Michael Evans, a former mechanical engineer and local government officer who was later known by his Buddhist name Dayabandu, was a near-obsessive collector of studio ceramics.
Amassing his collection in the nineties and noughties, a time when work by the key post-war potters was still affordable, his delight was nonetheless in the ceramics themselves. As he said: “I don’t buy for investment, I only buy what I like. I know people who regard their collection in financial terms – for the names on the bottom of their pots. For me, that’s not collecting for the right reasons.”
Typical of many collectors of his era, he didn’t spend excessively on a single item. However, funds for purchases via London and regional galleries or at ‘open studio’ events were provided by the sale of an earlier collection of Moorcroft and retirement downsizing to a two-bed flat in a Brutalist east London estate.
This modest front door, chosen for its close proximity to the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green, opened to reveal around 1200 ceramics works, mostly by British, French and Japanese potters.
A considered selection of nearly 200 pots formed the auction Unifying Eye: The Dayabandhu Collection held by specialist auction house Maak (20% buyer’s premium) on May 14.
Director Marijke Varrall-Jones described the event, which was 93% sold by lot, as providing “a momentary sense of normality to the current challenges”.
The offering was dominated by the works of the second and third generations of the studio pottery movement.
The hand-built coiled stoneware vessels of John Ward (b.1938), who trained under Lucie Rie and Hans Coper at the Camberwell College of Art, have made some huge price leaps in recent years.
A rush of consignments followed the sale of a large black and white vase for £18,000 at Maak in 2016 but prices have remained remarkably strong. Here a much smaller 7in (17cm) Oval Pot with Dipped Rim, bought by Evans from Contemporary Applied Arts, London, in 2003, sold for £11,000.
The signature wares of Ewen Henderson (1934-2000), another student at Camberwell in the mid 1960s, are teabowls built up in ‘laminated’ layers. Pigments used to excess became rough and blistered and resulted in textured glazes that appear almost volcanic. There were half-a-dozen examples here sold for between £700-1000 each.
Works by the Japanese-born potters Shozo Michikawa (b.1953) and Akiko Hirai (b.1970) are less common on the secondary market. Both established record auction prices.
Seto-based Michikawa, whose rugged form pieces resonated well within the collection, was represented by the 6in (15cm) Twisted Bottle Vase in creamy white glazes bought from a Galerie Besson exhibition in 2009. Estimated at £700-900, it sold for £3200.
Akiko, who works from a studio in Stoke Newington, confirmed her ‘rising star’ reputation when £5500 was bid for her 16in (40cm) high Moon Jar. This homage to the best-known wares of Korea’s Choson dynasty had been estimated at £700-900.
No longer potting is the Tokyo-born artist Aki Moriuchi (1947) who worked from studios in London and St Ives. Her 10in (25cm) stoneware vase with dry volcanic glazes in pale green and browns with white splashes sold at £2400 after receiving 53 bids from the low estimate of £200.