Richard Batterham, Tribute
1936 – 2021
Richard passed away peacefully at his home in Dorset on 8th September.
Please see below a tribute to this extraordinary man by Joanna.
A handful of wet clay – he had but to touch it
And it was gold
The Metamorphoses, Ovid
The contribution made by Richard Batterham’s life and work is monumental within the world of studio ceramics. He was destined to become a potter from an early age, having studied with Don Potter at Bryanston School. After two years of National Service he then worked at the Leach pottery where he met Hamada Atsuya (Hamada Shoji’s third son) who he always spoke very warmly of. One of the other students at that time was Dinah Dunn, and they married in 1959.
In the same year, they bought the pottery in Durweston, Dorset, and Richard produced a biscuit firing from his first kiln aged twenty-three. The Batterhams lived in a caravan for seven years while the workshop and house were being redesigned and reconstructed by James Leask. In 1966 they moved into the house, and the following year the oil and wood-fired kiln became fully operational.
Richard’s work is to be found in museums world-wide and in countless private collections. He had two important exhibitions in 1972 and 1984 at the Crafts Centre, London, and a retrospective at Contemporary Applied Arts in 2016. He also exhibited internationally, in Sweden and in Germany.
I first met Richard in the 1970s when I visited him after having worked and studied with Michael Cardew. I had hoped that I might work for him, to gain further experience. I was impressed by Richard; he was a seriously committed potter and I much admired the pots that he made. After some friendly chat, I asked if I could work for him for a few months. “Oh no,” he said, “I do it all on my own.” And that was how it remained for the rest of his life, apart from occasional help from Thiébault Chagué and Reuben, his youngest son. True to himself, Richard’s integrity is embodied in everything he made.
His love of clay was immediately apparent – mixing the clay body to his complete satisfaction. Repetition throwing on the wheel was an extension of that creativity which refreshed and fulfilled him throughout his life. He made it all look so simple, as any Master Craftsman does.
Refining forms, slips and glazes, introducing a cobalt blue brush mark on a rim, or chatter marks inside a bowl – all these meticulous details were carefully considered, and anything new would go back to his own house to be closely observed, and used. Consistency in his technique was of paramount importance to him, as were the small differences in form and decoration that evolved, and so pleased him. Richard’s pots have that quality which makes us want to go back to them time and time again – they quietly speak to us. Each functional piece that he made is a joy to use, perfectly formed and finessed.
Richard had his own ideas on many subjects. For example, how people get involved with pots – by using them – and thus to his mind meeting him half-way by appreciating them. He was a profound thinker, and listened as attentively. The joy he derived from making, the love that went into his work and his keen interest in people all contributed to his philosophy of human behaviour, and his pots also represent this breadth of interests.
He kept his “acorns” in the “Holy of Holies.” We would laugh about that, and go and have a look from time to time and as he picked up a pot his smile broadened. He loved re-connecting with his earlier work. Exhibitions for him were an opportunity to take stock of the best of his work to date – from that point he could then move on and keep improving. It never occurred to him to stamp his work – why would he need to? His pots could not have been made by anyone else.
Time spent talking to Richard was always rewarding and illuminating, and his friendship was warm and compassionate. He deeply admired Michael Cardew, and kept abreast of what was going on in the pottery world – without moving from Durweston. I visited him regularly over forty years – to see him, to discuss many aspects of pottery and to choose pots for the next London exhibition that I was curating. (I often took with me, as a gift, his favourites – oxtail stew and plum crumble.)
It took me years to persuade him that it would be a good idea to make a film about him and his life’s work. “Who on earth would want to watch it?” he asked. The film that the Joanna Bird Foundation made with Alex J. Wright was finally released in 2017 and in the event he was very pleased with it.
I often heard him say to me – “Well, you just have to get on with it, don’t you!”
Richard remains an inspiration for us all. He was a true friend and an impressive character; self-assured through self-reliance and self-belief, yet warm in his heartfelt approach to life.
Of all the giants I have known, he was the gentlest.
There will be an exhibition,“Richard Batterham Studio Potter,” at the V&A from 26th November 2021 – September 2022 in Room 146. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication later in the year. Richard would have wanted his work to inspire forthcoming generations of potters.
The Garden of Earthly Delights Film
Joanna Bird’s The Garden of Earthly Delights as featured in Huon Mallalieu’s column in Country Life Magainze July 2021
Two Original Voices: Karen Bunting and Carina Ciscato
Wednesday 11th August, 6.00pm, at the Chiswick Gallery. This event is held in association with the Joanna Bird Foundation.
Joanna Bird will discuss with Karen Bunting and Carina Ciscato their individual practices, their ideas on form and the role of decoration in their work.
Mainly self-taught, Karen Bunting makes functional pottery, working in reduction fired stoneware. Each piece is first thrown or hand-built, then individually worked and decorated with stripes, spots and cross-hatching to enhance aspects of each form. The reduction firing generates muted colours, often marked out with darker lines of patterning, producing a stillness and sobriety which Karen has expressed as a quality she is drawn to.
Working primarily in porcelain, Carina Ciscato is a Brazilian potter based in London (since 1999). She creates pots with a natural sense of balance through the process of throwing, de-constructing and re-assembling. The sense of fluidity in her work is further heightened through her masterful application of quiet and muted tones of body and glazes.
Akiko Hirai and Jason Collingwood in conversation with Joanna Bird
Wednesday 28th July, 6.30pm, at the Chiswick Gallery. In association with the Joanna Bird Foundation.
Akiko Hirai and Jason Collingwood discuss their respective work and how their different practices interact.
Akiko makes practical ware using the Japanese tradition of allowing the clay to show how it wants to be fired itself. Focusing on the interaction between the objects and the viewers, her work enables the viewer to find out the language of the objects in their own way. Her work and unique approach to ceramic work have had much high praise and her work is becoming more in demand from her commissions worldwide.
With over 30 years experience as a professional rug weaver Jason has produced thousands of rugs for hundreds of international private and corporate clients. Working closely with architects, interior designers and fashion houses, Jason Collingwood designs and weaves all the rugs himself. In addition to the weaving Jason passes on his skills by teaching extensively in North America, Europe and Australia.
Adam Buick in conversation with Joanna Bird
Designing with Plants The Great Dixter Way
Wednesday 14th July, 6.00pm and 7.30pm, at the Chiswick Gallery. In association with the Joanna Bird Foundation and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.
Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener at Great Dixter, has generously offered a selection of specialist plants, which have been planted in the Gallery’s beautiful garden. Tools, hurdles and benches from Great Dixter will also be exhibited; these are made entirely from wood grown in the surrounding woodlands. We are pleased to announce that on July 14th Fergus will be presenting two lectures at the Joanna Bird Gallery, entitled ‘Designing with Plants the Great Dixter Way’. The first at 6:00 p.m. and the second at 7.30 p.m.
Wine and light refreshments will be served.
All proceeds go to the Joanna Bird Foundation and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.
The Garden of Earthly Delights
Joanna Bird is delighted to present her forthcoming exhibition, The Garden of Earthly Delights. For this show, Joanna has asked the participating artists to respond to the Gallery’s well established garden, designed thirty-five years ago by esteemed landscape architect Simon Irvine.
The exhibition will be on view from JULY 8th – SEPTEMBER 8th at the Joanna Bird Gallery, Chiswick, and virtually on the Joanna Bird website.
Fergus Garrett, highly esteemed Head Gardener at Great Dixter, will be giving two talks on JULY 14th at the Gallery, entitled Designing with Plants the Great Dixter Way. To buy your ticket to attend one of these lectures click on the following links for the first talk at 6:00 p.m. or the second at 7.30 p.m. We hugely appreciate Fergus giving his time to do this for us.
There will be two other evenings with our artists, one on JULY 16th with Adam Buick, and the other on the JULY 28th with Akiko Hirai and Jason Collingwood. Details to be found on the website early next week.
We do hope you come and visit the exhibition which promises to be exciting, showing exquisite work both in the garden and the Gallery.
Infused with Colour
Wednesday 26th May, 6.00 – 7.30pm, at the Chiswick Gallery. In association with the Joanna Bird Foundation.
Gregory discussed his latest works in glass, his perspectives on colour and the his life’s work in art, music and poetry. We would like to thank Gregory for this fascinating and insightful talk.
Gregory Warren Wilson is an artist, professional violinist and award-winning poet. His most recent work in glass is the culmination of twenty-five years of design. Working on multiple layers of glass set within deep frames, his work is sculptural in its concerns. He balances colour in such a way that each design appears definitively resolved, while at the same time maintaining its asymmetry.
The Gallery has made a short interview with Gregory (viewable with this link) in which he discusses his artistic process and his new mosaics for the exhibition.
The Joys of Collecting
Wednesday 19th May, 6.00 – 7.30pm, at the Chiswick Gallery. In association with the Joanna Bird Foundation.
Charlotte and Nicholas discussed with Joanna their collection which embraces their personal and distinguished taste in fine art, ceramics, sculpture and glass. We would like to thank them both for their zealous engagement and enlightening conversation, which produced a truly intimate and special event.
Nicholas and Charlotte are enthusiastic collectors of fine art and crafts. After managing the Impressionist and Modern art department at Christie’s, Nicholas is now codirector of Eykyn Maclean, a gallery in New York. Nicholas is also chair of The Society of London Art Dealers, and is a trustee of Hastings Contemporary. Having headed the prints department at Phillips, Charlotte is a passionate gardener and is involved with the European Boxwood and Topiary Society.
Friday 21st May, 2.30 – 3.30pm, Rowledge’s Studio, London W9. In association with the Joanna Bird Foundation.
Tracey Rowledge gave an illuminating tour of her studio and discussed her recent bookbinding work and past projects. We would like to thank Tracey for giving a wonderful insight into her workspace and artistic process.
Tracey is an artist and bookbinder, living and working in London. Rowledge’s practice draws from both her fine art and bookbinding training, utilising traditional tools and materials. Through mark-making, Rowledge explores the materiality of objects and their function.
Tracey is a partner in Benchmark Bindery, established in 2009 with Kathy Abbott, to produce high quality and intelligent bookbinding work. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is held in numerous public and private collections, including the V&A and The British Library.
Gregory Warren Wilson interview with Joanna Bird
The Gallery has made a short interview with Gregory Warren Wilson in which he discusses his artistic process and his new mosaics for Collect 2021.
Gregory Warren Wilson is an artist, professional violinist and award-winning poet. His most recent work in glass is the culmination of twenty-five years of design. By working on multiple layers of glass set within deep frames, he enables light to interact spatially with the glass, making his work sculptural in its concerns. He balances colour in such a way that each design appears definitively resolved, while at the same time maintaining its asymmetry.
A Brief Film about Pippin Drysdale and her Studio Practice
The Danish Embassy’s Film on Steffen Dam’s Cabinet of Curiosities
The Danish Embassy have made a short video documenting Steffen Dam’s Cabinet of Curiosities, including interviews with Joanna, Steffen and Isobel Dennis, Fair Director for COLLECT. We would like to thank the Embassy for their generosity in supporting important Danish artists, and for producing a fascinating film that truly captures the essence of Steffen’s masterpiece.
Hélène Binet’s ESALA Public Lecture – ‘The Making of a Photograph’
Hélène Binet delves into her photographic processes and illuminates her artistic perspectives in her talk ‘The Making of a Photograph’. The lecture comes as part of the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture’s ‘Frictions’ programme of events, which contributes to ongoing debates in research, practice and pedagogy by celebrating a diversity of voices and a multiplicity of approaches.
Steffen Dam’s commission for RAMM ‘Specimens from an Imaginary Voyage’
Steffen Dam speaks with authority about his process and work in this video by Gillian Taylor. ‘Specimens from an Imaginary Voyage’ presents a body of work made exclusively for RAMM’s major Summer 2017 exhibition ‘Sea Life: Glimpses of the Wonderful’.
Film by Gillian Taylor for Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter. This commission was facilitated by Joanna Bird.
Steffen Dam’s “The Journey to M31”
Steffen Dam’s film “The Journey to M31” as featured on Create Day 2020, an event organised by the team behind London Craft Week.
We are delighted to share with you a selection of beautiful works, all under £500. These pieces would make wonderful gifts. We can pack and arrange local delivery and international shipping.
View pdf (updated 15/06/2020)
Do get in touch if you would like to see the variety we have in the gallery in this range.
‘Landscapes in porcelain’ – Pippin Drysdale in Ceramic Review
‘It’s when the process feels at its easiest and most natural that most of the gems emerge’
Joanna interviews Pippin on her life and work in porcelain from humble beginnings to gaining international acclaim. Since Joanna started representing Pippin in 2008, her work has been acquired by private and public collections and numerous museums, including the V&A. In 2015 Pippin was named one of Western Australia’s 15 Living Treasures and this year was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at Curtin University, Perth.
We have a selection of works on our website which you can view here and Pippin will be taking part in our upcoming online exhibtion Autoritratto in July.
Pictured: Deep Reach Pool and Wattle Tree, enquire here
‘Richard Batterham, Master Potter’ now on Vimeo On Demand
We are delighted to announce that the film Richard Batterham, Master Potter is now available to watch for free on Youtube. To secure a physical DVD copy of the film for £14, please purchase by contacting the Joanna Bird Foundation Office 0208-995-9960 or email email@example.com.
The Joanna Bird Foundation felt it was imperative to make a film about Richard Batterham – a potter of great distinction and the last practicing potter in England trained by Bernard Leach. He is a prime example of how one man with due talent, diligence and discipline can achieve a remarkable and successful lifetime’s work making pots which truly enhance life. Having completed his last firing over summer 2019 this film is essential material for those who admire and are inspired by Richard’s work.
“This fine documentary is a deep dive into one man’s world of making, and the philosophy behind a life in pottery. The sense of accumulation – of time, of clay, of conviction – is palpable in every shot. We also hear from the magnificent David Attenborough and master chef Nigel Slater (who begins every day with his Batterham breakfast bowl). Their voices remind us that often, the most meaningful things in life are rooted in the everyday, indeed, in the dirt beneath our feet.”
– Glenn Adamson. Senior Research Scholar, Yale Centre of British Art
You can also purchase the film on Vimeo On Demand here, which can then be downloaded or watched on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.
Directed by Alex J. Wright
Producer and Interviewer Joanna Bird
Produced by the Joanna Bird Foundation