A Visit to the Leach Pottery | St Ives
The Leach Pottery in St Ives is one of the most prestigious and influential studios potteries in the world. Founded by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada in 1920, the studio is the birthplace of the traditional Leach style, which has since become a hallmark of British design and craftsmanship. Bernard Leach was greatly inspired by traditional Japanese pottery, in particular raku, but combined this with the rich raw materials of the local Cornish area to create a unique and distinctive range of wares. The pottery is now established as a cornerstone of the contemporary craft movement, and many members of the Leach family have gone on to become makers, maintaining the cultural relevance of the studio, whilst also paying homage to the rich history of the craft.
The studio itself is an intimate space, but full of life and character. Visitors might find themselves holding their breath as they enter, not due to the confined and contorted passage of rooms, one widing on from the next as the pottery unfolds before you, but because there is a sense that you are entering a space of great importance, and one that commands respect.
Makers work inside these pockets of rooms side by side in quiet companionship. Their work is solitary, and yet they work in the shadow of one another, producing pots that are almost identical but undoubtedly unique, as is always the greatest achievement of a good maker. The shelves surrounding them are full of works in progress, board after board of clay vessels towering high above them, giving the room an air of productivity but also a strangely static energy. The pots become part of the room, the deep browns of Cornish clay reflected in the colour of the studio walls. It is as if the studio has risen out of the ground itself, a temple of earth in which mud becomes vessel. The air is still, and calm, creating a sense of grandiose significance in this humble space. The studio makes a lasting impression on all those who enter, and its quiet charm is a wonderful place to find a few moments of sanctuary.