The transformation of mud to art is a fascinating journey of evolutionary transition – peppered with risk-taking step changes. My work represents an ongoing dialogue between the technical demands of process, serendipity and the desire to impart something of the spirit, intent and character of the maker. Ultimately for me, each piece has to justify its existence with a quiet yet substantial presence.
Tim has an international reputation for his distinctive ceramics. His work has been exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions in the UK and around the world, including Australia, Japan, China, India, USA, The Netherlands, France, Korea, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden.
My travels certainly inform and inspire my work. It’s a great privilege to experience many different cultures, try weird and delicious food and meet wonderful people along the way. I always return to my studio full of inspiration, whether it’s from an ancient Chinese saggar, a Roman shard or some balgar resin from the Australian outback. In recent years, many trips to Japan have allowed me to connect with much family history in that country, as well as deepening my understanding of the history of Raku.
After forty-five years as a maker, my pieces have become more minimal in style. Yet the simplicity and apparent ease and effortlessness is born out of a labour-intensive, unforgiving and demanding technique and a dramatic and intense firing process that rewards just enough to keep the artist’s addiction going and frustrates plenty enough to keep the artist’s ego at bay.
Tim trained as studio apprentice to David Leach in the 1970s followed by two years at the Dartington Pottery Training Workshop. He also taught classes and ran workshops from his first studio which he set up with the aid of a grant awarded from The Crafts Council.
In 1983 Tim moved to South Tawton Pottery where he ran International Ceramics Summer Schools which attracted students from all over the world. After some years he returned to Bovey Tracey to share the studio with David Leach who was no longer taking students. In 1993 he set up and moved to his own workshop in Woodbury, East Devon.
He lectured part time at Exeter college in the 1990s and has been a guest lecturer at Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University. He has lectured and run Masterclasses in Denmark, Italy, Hungary, Israel, China, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Germany as well as across the UK.
Tim’s pieces are in many public and private collections including: Stoke on Trent and Liverpool Museums, Ashmolean Museum, St John’s College – Oxford, Donna Karan – New York, Lord Chancellor Lord Irving, Imerys, The Royal Bank of Scotland (2006), Coutts Bank and Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Tim has been the recipient of several awards and has featured in many books and publications on ceramics. He is also the author of two best selling books. ‘Raku’ – published in 1994 – A&C Black and ‘Raku’ – published in 2005 – Bloomsbury.
He has also written occasionally for Ceramics Art and Perception and Ceramic Review and regularly curates exhibitions. Tim is a Fellow of the Craft Potters Association, a member of Make Southwest and is Honourary President of the Westcountry Potters Association.
“As a teenager I visited Bernard Leach’s 90th birthday retrospective exhibition at the V&A Museum in 1977 … some of the pieces resonated strongly with me – in particular I remember being drawn by the striking presence of a large dark tenmoku bottle and a charger (large platter) decorated with the tree of life. I also attended the associated seminar at which Bernard, along with Michael Cardew and others, was present.
The events confirmed in me that there was some substance to my attraction to ceramics – that the creation of art was something important, that it was more than just skill – that at its best it was an expression and a reflection of the ‘spirit’ of the artist – that it could and should come from a genuine place, one with which I identified, although perhaps didn’t understand at the time. It was a dot-joining moment of revelation that this muddy material I was interested in could with passion, care and integrity, be transformed into objects that could smack you between the eyes..
A year later I was offered an apprenticeship by Bernard Leach’s son David at Lowerdown Pottery, Bovey Tracey in Devon. It was an intensive and demanding period of learning. David was a hard task-master but with one-to-one teaching, skills acquisition was rapid and in just a few months I had progressed from making his standard egg cups and ramekins that were sold to summer visitors, to the fluted porcelain bowls and teapots that were exhibited in New York and London.
There were daily coffee time talks sat around the stove, chewing the ceramic cud and cogitating life. Bernard visited Lowerdown while I was there, just three months before he died. He was blind and physically frail by then but still possessed a razor sharp intellect and a questioning nature. As an eighteen year old student I was impressed by his infectious energy and insightful thinking – he put me on the spot, challenging me about my own motivation.
He and David recognised the importance of a foundation in skills, but that each maker has eventually to find their own creative voice and should be constantly on their mettle, exploring for themselves. But they also knew that the process is gradual – something that happens in tandem with maturing personal development. I returned to share David Leach’s studio for a number of years in the 1980s and 90s and he was always interested in and encouraging of the new directions in my work, even if they were not always to his taste.
It is interesting that, although the ‘Leach tradition’ has been a strong influence in ceramics, many potters that worked at St Ives, or Lowerdown have gone on to become individual makers with very different styles and techniques – they haven’t on the whole become Leach clones. I’m sure it is due in no small measure to the encouragement of that self-challenging attitude and it is certainly an awareness that I have carried with me for the last forty-five years.”
2005 Arts Council Award
2001/2002 South West Arts, Major Commissions Award
1999/2000 ‘Hitec-Lotec’ award. Research placement with major commission and touring exhibition
1981 Crafts Council Award
Woodbury Studio Gallery – Greenway, Woodbury, Exeter, Devon EX5 1LW
Tel: +44 (0) 1395 233475