Janet Leach at the Leach Pottery

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Leach Pottery brochure c1990

Janet Leach (1918 – 1997)

Having exhibited and dealt in studio pottery for over 25 years means that I have seen and handled work by all the finest studio ceramics artists that we have been privileged to enjoy. In my opinion one of the finest of these was Janet Leach. Born in Texas, USA in 1918, Janet was already an accomplished potter and sculptor before she met Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, and their colleague Soetsu Yanagi during their tour of the States in 1952.

This meeting began her interest in the processes and philosophy of Japanese ceramics that stay with her for the rest of her career. A period of working and learning in Japan followed this before she came to St. Ives in England and in 1956 became Bernard Leach’s third wife. She also took over the management of the Leach Pottery. However, it is fair to say that her work never matched the “Leach” style and remained distinctive from the other work made around her at the Leach Pottery. Her pots forever displaying the techniques and practices learn during her time with the Ichino family at their pottery in Tamba, Japan and visits to Iga and Bizen kilns.

Visiting St. Ives

By the time that I first visited the Leach Pottery in 1994, Janet was nearing the end of her life. However, she continued making and offering for sale modestly sized work. Her last exhibition was held at Austin Desmond Fine Art in London in 1997, just a few months before her death in September of that year. An exhibition that I remember visiting.

During my yearly visits to the Leach Pottery in the 1990s the work available included her series of various square and rectangular stoneware “Repeat” dishes that were produced and sold very much with the ethos behind the earlier Leach “Standard Ware” range, so that there was something available at the Pottery to suit everyone’s pocket. A few of these are included in the small selection of Janet’s work that I will be offering for sale here on the website in June 2024.

Also included are a few examples of her “Bizen inspired pots” that took my breath away when I first saw them. My understanding that these were produced in saggars made by her then assistant, Joanna Wason, from heavily grogged clay. The pots were put in these saggars, and Janet would pack wood in every state available around them. This included sticks, shavings and chippings of both hard and soft woods, sawdust even. Driftwood was also used on occasions that might include seaweed and rusty nails. Examples of this work shown below are also included in the selection of Janet’s work currently on offer here at RECENT ACQUISTITIONS

Bizen style pottery by Janet Leach

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