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Bob Dawe Red Barn Pottery Mid 60’s ceramics update

October 19, 2020

Last week I was contacted by a lady called Susie who thanked me for my blog piece in 2017 about the potter Bob Dawe. She went onto explain that sadly Bob had died last October but she had been a longtime friend of his and would I like to see a few ceramic pieces she had of his later work, of course I would. So I thought I would update his post in memory of a gent who’s work I look at every day.

I was recently looking around my studio-space thinking how some of the artifacts that surround me have come to be there. One such item is a small pot by ceramist Bob Dawe.

From my school days, I used to visit the Bluecoat Display Centre in the heart of Liverpool. I must have stumbled across the place when I was still in school but just old enough to travel to Liverpool on my own.

The Bluecoat Centre and gallery shop, has and always will be for me, a timeless, tucked away gem, some small oasis in the hustle and bustle of a busy Liverpool city centre. It must have been back in the early eighties, when I was taking my Art and Ceramics A levels, that I had saved up about £15 and bought myself this beautiful vase from the display shop.

I must admit that it felt quite grown up to buy a piece of another artist’s work at the age of 17 and I’m guessing that I must have been attracted to it’s simple form and the 1960’s style of the sun stamp, which adorned one side of the vase. Thinking back, I think those early visits to the Bluecoat must have helped define my love of craft and designer objects and the appreciation I have for individual hand-made ceramics today. Here’s my vase.

Bob Dawe and Howard Evans ran the Red Barn Pottery in Great Wratting, Suffolk, UK, from 1965 to 1968. From there he moved to Sudbury in Suffolk to work on his own.

He specialized in using a rolling technique to create cylinder pots. Decoration was usually incised lines and impressed marks. The way these pots are constructed is very important, such slab pottery is amongst the earliest that man ever made. The technique used predates the wheel and along with simple techniques like pinching and coil making, date as the first pots of civilization.

On 20th century forum, I discovered someone asking Bob why he had made his work in the way that he did. He replied … ” Hello. This is Bob Dawe replying to your interesting question about our style of pottery in the 60’s. It was probably because several of us went to Goldsmiths College, where building pottery was far more of an interest to us than throwing. Secondly, under the influence of two splendid tutors: David Garbett and Gordon Baldwin. There was a very strong emphasis on textual decoration that related to the pot and enhanced its form. We enjoyed hand-building because it was a much more direct way of using clay than throwing, where you have a “machine” ie the wheel between you and the clay. ”

It was great to discover a little more about my early ceramic purchase and see more of Bob’s work from the same period.  I’ve discovered that some of the larger, square ceramics are possibly made by Howard Evans, Bob’s working partner at the studio at the time. I thought I would leave them in to show the range of work coming out of the studio too.

There’s almost something plant-like in some of his forms.

I discovered that I had also kept a 1970’s book on pottery that I’d found really useful when I first started taking ceramics at school. It covered the basics so well and featured such topics as slab pots and surface decoration. It could almost have been written by Bob himself lol

 

What a delight to see more of Bob’s work. I really enjoy it’s simplicity and almost tribal /rustic /rune-like, freshly unearthed appearance. So much so that I had a look online today and decided to purchase a second and third piece of Bob’s work. They should sit nicely with the first, only purchased some 35 years apart ! : )

What sits around you at home/ perhaps in your studio space, that has some personal or sentimental meaning ?

Susie said about Bob.. ” In the 90’s he made several ranges of moulded dishes of different sizes with wonderful glazes. I have one complete set of six, much used, and several early experimental ones with more detailed markings on them. He was a consummate artist, with little appreciation of the quality of his work – he simply did what he loved, working with clay. It’s good to find his memory lives on – thank you ”

The bottom photo is a very recent one of a few of my Bob Dawe pots in use. Susie told me “He would have been very pleased to know you are using his pots for autumn leaves – it was his favourite season. ” Thank you Susie for the sad but kind update on Bob and his work and I’m so pleased it prompted this timely update.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Wallace permalink
    October 19, 2020 9:28 am

    A lovely personal story, thanks for sharing

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