During the time that I staged exhibitions of potters’ current work at the Harlequin Gallery in Greenwich, Ursula Mommens was one of my best-selling artists. She attracted many collectors from around the country, including the legendary, Bill Ismay. Bill, whose collection forms the basis of the studio pottery collection at York Art Gallery & Museum, was unique. I remember with affection, arriving for the Private View, to see Bill and his friend, Tony Hill, at the front of the queue. Despite the long trek by train from Wakefield, Bill never missed having first option of anything on show.
Since her death ten years ago, I hadn’t noticed much of Ursula’s work coming up for sale. That is until last May when one of her small brush decorated cereal bowls sold for £360 at Maak auctions. A figure that equates to a sum of £446+ when commission is included. I know that Ursula enjoyed making these bowls but regarded them of little importance. Upon checking, I found that they had sold for £18 each at her first solo exhibition with me in 2000. Therefore a considerable price rise!
However while I knew Ursula, her real interest was experimenting with various tenmoku glaze recipes and vase shapes. Always enjoying flowers in her home, especially ones picked from the wild and her garden, meant that she had become a little obsessed with vase shapes that would allow flowers to be shown at their best. Tenmoku* glaze was another obsession, which she constantly liked to experiment with, and, to her mind, this iron-rich brown glaze was at its best when as black as possible. However, this did not stop her experimenting with her recipes, until the end of her potting career in her late nineties.
Sale of Work
As a homage to Ursula’s love of tenmoku, I have gathered together the ten pieces below. These will be offered for sale on the website shortly at “non-auction” prices!
*In Japan, “tenmoku” originally referred to the brown through to black teabowls made during the Sung Dynasty at the Chien-yao kilns in the Chinese province of Fukien. Then over time it was used for the type of glaze itself. “Tenmoku” was the Japanese pronunciation of Tien-mu Shan, a mountain in Chekiang in China. It was here that Ch’an Buddhist temples exclusively used these dark brown teabowls, hence the name.