The Leach Pottery is introducing a solo exhibition of celebrated studio potter John Bedding in 60 Years On, officially opening tomorrow after a preview this evening (Friday).

John Bedding Matthew Tyas
John Bedding. Photograph by Matthew Tyas

John has created new works in his Illustrated Pot series. There are striking vase and bottle forms in high-fired earthenware paired with intricate surface decoration and richly built-up colour, resulting in pots with many layers of interest.

He uses, as a canvas, unglazed burnished surfaces for their softly polished tactile quality.

Inspiration for his Illustrated Pot series comes from the work of Morihiro Wada, who he met during a residency at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan. This led to John developing a technique for tattooing complicated patterns onto the burnished surfaces of his pots.

“I have always enjoyed exploring the chemistry of pottery,” said John. “I love the thought that the materials we use are the building blocks of our natural world, and that we can recreate, to our own design, objects of nature.

“The inspirational core for my work comes from a desire to explore the boundaries of shape and technique, rather than following the traditional reduced high-fire pots of my training. Many years at the Leach Pottery gave me a heightened awareness of shape and proportion, and the skills and discipline needed as a craftsman.

“Going forward, I continue to endeavour to search for new ideas and to stretch the boundaries of a craft that has given me 60 years of creative challenge and purpose.”

John’s pottery career began in South London in 1964, moving to St Ives in 1967 where he eventually worked with Bernard Leach as a student-apprentice from 1968. John went on to pot in France and travel in Europe before returning to the Leach Pottery as a member of staff, making Standard Ware and developing his own work from 1973 to 1978. This period culminated in three solo exhibitions.

In 1978, John became the second potter sent to Japan by the Leach Pottery, where he worked for a year in Tamba’s Sasayama pottery town with his friend from the Leach, Shigeyoshi Ichino. Part of the experience involved firing the long wood-fired Noborigama kilns, also called dragon kilns because of the flames that roar from them in the firing’s climax. His year in Japan culminated in a sell-out exhibition at the Hankyu Department store in Osaka.

John returned to Cornwall in 1980, starting out as an independent potter in Penzance before returning to St Ives with the opening of St Ives Ceramics in 1990. He now works in the town’s Gaolyard Studios which he opened in 1998 as a place for potters to work. John continues to experiment with a wide range of pottery styles and techniques.

John was deeply involved in helping to save the Leach Pottery when it was at risk of being lost in the mid-2000s. He then became a trustee of the Bernard Leach (St Ives) Trust Ltd and today is ‘honorary potter’ at the Leach.

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