Robert Louis Blatherwick 1920 – 1993
Bob was born in Lincoln. He studied at Lincoln School of Art, received a scholarship and went to Wedgwood Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. He became the workshop assistant at Winchcombe Pottery for Michael Cardew during the war, then went on to St Ives where he was workshop assistant for Bernard Leach. He returned to Lincoln School of Art to teach pottery, teaching many people including Gordon Baldwin, before resigning from his post in 1967. During this period he made stoneware and earthenware work.
He purchased an old village bakery in Reepham near Lincoln, and together with Marjorie, his wife-to-be they converted it into a flat with a workshop and gallery space below. This was very informed by the ideals of Winchcombe and St Ives. After resigning he purchased a wheel and a kiln and set about making pots for a living. Marjorie managed the selling and business side. He focused on developing his own style of earthenware decoration and glazes, as he felt that its potential was unexplored. Everyone was doing stoneware, and he wanted to do something different. He created individually designed slab or thrown pieces, including domestic ware, jewellery, sculptural forms and tiles. His work went all over the world, with commissions from Japan and Canada. A coffee pot has recently been found in Australia! His designs, bodies and glazes were constantly re-assessed, as he explored the possibilities with slipware and earthenware glazes. His work was often unmarked, as he believed a pot should speak for itself. He was an early member of The Craftsmen Potters’ Association.
The business was managed and run by Marjorie, herself a creative textile dressmaker and organiser. She requested to be identified as a ‘Girl Friday’ on her gravestone. They had three children who were brought up solely on the income generated from selling Bob’s pots, along with apples and honey from the garden. He continued potting, sculpting and painting until his death.
I spent a few years gathering material relating to his life and work, which is written up in a thesis. I received guidance and advice from experts at Manchester Metropolitan University. My thesis is called ‘Archeology of the House Site . Object . Context – Interpreting a Collection: A Study of the Life and Work of Robert Louis Blatherwick (1920-1993)’. I hope to get this published.
Should you wish to contact me with a query relating to my father’s work I am happy to respond.
The tall black Tenmoku glazed pot on the right of this photograph, made by Robert in the 1950s, was exhibited in the Leach Pottery’s Century of Connections exhibition in St Ives.