MICHAEL CARDEW OBE
Michael Cardew (1901 – 1983) became the first student at the Leach Pottery in St Ives in 1923 where he worked for three years. He established his pottery, Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire in 1926.
Michael Cardew was born in Wimbledon; he studied humanities at Exeter College, Oxford and learnt pottery during the summer vacations at Braunton Pottery. From 1923 until 1926 he was a pupil of Bernard Leach. He then branched out on his own and acquired the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire.
From 1942 until 1945 he was ceramicist at Achimota College in Accra, Ghana. In 1945 he started his own pottery at Vume on the Volta River. Of this period Cardew has said that ‘The fundamental idea of that work was to bring to West Africa a new industry, capable of developing as a modern West African art-form side by side with the traditional potters’ craft already existing there.
His Vume pots are particularly noteworthy for their dramatic dark green glaze, glowing with vibrant red pigment. A number of these works are in the British Council collection. Cardew left Ghana for Nigeria in 1950 where he became Senior Pottery Officer in the Ministry of Trade. He was awarded the MBE in 1964 and returned to Wenford Bridge the following year.
Michael Cardew | Artists | Collection | British Council − Visual Arts (no date). Available at: http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/collection/artists/cardew-michael-1901 (Accessed: 20 November 2020).
In 1926 Michael Cardew had founded Greet Potteries at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, where he made pottery in the English slipware tradition, functional and affordable, and fired in a traditional bottle kiln. In 1935 Finch came to Gloucestershire and asked Cardew whether he could join the pottery. Cardew advised him to get basic skills first, and Finch went to the Central School of Art and Design, where he studied under Dora Billington and was recruited by Cardew in 1936. Finch took over the pottery, now known as Winchcombe Pottery, in 1939.
When Sidney Tustin joined Michael Cardew at Winchcombe Pottery in 1927 he was thirteen years old. He could not have wished for better teachers; Cardew, fresh from his own learning experience at Leach Pottery, and Elijah Comfort, the former chief thrower at Beckett’s Pottery, the former occupiers of the premises where Winchcombe had been set up.
His work, of course, was menial at first. He would turn the wheel for Comfort – a man for whom he had great admiration. But after a couple of years, when proper production had actually started, Cardew invested in a powered wheel for Comfort, leaving young Sidney free to start throwing. Sidney kept on throwing for fifty-one years, never leaving Winchcombe Pottery except for war service. He retired in 1978 having made over a million pots.
His work is of excellent quality, and he must be considered the backbone, and certainly a star, of Winchcombe Pottery.
Sidney Tustin (no date). Available at: http://www.studiopottery.com/cgi-bin/mp.cgi?item=101 (Accessed: 20 November 2020).