Clay plaster walls at Leach Pottery

The Leach Pottery – St Ives

Clay: That Continuous Material: until 27 August

The renowned Leach Pottery and Clayworks, have collaborated to showcase clay plaster wall finishes as part of a current exhibition, Clay: That Continuous Material.

This event, which runs until 27 August 2017, looks at the story of clay from the pioneering early days of the Leach Pottery, which made its own clays, to clays’ relationship with Cornwall.

The St.Ives based pottery, and St.Keverne based Clayworks have both taken this humble material, turned it into something beautiful that changes people’s perceptions of what is possible with clay, and taken it to the world. Clay plasters are now attracting international attention and challenging the entire category conventions of both natural building materials and interior wall finishes.

Clay plays an important part of Cornwall’s economic history: in the mid-19 Century, more than 65,000 tons a year were being mined in the St Austell area alone. One of the redundant pits now houses the The Eden Project.

All of Clayworks’ ready-made clay plasters are manufactured on the remote Lizard Peninsula. For many years, the company would dig clay on site and apply directly to the walls – a process that remains dear to the founder’s hearts – but for clay plasters to be accepted by architects, a robust, consistent, proven and easily available product needed to be developed.

2 years of intense research and development combined with centuries of knowledge and 10 years of direct experience within Clayworks resulted in the launch of the ready-made product in 2011. For while this simple material requires minimal processing and no synthetic ingredients, there are many different subsets of clay with different mineral groups that behave very differently when mixed with water and ensuring the correct geochemistry is critical to the success of clay plasters.

Photo by Saltyseaphotography.

The Leach Pottery, founded in 1920, is considered by many to be the birthplace of pottery. One of the great figures of 20 Century Art, Bernard Leach played a crucial pioneering role in creating an identity for artist potters across the world.

As part of the exhibition, the old clay drops, by the side of the Pottery, have been brought back to life with clay from St Agnes and china clay, unprocessed and direct from the clay pit, to help give a feel for the material and how the Old Pottery used to work.