MORE MODERNIST TEAPOTS – HARRY AND MAY DAVIS

Harry and May Davis worked at the Leach Pottery in the 1930s and later at Achimota College in Ghana where the preceded Michael Cardew. Harry actually recommended Cardew as his successor. In 1946 they bought the mill at Crowan in Cornwall and set up their own pottery with the aim of producing high quality domestic ware. Everything was done from scratch – machinery, clay bodies, glazes, kilns. The results have been described as ‘potter’s pots’ – at their best exceptionally well made and redolent of the processes by which they have come about. Everything is pared down to a minimum. They were often decorated with simple brushwork designs in iron or cobalt but they are at their best left alone especially with this celadon glaze.

Harry and May Davis were idealists with strong views about society and social responsibility. They were quite prepared to use machinery and to produce a product for a market. They were not concerned with art or egos. Pots were produced by a team of makers and were only marked with the pottery’s CP mark (collectors complain that they used the same mark when they moved to set up the Crewenna Pottery in New Zealand in 1963). The pots themselves reflect Leach’s ideas about bringing together East and West but subtly reject the Sung aesthetic in  favour of a functionalism which bring them much closer to the ‘form follows function’ ethos of the Bauhaus. Shapes are designed to operate efficiently and comfortably. The spouts pour cleanly; the lips of cups are sharp and slightly everted to flow easily; the handles sit well in the hand and do not bring the fingers into contact with the hot body of the pot. The spouts flow smoothly out of the body to create a visual as well as practical flow. The shallow teapot form owes something the Japanese shapes but it is interesting too to compare it with Walter Gropius’ TAC teapot in its visual effectiveness (not as beautiful, I’ll admit). They stand up well against Deiter Rams 10 Principles of Good Design.

The sugar basin is my favourite of these pieces – simple and elegant. I have ignored the jug. The Crowan/Crewenna jugs I’ve seen are consistently poor shapes for some reason.

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