"I was first hooked on pottery as a young boy at school. I was very lucky. Lucky like so many people who have come across an inspirational teacher, who changed the direction of their life. At the age of twelve, thirteen, fourteen, I was shown a new world. It was a world I really knew nothing about, but one which I, to this day I never regret.
That teacher was Barry Gregson.
I know throughout his life he was just a wonderful communicator. He opened up that world of Bernard Leach and all that he stood for. What was memorable, and I think what really got me so excited, was he gave these wonderful slide lectures introducing the work of Hamada and it was another world.
In those early days it was also Lucie Rie. Barry had realised the importance of having actual pots not only look at, but more importantly to be able to handle, to understand them. There was a beautiful Lucie Rie bowl that he had and we were there handling it."
Clay and Slip
"That was the one side of it. I think the other was the love of handling clay. Not just clay, but slip, and it was the slipware tradition which brought me to Winchcombe later, and it was learning to decorate with the slip as a youngster that was a great attraction. Interestingly it was at the Manchester Art Gallery, that there was a special exhibition of the Thomas Greg Collection of English slipware.
I remember taking myself off one day on my own. It was quite an adventure really for a youngster from Lancaster to go to the art gallery. Everything to do with clay at that time just was so exciting, and to see the English slipware which I still, as Hamada and Yanagi, see as our greatest ceramic tradition in this country, because of its warmth and vitality. There were these wonderful slipware pots full of that warmth and humanity.
It was the philosophy that Leach had brought back from Japan and had established with Hamada in St Ives that was increasingly attractive to me.
But as a youngster at school, I hardly went on the wheel. I was mostly slab building and my great hero at the time was in fact Ian Auld."
(Minshuteki Kogei - 'simple, hand-made objects for everyday use')
"…the greatest revelation to me was Tomimoto Kenkichi, Bernard Leach’s first great friend in Japan. Tomimoto, like Hamada, had been inspired by his time in England, and the English Arts and Crafts movement. These four potters, who with Yanagi Soetsu at their head founded the Japan Folk Craft movement "Mingei", were eventually to confirm my own way as a potter. I would come to dedicate my life and work to the making of pots for the home and for everyday life."
The English Lake District and John Ruskin and Nature
“In settling in the English Lake District I confirmed more than my roots as a potter in English Slipware, I discovered John Ruskin who had so inspired William Morris and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. I began to understand the wonderful exchange between East and West through a love of craft, which had at its source a universal love of Nature. Surrounded by the beauty of Lakeland, home to Wordsworth and Ruskin, I read the writings of John Ruskin and Yanagi Soetsu with a new understanding. Surrounded by trees, as we had rice fields in Japan, my eyes were opened. I began “to see clearly” after 30 years! I learnt how craft in Hamada Shoji’s words should be “born not made”.’
In 2000, he was delighted to be invited to hold an exhibition at Brantwood, Ruskin’s house in the Lake District, which retains a permanent display of his work to this day.
"In a changing and uncertain world I am more than ever inspired and guided by nature and Mingei. Living as we do in the English Lake District I am increasingly aware of the example of the trees around us, which are the same but new each year, as they slowly change in maturity and beauty.
To thrive and be healthy a tree must renew its leaves each year. Each leaf is similar but subtly and beautifully different. Each grows and finds its natural place on the tree, giving strength and vitality to the slowly changing and maturing tree. Just as the leaves serve the needs of the tree, my pots serve the needs of everyday life. I try to make my pots as naturally as the leaves on a tree. My cups and saucers, plates and teapots, like the leaves, seem to be similar, but each is crafted with individual care and attention, changing subtly each year as they are renewed in the service of our everyday lives.
I hope my work will mature like the great and beautiful trees around us, evolving naturally to give joy, pleasure and comfort in this ever-changing world."