A Crowan vase, almost certainly made by
During its life, Crowan Pottery
had a series of apprentices, and 'summer workers' many from Germany
and Scandinavia. Most of them went on to be famous in their own
More information here
would be greatly appreciated.
Please get in touch if you can help.
Griffiths - At Crowan between 1949-53
at Crowan Pottery
in the early '50s was part of the tribute
Harry Davis - The Complete Potter published in Ceramic
Review 109 Jan/Feb1988. It gives a good insight into the workings of
Crowan Pottery in the early '50s.
When he left Crowan, Arthur Griffiths spent a year with Bernard Leach, before becoming head of
Ceramics at Loughborough College of Art.
An Arthur Griffiths bowl with inverted
rim made in the late 80s when he had returned to full time potting.
Tudor-Jones - At Crowan
in the early 1950s.
Broadway Pottery in Worcestershire between 1959 and 63, then the Campden
Pottery in Gloucestershire until she retired in 1980.
Parkinson - 1950
- Worked for the Summer at Crowan Pottery.
Between 1960 and 1971 he was Head of Hornsea School of Art, London,
Ceramics Department, before setting up a pottery at Boncath, nr Cardigan
in Wales. He died in 1985.
Became Helen Walters. She worked with Anita Hoy at Royal Doulton
before establishing her own studios at Hornsea and Walthamstow in the
Part of a Crowan
Pottery wax resist tea set made in the late 1950s
- 1950-52 at Crowan Pottery.
She passed away in 2004 at the age of 93.
Davis will be remembered for two things - his wealth of technical
ability combined with good taste and his wish to do good. He had this
excellent facility with the brush and the placement of his decoration
was always so appropriate, enhancing the form of the pot. I remember his
hands, worn and damaged from hard work and yet able to do such fine
work. When asked under which Oriental master he had studied for his
brushwork his questioners were surprised to learn he had taught himself.
He was thorough in everything he did.
I went to work with him in Cornwall in 1950 and stayed until 1952, being
the first in a group of German potters working with him. Harry Davis had
a fundamental knowledge of geology and he was able to use this knowledge
in a practical way He understood his materials and could formulate fine
dense clay bodies for stoneware and porcelain and his celadon, white and
brown glazes fitted the bodies so well, alone or in combination. His
expertise with firing, with reduction, fitting the clay, glaze and
purpose, coming to the range of colours as are seen in the work of early
Chinese potters. He also liked to use the natural ores of cobalt and
iron for decoration.
When I first knew Harry Davis he had a wish to sell good pots cheaply,
so that everyone could afford them. In his private life he wanted to
keep away from all luxury but worked hard in the workshop, the garden
and maintaining and constructing buildings. He used the water power from
the old mill in Cornwall to drive all the machinery He shared his
profits among his workers, giving each a yearly bonus from the sales of
pots. He always had this wish to help others, at home in England, in
Africa and later in Peru."
Pottery in Australia, Feb 1987
- 1952-53 at Crowan Pottery.
1953-56 joint workshop with Beate Kuhn in Lottstetten, since 1956
part of a community workshop in Dudelsheim, near Budingen, Germany. One of
six artists who have been part of the German ceramic art scene since the
late 1950s. (Beate Kuhn, Georg Hohlt, Ursula (1932-2008) and Karl Scheid and Gotlind
and Gerald Weigel). Their influence on other German potters in the
decades following WWII was immense.
A Karl Scheid pot from Dudelsheim - 10.5cm high.
In 1969 five of them along with Margarete Schott exhibited their work at Henry Rothschild's
London gallery, Primavera. This was a remarkable exhibition for several
reasons: it was probably one of the first exhibitions of the work of
German potters in England since the end of WWII. The work was very
different from that of Bernard Leach whose influence reigned in England
at the time and even the ceramics of the British artists Lucie Rie and
Hans Coper seemed foreign, and the invitation to exhibit came
from a man whose family had fled Nazi Germany.
this historic event, the London Group as they came to be known
formed a cooperative and exhibited off and on together around the world
until 1999, Karl Scheid's 70th birthday.
Scheid is the recipient of the Hessian and the Hessian State Award of
Karl Scheid, 25
September 2009 (Photo by Sven Teschke)
Scheid, the son of Karl and Ursula Scheid, is now an accomplished Dudelsheim
potter in his own right.
Jean Orton (now Melinda Lassalle)
- worked at Crowan for three years between 1951 and 1954.
Born in England, Jean Orton attended Epsom College of Art and then studied
art and pottery at the Central School of Art in London. She left
determined to pot and joined George Cook at Ambelside Pottery as a pupil.
Later she studied under Marian DeTray at Shinners Bridge, Dartington. Then
she spent three years with Harry and May Davis at Crowan Pottery.
In May's autobiography
she is the "Gorgeous Jean, a dark beauty who had all the men at her feet"
She did some potting when she could (mostly pepper and salt pots and pin
dishes) and showed all the visitors round the pottery. She remembers many
hilarious sessions when Michael
Cardew visited Crowan. Harry
and Michael were great friends. Crowan was a happy place to work.
She moved to France in 1958
and in August 1959, married the French painter Leonard Lassalle. She
changed her name to Melinda, as in France Jean is very much a boy's name!
In 1965 they moved to England where two years later they opened an antique
shop in Tunbridge-Wells. In 1989, when their 7 children had left home,
they returned to France, to Provence. They bought an old ruin, that was
originally a mas (small farm), and then moved to the Beaumont du Ventoux
A recent photo of Melinda
Lassalle with one of her pots
After a fifty year gap Melinda
has resumed potting, experimenting with glazes and firing in her home
built gas-fired kiln. She says, “I’m looking to achieve the possibility of
perfection of form and glaze whilst making utilitarian objects.” Very much
in the Crowan tradition.
worked at Crowan as a potter for a year.
Now considered as one of Australia's most innovative
and thought provoking ceramic artists, Bernard Sahm studied at East Sydney
Technical College, with practical training in both commercial and studio
workshops in Australia and Germany before coming to Crowan Pottery. Returning
to Australia in 1958, he established his own pottery at Mosman, and
continued to produce domestic pottery experimenting with stoneware and
porcelain clays, and high-fired glazes. In 1974 he was appointed the
inaugural Head of Ceramics at the then, newly developed Sydney College
of the Arts, a position he held for ten years before retiring in 1984. A
few years later he moved to Laguna, near Wollombi with his wife Pam and
set up a new studio on the property.
Bernard Sahm - Photo
from The Sydney Morning Herald
Sahm died on 27 February 2011, aged 84. He is survived by his wife Pam
and three children.
For more details see his
Obituary - Brisbane Times, 27 March 2011.
February 1987 he wrote a A
Tribute to The Davises
Vale Harry Davis
"The general overview and philosophical stance that contributed to the
kind of pottery workshop and the pots produced at Crowan Pottery in
Cornwall, England and Crewenna pottery in Nelson, New Zealand and the
philanthropic project of establishing a pottery during the 1970s in
Izchuchaca, Peru, must be seen as a joint effort by both Harry and May
Davis. All major decisions regarding the type of work, the work approach
and the workload were shared. Therefore all statements regarding Harry
Davis's contribution to ceramics must also include his wife May.
This is not to be confused with Harry's personal contribution such as
his vast knowledge of the ceramics industry, his art and skill as a
craftsman, his broad understanding and knowledge of engineering,
woodworking and building and his considerable grasp of the state of
humankind. All of this added up to not just the end product - the pots -
but the whole infrastructure, intent and meaning surrounding the
production of pottery. Indeed one cannot judge Harry Davis on his pots
alone. Harry must be judged on the way of life, the relationship between
the worker and the work and the honesty of a healthy production of
strong, useful and beautiful works for everyday life. This is in some
ways a practical example of Lewis Mumford's human scale industry as a
reaction to the present-day trend toward the mega industry complete with
robots. Harry had the knack of making it fun to do even the most mundane
tasks and since he insisted that everybody had a hand in all stages of
production, no task was ever boring.
With the proliferation of monopolistic control over so much of our life
- even to making people just another exploitable commodity - Harry
developed ways that could help the average person set up shop and be
somewhat self-sufficient using special techniques to build essential
equipment and manufacturing pottery materials. He considered this
particularly important in the Peruvian project where the local villagers
were dependent upon the machinations of foreign industry. Harry's plan
to develop a self-sufficient and profitable pottery and hand it over to
the villagers as a going concern was creating a blueprint for future
projects. Actually this project was preceded many years earlier in the
Gold Coast of Africa during the 1940s where Harry truly was a pioneer in
setting up a viable and realistic industry in an undeveloped country.
The venture is not well known primarily because Harry Davis did not
publish as did a number of his contemporaries.
The pottery at Crowan in Cornwall was perhaps the most successful in
relation to the Davis philosophy. The waterwheel provided all the
mechanical and electric power; there was sufficient land to provide the
bulk of vegetable needs; goats provided milk and the drinking water came
from a well. In the pottery the water-powered machinery provided clay
bodies, glazes, a throwing capability, hoists, forced air, light and
electric power for hand tools and heat in the winter. The New Zealand
version was to be along similar lines but finally, for reasons such as
location, the water power idea was dropped. Another aspect of the Davis
philosophy which possibly explains the lack of 'exhibition' pots in the
pottery production was the belief that the majority of the ceramics of
the past seen in our museums and art galleries today was the work of the
anonymous craftsperson just simply making the best product possible for
the needs of society. The idea of knocking out the endless one-off
artist-signed bulbous jar or bowl and subsequent sale at an 'art'
bracket price did not fit with the humanist approach of making good,
strong and beautiful products at a reasonable price for everyone.
Harry has written considerably on his philosophy, his know-how and his
biography; a portion of which will be published soon and it is hoped
that the rest will follow. Without a doubt the place that Harry and May
Davis and their pottery ventures will take in the history of the craft
potter this century is unique. It is an important and an invaluable part
of the quest by thinking, sensitive and responsible human beings to
promote a way of life that has dignity and purpose so precious in our
Pottery in Australia, Feb 1987
Bernard Sahm said Harry
Davis had "square fingers, - he could make flanges and
lids with just the correct bevel"
1958-62 at Crowan Pottery.
1960-62 at Crowan Pottery.
After training in
the 1950s in Sweden and Denmark respectively, Hans and Birgitte Borjeson
worked for Harry and May Davis at Crowan for 2 or 3 years. After
they left Crowan they married and in 1963 established a workshop
together in the old School in Fulby, Denmark, which is still going
strong (apart from a fire in late 2007).
Like Harry and May their output has always been marked
with the pottery seal, as to them the concept of individually signed
work is inappropriate. To quote Hans:
Pottery turned out to be the ideal milieu for me, so many skills in arts
and crafts, not to mention the human aspects, all gathered in one place.
The sound of a huge waterwheel driving the whole workshop and the sight
and smell of the yellow ball clay were experiences in themselves. It was
my first meeting with the high fired stoneware and porcelain.
Cornwall and Devonshire in the Southwest are rich in ceramic raw
materials. The geology of the area with its kaolin, ball clays and lots
of other materials became a new challenge. I gradually realised that it
was then I actually started my career as a potter - right from scratch.
Harry Davis was a master-thrower, and it was from him I should come to
learn the skill myself.
We made the most of the splendid Cornish geology. The conglomerate of
the granites (granite is the basis for any glaze) turn out to be more or
less accessible from numerous abolished quarries.
One day at teatime Harry and May announced, very surprisingly, that they
were going to move the whole Crowan Pottery to New Zealand. I had a
strong feeling of taking something very precious with me when I left
England after 3 years, and together with Birgitte, who had been working
at the pottery for the past year, we decided to start a workshop in
Denmark. We found the old schoolhouse in Fulby and opened our own
pottery in 1963.
Harry Davis came from New Zealand to visit us several times. He was
rather impressed when he saw our rich bluish black tenmoku, which of
course was a great encouragement. His visits were always a good
Hans Borjeson 1993.
worked with Harry and May at Crowan for a summer in the late 1950s.
In 1970 she opened her Penwerris Pottery studios in Old Kea, near Truro.
She is now one of Britain's most well known potters. She painstakingly
produces finely thrown porcelain pieces, like those below, which she decorates in geometric
style with precious metal lustres, especially gold.
Examples of Mary Rich's Work
Great Grandfather supplied wood for the Crowan water wheel. She
remembers spending hours with her hands in cold water grinding the
bottoms of pots and working with a German girl called Eva. She says
Harry had a great sense of humour. When May wasn't around, he kept them
all enthralled during the tea breaks. But when May was in the pottery he
was always very 'withdrawn'.
A Harry Davis
porcelain coffee pot with beautiful incised decoration. Made at Crowan
watched Harry Davis make and decorate the coffee pot above. She doesn't
know who did the final glazing though. It was part of a set which was
sent to London for an exhibition and later returned to Crowan.
came to ceramics after studying Drawing and Painting at Birmingham
College of Art and Design. He was apprenticed to Harry
Davis of Crowan Pottery, and then with George Cook at Ambleside Pottery until 1967.
He was Senior Lecturer and then Head of the School of Ceramics at what
is now the University of Ulster. He set up a workshop at Balbirnie Craft
Centre, Markinch, Fife, in 1972 and was a founder member of the Scottish
Potters Association in 1974. Later, until 1999, he was based in Mayfield
Studios a workshop he set
up in Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh.
Sadly he passed away on 4th March 2007 at the age of 79.
In 1958 (in his mid
teens) Stephen Carter took on an apprenticeship with Harry and May Davis
at Crowan Pottery. He moved to NZ with them in 1962 and helped to establish the
Crewenna Pottery. Later he worked at Hanmer
Pottery for a short time, and in the early 70s spent 2 years at Waimea
In 1974 he and his wife Zoe set up their own pottery in
Tahunanui in Nelson. They are still going strong.
This small Crowan vase was made by Stephen Carter
before the move to Crewenna Pottery, New Zealand.
the accomplished Danish cellist, spent nearly two years working with
Harry and May at the end of the 1950s.
spent about a year at Crowan. He was going to take an apprenticeship,
but the Davis' move to New Zealand in 1962 curtailed his plans. With
Yvonne Graham he runs the
Grigg's Forge pottery near Hayle in
Cornwall. They produce mainly domestic stoneware and kitchenware.
If you have any
more information on the potters who worked with Harry and May during
their life, I would very much like to hear from you.
23 May 2012