Friday, July 11, 2008

British Potter James Tower

James Tower (1919-1988) was a student of British potter William Newland (1919-1998).

Newland and friends first saw tin glazed earthenware in 1950 spain and were so influenced by it that he and his friends returned to London a set up a studio producing tin glazed earthenware supplying tiles and fixtures to trendy coffee houses at the time.

They were the counter part of Leach and his circle. While Leach was influence by traditional British slipware and eastern ceramics. Newland and his friends were drawing inspiration from Picasso and the British tin glaze tradition. Leach referred to them derisively as "Picassoettes" Newland didn't claim to be anti Leach, he just said "There are other things to do"

Newland was becoming particularly well known for a special technique that he taught to Tower. This involved either applying a black glaze over an already fired white tin glaze and then scratching back the black glaze to reveal a pattern or doing the same with white over a black glaze.

These flat, somewhat leech like forms are also part of his signature work. His work can be seen in many collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London ( and you will occasionally find them at auction at places like Bonhams ( Sothebys (

I was drawn to these pieces when I was working in tin glazed earthenware myself thinking that it was some kind of glaze over glaze reaction. The knowledge that they were produced by a precise method of scraping back the black or white glaze only made me love them more.

I'll let you in on a secret about auction viewing. Before any auction, there are usually several days of viewing where potential bidders can examine the work.

They are REALLY great places to get to look at art up close. The assistants there will even take objects out of display cases so you can get a closer look and often even HANDLE THE PIECE. Often they can answer questions.

Check out the auction sites above, find something you're interested in and then go to the viewing. MUCH better than a museum or a 'Please don't touch" gallery. They also have online catalogues of current and near future auctions and extensive archives of past auctions. These are great places to look at at pots too.

Sure wish I could get my hands on one of these pieces but I just haven't managed to be in the right place at the right time.....yet!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Article. There are three works by James Tower included in Heffel Auction October 28, 2010. Photos on heffel auction twitter page: