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A handbuilt grogged porcelain vase with celadon glaze and iron oxide splash decoration. c.1980
Impressed JL and St Ives pottery mark.
Janet Darnel Leach was an American sculptor and potter she was also the third wife of Bernard Leach who had founded the St Ives Pottery in 1920. She studied pottery at Black Mountain, North Carolina under Shoji Hamada, a visiting potter, after some persuading he agreed that she could work with him and study in Japan. She was with him for two years and always considered him to be her principal influence. She was the first foreign woman to study pottery in Japan and only the second westerner. She went back to America and again met Bernard Leach, thirty years her senior, she persuaded him to let her work with him in Japan, they were married in 1955 and returned to England. The St Ives Pottery had up until her arrival been run by Bernard's son, David Leach, he left in 1955 to open his own pottery. This left Janet to run the commercial pottery, she had no experience of this and it was not an easy task but she made a good job of making it work.
Despite the day to day running of the pottery and helping to look after her husbands diary, he was in great demand as one of Britain's foremost potters, she managed to have her own corner of the pottery where she could create her own pieces. Her work was not in the Leach Pottery style, in fact though she admired her husbands work it was not the pottery she wanted to make. Her work was more experimental, she had learned from the Japanese potters during her working stay there and tried to keep her work close to nature, preferring wood fired kilns, local clays and simple glazes. Janet had great success in Japan visiting many times with a number of solo shows. Bernard died in 1987 and Janet kept the St Ives Pottery open and continued with her work constantly experimenting with new forms and glazes. There was a major retrospective of her work at the Tate St Ives 2006-2007.