After ten years of Pottery (at the level of serious hobbyist) I finally read the Leach magnum opus, and feel rather like the foolish convert to a religion who has only just got around to reading its holy book. All potters should read it. For studio pottery, this is where it starts.
The first two chapters are philosophical and chewy. It is soon apparent that Leach was a towering intellectual and polymath as well as a turning-point in the history of art. They reward reading, and explain why he regards the pots of the Sung (Song) dynasty as superior to everything else. From the third chapter the content is more practical but still, and brilliantly, infused with Leach's strong opinions about what's good and what's bad. And that's why the book is such a good read, it's a far remove from modern pottery texts, which are either dry technical manuals (all be it with glossy photos to make them look like coffee table books) or magazine articles (Ceramic Review) in pure arty-farty-Tate-Modern speak. Leach, sensible, passionate, technically detailed and evangelical about good style all at the same time, is deeply, joyously refreshing.
A few parts are obsolete - enjoinders to paint the iron hoops on your glaze barrels to prevent rust contamination - but nonetheless fascinating as technical history. What was happening in the world in September 1939? Why there was a firing at St Ives of course, and here is the detailed report, with firing log (a thing of artistic beauty in itself) and a description of a week in his workshop done in the form of an exchange of letters.
Full of bits you never knew - "Oh, so that's why it's done that way!" - and bits you'll want to write out as inspiring quotations to treasure. Old, out of publication at the moment (what a sin!) but a true inspiration, which I'm sure, will be a lasting one to any reader.
Pottery is a hobby of mine, and here is a lot of practical information, accumulated in the East, setting up and running the Leach Pottery, and so on. He covers design, building, materials, glazes, decoration, firing and even includes one of the pottery's profit and loss accounts. It's a small book but concise, the photos are quite small, blurry and in black and white but his sketches are clear and helpful. I got the new book because second hand ones go for silly prices - seems to be a "collectable" book. Modern pottery books tend to be larger, much better illustrated on better quality paper. As well as the technical side, there is fascinating history and background. He writes about his time in Japan, and other pottery traditions, including English slipware. Of course, sometimes a little out of date - he talks about progressing from wooden barrels to galvanised buckets for storing glazes! A good read and one reference to return to.
Do you pot? like craft pottery?Philosophy, history of modern domestic art ceramics? want to know how east met west with mud and water and fire, head heart and soul? not read this book yet?.....WHY NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just get it.
The Unicorn Press has produced the finest possible edition of this classic work for the practical potter. It is bound in hardback with many illustrations reproduced in colour giving an added clarity to the wealth of advice in the text. It is sure to inspire anyone with a love of pottery.
I love this book. It is beautifully written, full of snippets which can be used as research for an essay. The book arrived well packaged and in a good condition. I would certainly buy from this company again.
For anyone interested in Leach as a ceramicist this re-release is great news. Anyone who has visited the pottery at St Ives will have been captivated by his work and will probably want to know more - and this book fills in a lot of the gaps.