V’ for Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. In 2002 Julian completed a PhD at the Royal College of Art researching the critical origins of English studio pottery. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts, London and was a Co-Investigator for the AHRC funded three year project ‘Forgotten Japonisme: The Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA 1920s-1950s’. He has been a regular contributor to craft journals for over 20 years and recently wrote the essay ‘The Employment of Matter: Pottery of the Omega Workshop’ for the exhibition ‘Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19’, at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2009.