Ethical pot

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The term "ethical pot" was coined by Oliver Watson in his book Studio Pottery: Twentieth Century British Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum to describe a 20th-century trend in studio pottery that favoured plain, utilitarian ceramics. Watson said that the ethical pot,"lovingly made in the correct way and with the correct attitude, would contain a spiritual and moral dimension." Its leading proponents were Bernard Leach and a more controversial group of post-war British studio potters.[1] They were theoretically opposed to the expressive pots or fine art pots of potters such as William Staite Murray, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper.[1]

The ethical pot theory and style was popularized by Bernard Leach in A Potter's Book (1940).[2] He expanded the theories that ethical pots should be utilitarian, "naturally shaped" and originally as conceived should derive from "Oriental forms that transcended mere good looks." [3] Leach had previously spent considerable time in Japan studying eastern crafts and mingei. His ethical pot idea was a rough interpretation of mingei for the western world; he advocated simplicity (ideally the best pots are so quick to make that they could be "thrown before breakfast"), and pots made to look natural and hand crafted. Soetsu Yanagi, a leading figure in the mingei movement, said that a craft object "must be made by an anonymous craftsman or woman and therefore unsigned; it must be functional, simple, and have no excess ornamentation; it must be one of many similar pieces and must be inexpensive; it must be unsophisticated; it must reflect the region it was made in; and it must be made by hand."[4]

According to ceramic art critics of today, this pot style was intended to be modernist, useful, and "democratic in usage" as opposed to the fine art pot[1] and also opposed to industrial art.

Potters in the movement[edit]

The potters apprenticed to Bernard Leach include: Michael Cardew, Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie, Nora Braden, David Leach and Michael Leach (his sons), William Marshall, Kenneth Quick and Richard Batterham. His American apprentices included: Warren MacKenzie, Byron Temple, Clary Illian and Jeff Oestrich. He was a major influence on the leading New Zealand potter Len Castle, and they had worked together in the mid-1950s. Through his son David, Bernard was the main influence on the work of the Australian potter Ian Sprague.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Collecting Ceramics
  2. ^ Adelaide Review
  3. ^ Studio Reviews
  4. ^ Transcript of Yanagi's talk at the first International Conference of Potters and Weavers, Darlington Hall, Devon, England, 1952