Bernard Leach 伯納德.利奇


Bernard Leach was the pre-eminent artist-potter of this century. In both the West and in Japan his influence on the construction and growth of a studio pottery movement has been profound. Through his indefatigable writing and lecturing on the making and meaning of pottery and his tuition of some of the foremost artist-potters, as much as through his actual making of pots, Leach was at the centre of the question of how pots are valued and appreciated critically. He was deeply involved in shaping the canon of historical pottery on which much of current pottery still draws. Leach's knowledge of Oriental pottery and aesthetics, demonstrated in both his pots and books, was instrumental in placing key ideas and images of a meeting of East and West at the heart of the movement. Much of his passionate advocacy, notably in his most significant writing, A Potter's Book, centred on the idea of 'appropriateness: on the idea of a kind of propriety that can be found in the choice of the materials that make up a pot, and in the conduct of the potter himself. It was an ethos of 'truth to materials' that was grounded not only in his experiences of Oriental pottery, but also in the contemporary concerns of artists and sculptors who worked around him for a significant period in St Ives. Leach's advocacy for pots that could be used as part of everyday life has entered the mainstream of perceptions about his pottery. How these pots were made, and for whom, reveals his social values as well as his ideas of roles within the organisation of a workshop.


Leach's ideas, as much as his pots, must be seen in the context of the times that shaped them. He was accustomed to using sweeping arguments and value-laden terms when scrutinising the position of potters within society; of talking in general terms of the relationship between East and West. The sources of these arguments and these values are very particular indeed. If we consider the particular make-up of Leach' Japan and Leach's England, the paradoxes at the heart of his creating and thinking become much clearer, and his particular achievements can be better appreciated.