Friday, July 11, 2008

Alan Caiger-Smith

Alan Caiger-Smith ran the Aldermaston pottery from 1955 until about 1993 when he retired from actively running the pottery. He continued to work on his own pieces at the pottery until the last firing and official closure of the pottery in 2006.

He is also author of several important books on tin-glaze and lustres as well as many articles. He also co-translated and annotated Piccolpasso's book, "The Three Books Of the Potter's Art" covering Maiolica (tin-glaze) techniques of the Italian Renaissance.

I was 'raised' in the "Leach-Hamada-Cardew-Reduction-High-Fired-Stoneware-With-Little-Decoration-School". It was a revelation to me when Nick Chapman, British slipware potter, did a series of workshops at my univeristy. You can actually decorate this stuff! And it's fun!

I discovered Alan's work shortly afterwards and fell in love with the fluid, caligraphic line of his brush work. However, I was totally bowled over by the beauty, elegance and luminance of the lustre ware.

Not only is the decoration lively and fluid but in the smoky reduction atmosphere of the lustre firing, IT MOVES! The metals in the lustres fume and color the surrounding areas. The smoke gets into the glaze as well and turns it a very soft grey in places. You can trace the path of the flame across the pots by the fuming.

And for all you wood fire macho types, this is wood fired!

Through research, scholorship and trial and error, he revived this technique for modern times. His 'autobiography', "Pottery, People and Time", in one chapter describes his early trials with the lustre techniques. I especially love the image of him pushing fudge through the spy holes of his electric kiln to get the necessary reduction.

His work is in many collections including the Ashmolean museum in Cambridge, which is near his home and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There are lots of images of his work on the internet and if you go to the two auction sites listed earlier, you will find even more. There is also a nice collector's site at

Since Aldermaston's main focus was on decorated functional ware for daily use, there is a very large amount still being used in private households.

Am I doing too much about tin-glaze? Naw! Two posts doesn't even scratch the surface of this much under appreciated and very demanding technique. There is some really wonderful work being being done today.

I really don't have any prefered pottery style or technique, I just like good ceramics.

Just to keep you happy, the next post will be on something else.

By the way. The platter at the top belongs to me. ;-)

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1 comment:

Linda Starr said...

That platter is spectacular, how lucky you are to have it. It looks three dimentional