Troika Pottery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Square vase made at Troika Pottery

Troika was an art pottery that operated in Cornwall from 1962 to 1983. It was founded by three people, Leslie Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Sirota who took over the Powell and Wells Pottery at Wheal Dream, where Sirota had previously worked as a decorator and driver. The name is from the Russian тройка, meaning "a set of three", or triumvirate.


Troika Pottery sign

Troika was set up in February 1962 by Leslie Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Sirota who took over the Powell and Wells Pottery at Wheal Dream, St Ives, Cornwall, where Benny Sirota had previously worked.[1] They wanted to pursue their vision of pottery as art, without regard to function. This ran counter to the aims of much of the studio pottery movement at the time, as epitomised by the work of Bernard Leach. They initially relied on the ceramics of Leslie's wife, Caroline (Kingston School of Art). This included the novel double egg cup.[2]

The venture rapidly became successful, gaining both critical praise and very high sales through a combination of the summer tourist trade and contracts with department stores such as Heals and Liberty in London. Vases, lamp bases and tableware were made using plaster moulds; tiles and wall plaques were also made in the early years.[3][not in citation given]

The Troika pottery was based at the Wheal Dream site in St Ives from 1962 to 1970, when it moved to Fragden Place in Newlyn. Benny Sirota left in 1980, and with declining sales, the business closed in 1983.[4][5]

From 19 January to 9 March 2013, an exhibition, Troika 1963-1983, was held at the Penlee House Gallery and Museum Penzance,[6] celebrating 50 years since the inception of Troika, which included a number of prototypes by Leslie Illsley. Benny Sirota attended the opening, and explained the origin of the company's name: "my grandfather escaped from Russia dressed as a woman on a troika – a sledge with three horses...there were three of us who started the firm – and it just gelled."[7]


Troika had two distinct ranges of ceramics — the rough textured wares and the smooth glazed wares. Although there was some crossover in shapes and styles between these ranges, they each had different characters and different successes. A number of examples can be found in the V&A collection.[8]


  1. ^ "Deco to Modern 20th Century Ceramics - Specialist dealers in Troika Pottery". 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  2. ^ Photograph shows sign at 1 Island Road St Ives where Caroline's mother lived
  3. ^ Mark Hill (2013). "Troika Pottery - Miller's Antiques & Collectables Price Guide". Retrieved 10 February 2013. Tiles and wall plaques, some up to five feet long, were also made in the first few years
  4. ^ "Troika Pottery - The Marks and the History of Troika Pottery". 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013. Benny Sirota left
  5. ^ Pottery Studio (2013). "Troika". Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Troikapedia - Troika 1963 - 1983". 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  7. ^ Frank Ruhrmund (2013). "Museum celebrates the legacy of innovative pottery manufacturer | This is Cornwall". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Troika pottery | Name | V&A Search the Collections". 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cashmore, Carol (1994). Troika Pottery St Ives. ISBN 99912-590-4-X
  • Perrott, George (2003). Troika Ceramics of Cornwall. Gemini Publications. ISBN 0-9530637-3-9
  • Harris, Ben and Illsley, Lawrence (2013). Troika 63-83. It's Pronounced Aitch Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9574873-0-7

External links[edit]