Question: What’s the difference between the two pieces of pottery pictured above?
Answer: Around 30 years.
They are both made by the same celebrated studio potter Eddie Curtis, who, with his wife Margaret, has run a pottery at Middle Rigg, County Durham, since 1979. Eddie is recently home from exhibiting his current work at an important exhibition in Munich, and has exhibited in Japan and India and many other places. He’s a big name in contemporary ceramics.
The pot on the left is called Rock, and is from his current “Blast” series, inspired by a dramatic stretch of coastline near his home. This photo is borrowed from the March/April 2017 issue of the magazine Ceramic Review, in which, under the title “Modern Master”, Eddie “discusses the evolution of his own uniquely personal style”. This particular pot is described as “Carved and hollowed from a solid block of clay using a ‘kurinuki’ technique, with 22ct gold leaf detailing in the interior”. Here are some excerpts from the article where Eddie describes his methods:
“Using multiple layers of textured pastes and slurries of clay and porcelain I set out, with the aid of a blowtorch, to recreate the accretions and textures of the seashore on my vessel forms. Stained with varying amounts of pigments of iron and copper, the colours diffused through to the surface with a satisfying degree of unpredictability in the kiln.”
“Other times I start with a mound of clay and cut and beat it with as little self-awareness as I can muster, pausing only to observe the results of my actions. When satisfied, I add the layers of texture. At this point I am at my most tense; not wishing to apply too much intellect to the process . . .”
Now look at the plate on the right. Couldn’t be more different, could it? Cool, traditional, finely and exquisitely crafted work in the best English/Japanese studio pottery tradition. An exercise in discipline and control, with nothing left to chance. I bought it last week and posted a picture on the British Studio Pottery Mystery Pots Facebook forum. Eddie replied to say that it
“was indeed mine, made in the eighties, in a different life. A talc glaze (no added oxide opacifiers, it was more economical to produce that way!) and a cobalt/iron brush decoration. . . The border decoration is of course wax resist. The bamboo was painted with a single Japanese brush”.
In a separate posting, he says “I’m comfortable with most of what I did in the past” and in an email to me he says it’s “a good example”.
How splendid to observe that a craftsman or artist (what’s the difference?) not only moves on to astonishingly different work over a 30-year period, but that he’s still so happy with his much earlier and so much more disciplined work. And so are his admirers: Eddie re-posted the photo of my plate on the Facebook British Studio Pottery Collectors page and garnered in 66 “likes”.
Eddie has some of his pots showing on his website at https://www.eddiecurtis.com/. The most expensively priced one that I could find is £1,100. He also has work on sale in many commercial galleries. Sadly the new prices of modern studio pottery pieces are very rarely sustained when they are sold second-hand (usually at auction), but, even bearing this in mind, the £5.00 which I paid for my lovely plate in a charity shop was an almost unbelievable bargain.
I won’t be trying to sell it on for a profit. It’s a keeper: a real piece of Random Treasure!