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Vase, Leaping Salmon, 1931, Bernard Leach © Estate of Bernard Leach. Courtesy of York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)

Vase, Leaping Salmon, 1931, Bernard Leach © Estate of Bernard Leach. Courtesy of York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)

 

The profit-driven ceramics industry of Victorian Britain had made hand-crafted pots economically obsolete and had caused a decline in quality. East Asian pots on the other hand, were widely regarded as the pinnacle of ceramic craft, admired for their balanced forms and hand-painted decoration.

In experimenting with this hand-crafted medium, British designers looked to the East for inspiration. Christopher Dresser visited Japan in the 1870s, bringing back ceramics he intended to adapt for industry, while others experimented with the rich glazes seen on Chinese pots.

The vase in particular, upright and anthropomorphic, was an especially popular form in which to try out new ideas of what Studio Pottery could be. For some potters it connected the past to the present, for others it connected Britain with distant places. For William Staite Murray, it was a form that allowed him to connect painting and sculpture.