Michael Cardew (1901-1983)
Large, wheel-thrown, stoneware, two-handled, lidded ‘Gwari’ pot by Michael Cardew of the Wenford Bridge Pottery, Cornwall, probably made c.1960-5; dark brown and kaki glaze with incised decoration to exterior, pale green celadon glaze to interior, toasted unglazed inner rim to both casserole and lid; impressed personal and pottery marks to basal rim.
Michael Cardew’s name is synonymous with English studio pottery and slipware though much of his life was spent also working in Africa. Born in London, Cardew’s family often visited North Devon and his father collected pottery. As a child, Cardew visited the famous slipware pottery of Edwin Fishley in Braunton and later was taught to throw by Fishley’s grandson. This early experience must have stuck with him because as soon as he finished studying classics at Exeter University, he started an apprenticeship at the St Ives pottery working with Bernard Leach. In 1926, he left St Ives to start his own pottery in Gloucestershire which was to become the Winchcombe pottery. Years later, he left this pottery to Ray Finch to move back to Cornwall and start, just before the outbreak of World War II, his pottery, Wenford Bridge, in Bodmin. The pottery, like most others, struggled to make money during the war and Cardew eventually accepted a post in the Colonial service as a pottery instructor, going to Ghana as part of a government-backed venture that aimed to help train students to supply the whole of West Africa with good quality pottery. After an abortive attempt to make the Achimota pottery sustainable, he moved back to Wenford Bridge for a few years in the late 1940s but was back in Africa by 1951, this time working at a training pottery in Nigeria at Suleja (then Abuja.) He eventually retired back to Cornwall in 1965. Cardew brought his love of English slipware to bear on the products of the Abuja pottery, influencing many of his students in this style. Equally however, he was influenced in return by his students, fusing together traditional African styles with his own English loves. This Gwari pot is a prime example; based on a traditional African cooking pot (this shape became a standard product at the Abuja factory), the incised decoration is decidedly from the English tradition. Although these kinds of pots were made in Abuja, the stamps on this one indicate that it was made at Wenford Bridge in Bodmin, probably in the early 1960s. (Alison Cooper, 2018)
Introduced to the Property by Rosalind Hicks
Greenway National Trust Collections
Marks and inscriptions
Makers and roles
Michael Cardew (1901-1983), potter