The death last year of Richard Batterham (1936-2021), one of the finest masters of thrown stoneware, closed another chapter in the history of British studio pottery – one that is being marked by a display at the V&A until the end of October.
Working alone at his Dorset workshop since 1966, Batterham maintained the ‘Leach’ tradition of austere Japanese elegance, whether in functional wares or tall studio vases such as those snapped up by UK collectors at Mallams’ (25% buyer’s premium) sale on August 17
One illustrated here, a 16in (41cm) tall vase, had some crazing to the ash glaze but went comfortably above hopes at £2200.
The other, a 15in (36cm) tall cut-sided vase with minimal firing faults to the ash and tenmoku glaze, doubled mid-hopes at £1500. Both went to different London collectors.
Six pieces by Batterham opened the triennial specialist studio pottery sale at Adam Partridge (20% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Macclesfield on July 29, the latest in a series that began in 2008.
Back when London houses were exiting the specialist market, Partridge and expert enthusiast Jason Wood began answering collectors’ demand.
Fourteen years on the project is thriving. Summer sales tend to be single collections, like this one which comprised items amassed by Jack Blackburn (1940-2021) a much-loved Derbyshire dealer. Better-heeled buyers will be catered for at the October 28-29 sale where stars among the 900 lots will include the likes of John Ward and Australia’s Pippin Drysdale.
Nevertheless, Blackburn’s collection clocked up a very satisfactory total of £117,300 with all 535 lots sold, mainly to UK collectors frequently outbidding the many registered French bidders.
It was 25 years ago that Blackburn and his partner Margot retired from their jobs in theatre education and turned their love of French pottery into dealing from their Derbyshire home.
As Blackburn did not like to charge fellow collectors sums much above covering his costs, it was not every dealer’s idea of a good business, but it thrived in its amiable way.
Topping the day at Adam Partridge was one of 32 lots by John Maltby (1936-2020). A 13in (33cm) tall stoneware spade vase decorated with a stylised bird flying over reeds and painted signature, it sold just shy of top estimate at £3300.
Another major name, Takeshi Yasuda (b.1943), was represented by 36 lots, the two best-sellers of which both sold to Australian bidders.
One was a 13in (33cm) diameter stoneware twin-handled, sprungbottom bowl. Covered in sansai glaze and with only short firing cracks, it made a six-times estimate £2750.
The other was a sancai-glaze stoneware pillow dish with impressed marks. Measuring 19in (48cm) across the twin handles, it quadrupled top hopes selling at £2650.
Best of nine pieces by Robin Welch (1936-2019) was a 13¼in (33.5cm) tall stoneware vessel covered in bronze glaze and decorated with yellow, orange and white rectangular panels. With an impressed RW mark and with no faults or restoration, it tripled expectations at £1350.
The Batterham pieces were led by a stoneware fluted tazza covered in green ash and tenmoku/cobalt glaze which doubled the mid-estimate at £400.
French studio ceramics, Blackburn’s first love, were represented by more than 100 pieces, best of which was a woodfired stoneware conical bowl with a smoky surface by Provençal potter Caroline Barbet.
Although 17in tall x 2ft 1in diameter (44 x 64cm), this was one of Barbet’s smaller pieces, illustrating her technique of working from a tiny base to hand-build large works. In faultless condition, it almost tripled the top estimate selling at £1750.
Studio pottery is that rarity in the arts world where the protestation that ‘it’s not all about money’ can be believed. Blackburn’s own favourite potter Brigitte Penicaud (b.1954), whom he championed, can sell for hundreds of pounds but her three lots here went in double figures.
One comprised two 6in (15cm) diameter stoneware bowls. One with applied porcelain slip covered in a porcelain glaze, the other in a green ash glaze, they went below estimate at £70.