Born 1939, Leach Pottery Cottage, St Ives, Cornwall
Central to the remarkable 20th century revival of international studio pottery has been one family name – Leach. Bernard Leach was the movement’s founder. Potter, philosopher and writer, he was a cultural missionary between East and West. The pottery he set up in St Ives became the movement’s focal point.
Today, his eldest grandson, John Leach, continues the St Ives tradition, making hand-thrown, wood-fired pots at Muchelney in Somerset – each echoing the Leach philosophy of beauty in simplicity of form and decoration.
Classic Muchelney kitchenware, with its warmly textured patina, has been in constant production since John first set up the pottery in 1965. This familiar range of sturdily rounded casseroles, bowls, jugs and jars is used daily in thousands of homes. Only since 1983 has John felt free to develop individual signed work, notably his “Black Mood Pots”. His style draws on a lifetime’s influences, such as his own training at St Ives, a love of English mediaeval pottery and early American folk pottery to the traditional leather water vessels of the Middle East combined with the impact of a 1984 study trip to Nigeria.
For John, this eclectic melting pot of influences is a natural reflection of his belief in an international kindred spirit between potters from the past and the present.
Alongside his creative work John Leach has also, like his grandfather, developed the skills of the communicator, running workshop demonstrations and giving regular international lecture tours.
Like his grandfather before him, John accepts with pleasure what he sees as a responsibility to communicate and share with like-minded people his thoughts and 40 years’ experience as a potter.
“I am happy to repay my good fortune in life by sharing with others the fulfilment I have found in my work, work which I see as a rewarding therapy in this over-standardised age,” he explains.
His pots are hand-thrown, using West Country clay and wood-fired at 1320ºC in a newly built three-chambered kiln, designed by John in the Oriental tradition. The kitchen pots’ distinctive ‘toasted’ finish is the result of the firing process. The individual black pots are saggar-fired, their signature white markings are a spontaneous effect of the saggar’s undulating sawdust packing.
1939 Born St Ives, Cornwall
1957-63 Apprenticed to Bernard and David Leach. Also trained with Colin Pearson and Ray Finch
1963 Taught in USA and set up pottery with Harold Guilland in Mendocino, California
1964 Established Muchelney Pottery in Somerset, making oil-fired functional stoneware
1975 Started wood-firing
1983 Began making individual, signed work
1984 Study tour of Nigeria
1985-86 Workshops in Alaska
1986 Workshops in Denmark, Canada and USA
1987 Two coast-to-coast USA workshop tours
1989 Third USA tour, solo shows and workshops in Canada and Sweden
1990 Appointed Trustee Bath Study Craft Centre and to Management
Committee, Parnham School for Wood. Workshop tour Jamaica and USA
1991 Workshop tour USA
1992 Open Workshop Events at Muchelney
Victoria & Albert Museum
National Museum of Wales
Stoke City Museum
Newport Museum and Art Gallery
Whitehorse Museum, Yukon, Canada
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada
Fairbanks Museum, Alaska
Somerset County Museum, Taunton
Sir David Attenborough
Lord Peyton of Yeovil
Selected recent exhibitions
1991 Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield
1992 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool
1994 Gallery Nykvarn, Enkoping, Sweden. Bettles Gallery, Ringwood
1995 Hesketh Gallery, Lewes
1997 Prime Gallery, Toronto. Potters’ Guild Gallery, Vancouver, B.C.
1999 Tate Gallery, St Ives
Since 1994 Muchelney Abbey