Parallel Lives

Parallel Lives

20th January-21st April 2013

Couples who make Pottery

Parallel LivesThis exhibition features resources from the Ceramic Archive which are available to view or download here. This includes extracts from audio interviews when you see the speaker icon, published articles and new essays especially written for this exhibition. Please click here for an essay by Louise Chennell about the exhibition, and on the links throughout the maker’s biographies for further items.

Images of potters


Terry and Beverley Bell Hughes met when they were students at Harrow, on a vocational ceramic course taught by Mick Casson and Victor Margrie. After they married they rented studio space from Rosemary Wren in Oxshott. With only one kiln and one wheel between them, the couple quickly recognized they could not comfortably share a space and decided to work on alternate days. They made individual domestic ware which they sold on the Bayswater Road and in London galleries, carrying their pots on public transport. The couple moved to Wales in 1978 when the opportunity came up for Terry to manage Conwy Pottery. They bought a coach house with outbuildings on the outskirts of Llandudno. With four young children, Beverley gave up making commercial pottery for almost ten years, however during this time, she began to explore hand-building. Living in close proximity to the estuary of the river Conwy, the mountains of Snowdonia and the open sea of Llandudno, the influence of nature and the local environment inspired her work. Partially sighted from childhood, Beverley’s work has evolved from domestic shapes to more sculptural organic abstraction exploring the qualities of touch. For many years Terry taught ceramics but has continued to make high-fired thrown domestic ware influenced by the Leach tradition and British slipware.

Read the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Ceramic Series articles :

Terry Bell Hughes by Phil Rogers in c1983 and Beverley Bell Hughes by Sheila Tyler in 1984.

Click on the images below to see their work in the collection:

Pod PotBeverley Bell Hughes
Terry Bell HughesTerry Bell Hughes

listenListen to extracts from interviews by Anna Hale in 1992 with Beverley Bell Hughes talking about:

JANET HAMER: b1932 and FRANK HAMER b.1929

Frank and Janet Hamer met at art school in Lancashire and initially worked together making red earthenware tableware decorated with slip and lustre. Janet insisted they each did every aspect of making, and was upset when people presumed Frank did the throwing and she did the decorating. The couple moved to South Wales in 1959 so that Frank could take up teaching in Monmouthshire. Janet saw this as the ideal opportunity to forge her own identity and make independent work. It wasn’t until eighteen years later, that the Hamers found the ideal location for their work in Pontypool, with space for a reduction-fired kiln and where they could enjoy a variety of scenery including the Malverns, the Gower Peninsula, and the Brecon Beacons. The local wildlife has since inspired both their work, with Frank creating press-moulded platters decorated with fish imagery, while Janet continues to make ceramic bird forms in oxidised stoneware. The Hamer’s helped establish the South Wales Potters organisation, and were awarded a lifetime achievement award at the International Ceramics Festival, Aberystwyth in 2005. They co-wrote The Potter’s Dictionary of Materials and Techniques first published in 1975, and are presently preparing the sixth edition.

Click on the image below to see Janet Hamer’s work in the collection:

Janet Hamer - Mandarin Duck

listenListen to extracts from interviews by Anna Hale in 1992 with Frank Hamer talking about:

DAVID FRITH (b. 1943) and MARGARET FRITH (b.1943)

David and Margaret Frith met at Stoke-on-Trent College of Art where they were trained by Derek Emms who introduced them to the oriental tradition. Together they set out to establish a pottery business in North Wales, once home to a thriving slipware industry. The first few years were financially difficult, they had to hand build or press mould everything as they had no potters wheel. Eventually they acquired and restored an old Buckley wheel and produced oxidised stoneware, employing a number of assistants. They used locally sourced clay including waste by-products from local factories to make domestic reduction-fired stoneware, decorated with wax resist and glaze trailed designs. In the mid 1970s the Friths moved their home and workshop to an old millhouse now called Brookhouse Pottery in Denbigh, North Wales and no longer employed assistants though they continued to run summer schools and workshops for students. They spent five weeks in Japan in 2000 at Mashiko, a pottery community where they enjoyed learning about the use of domestic ceramics in Japanese culture. This experience fuelled Margaret’s interest in working with porcelain which she began to explore after her children were grown up. For over 40 years they have lived and worked together, developing their pottery business while raising their family and creating a beautiful landscaped living space, workshop and and gallery. They are both fellows of the Craft Potter’s Association and David was vice chairman from 1984-1990.

Read the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Ceramic Series article on David Frith by Emmanuel Cooper in c1982.

Click on the images below to see their work in the collection:

David FrithDavid Frith
David and Margaret FrithDavid and Margaret Frith
Margaret FrithMargaret Frith

JAMES WATERS (b.1968) and TILLA WALTERS (b.1967)

James and Tilla Waters are the youngest couple in the show. They live in Carmarthenshire where they have converted outbuildings for their workshop, and practice self-sufficiency. They equally share time in the studio as well as the responsibility of their young family. Both trained in fine art but took up ceramics soon after, and met while they were apprentices for the ceramicist Rupert Spira in 1998. During that time they learned not only an appreciation for simplicity of form, but attention to detail in running a pottery business. James’s natural affinity for throwing was remarked on by Spira, and eventually Tilla happily entrusted him with sole charge of the process so she could concentrate on design. However, this does not mean the work is segregated; they work side by side, each responding to the other’s ideas. The beauty and stillness of their domestic environment translates into their work which is based on vessel forms, demonstrating order, simplicity and expression through colour. In 2012 James and Tilla Waters received a Creative Wales Award from the Arts council of Wales to develop their cylindrical forms in coloured clay and porcelain.

listenListen to extracts from an interview in 2012 with James and Tilla Waters talking about:

ALFRED POWELL ( 1865-1960) and LOUISE POWELL ( 1882-1956)

Alfred Powell and Louise Powell had independent careers before they collaborated on designs for Wedgwood & Sons Ltd in the early twentieth century. Alfred was an architect and designer associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, while Louise (nee Lessore) had studied calligraphy and illumination at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Louise was from a distinguished artistic family, her grandfather, Emile Lessore, had been a celebrated decorator at S è vres but also worked at Wedgwood. Despite the 17 year age gap, the couple married in 1906 and designed for Wedgwood for over thirty years. Neither were potters, although Alfred designed a selection of standard shapes. Their designs included a mixture of naturalism including calligraphy with motifs of stylised flowers and animals often in lustre. They had studios in London and the Cotswolds where they hand painted Wedgwood unglazed pottery blanks which were then sent to the Wedgwood factory for glazing and final firing. In the 1920s they helped revive the fortunes of the company, by training women paintresses at Etruria in free-hand decorating, so that their designs could be produced commercially. Always supportive of his wife, in a letter of 1921 to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Alfred Powell is adamant that Louise Powells’s work and identity should be clearly documented.

Click here to read an essay by Dr. Kathy Talbot on Alfred and Louise Powell.

Click on the image below to see their work in the collection:

Alfred and Louise Powell

HARRY DAVIS ( 1910-1986) and MAY DAVIS ( 1914-1995)

Harry Davis worked with Bernard Leach at the St Ives Pottery in the early 1930s where he met his future wife May. In 1937 he took a position as Head of the Art School at Achimota College on the Gold Coast (Ghana). The couple married in 1938 but were separated by the war until 1942 with Harry in Ghana and May living in a pacifist community society in Paraguay. The couple moved around South America but eventually returned to England in 1946 and established the Crowan Pottery in Cornwall. Here they produced domestic ware in the Leach tradition. Despite the success of Crowan, after 16 years the couple emigrated to New Zealand in 1962, with their children and began the Crewenna Pottery near Nelson. Ten years later they travelled again to Peru, establishing yet another pottery from scratch. Harry was self taught in engineering and he often adapted redundant equipment and machinery to use in the pottery. He also studied geology and made his own glaze recipes and sought places to dig clay. He disliked any cult of personality and the pots bore only the workshop stamp at both Crowan and Crewenna. However, May Davis recalled this did not deter customers from requesting a ‘Harry Davis’ pot. May indeed often had sole charge of the pottery while Harry was away on lecture tours on his philosophy of self-sufficiency. In her autobiography, May Davis records an interesting life together, but also a life of physical hardship, each time a pottery was established and her domestic environment was comfortable, Harry would become restless and want to start all over again.

Click on the image below to see their work in the collection:

Harry and May Davis

Click here to read an essay on Harry and May Davis and the Crowan Pottery by Julia Twomlow (Director, Leach Pottery, St. Ives).


For Ruth whose family had worked at the Upchurch pottery in Kent, his move from industrial pottery to studio pottery was seen as a betrayal to his working class background. He had become disheartened with his work as a designer in the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, and moved to Wales when he was offered a teaching position as a lecturer at Cardiff in the mid 1960s. Ruth who had trained in illustration, got a job as an arts and crafts tutor in a hospital, training students to become occupational therapists. When they moved to Wales, Alan particularly became enchanted with slugs and fungi in soil ecosystems encountered on their walks at The Wenalt in Cardiff, and initially made some work around this theme. Ruth also started to experiment with ceramics as she was enthused by the attitudes and ideas of the younger generation of students in Cardiff, with whom she came in to contact with through Alan. In the mid 1970s, they began to work together and made a series of work called Cabbage Kingdoms making sculptural pieces of figures modelled by Ruth, emerging from thrown pieces by Alan. The contrast of Ruth’s figures “dynamic, struggling, nightmarish” enveloped in Alan’s delicate lustred forms, invited comparisons of their work to Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), William Blake (1757-1827), Richard Dadd (1817-1876) and Mervyn Peake (1911-1978). Ruth eventually found it uncomfortable to impose on Alan’s shapes, and he equally found it hard to anticipate forms she could work with, therefore, it was a natural and mutual decision to make independent work. Alan made ‘pelican’ pots influenced by his Grandfather; these were small pots and jugs, decorated with luster, while Ruth made dancing animal figures which received international acclaim in the late 1980s. She rejoined Alan after his retirement, this time decorating his domestic ware with figurative illustrations.

Click here to read “Alan and Ruth Barrett-Danes: A Continuing Tradition” a 2009 exhibition catalogue featuring essays by Dr. Jeffrey Jones, Prof. Moira Vincentelli, Noel Upford and Sarah Bradford.

Click on the image below to see their work in the collection:

Alan and Ruth Barrett-Danes