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Thomas 'Sam' Haile, Spinster's Rock, c. 1948 (c) Estate of Thomas 'Sam' Haile. Courtesy of Ken Stradling Collection, Bristol

Some potters looked to historic British ceramics for indigenous sources of inspiration. English potters in the seventeenth century mastered the art of painting in ‘slip’ (a mixture of clay and water), often on large plates called chargers, because they were meant to be ‘charged’, or filled, with food. Often boldly signed by their makers and bursting with vivid images of people, animals and plants, these plates had all the individuality that modern mass-produced industrial ceramics lacked.

Bernard Leach led the way in reviving this technique, followed by others including Michael Cardew, who achieved a fluid and painterly quality across the whole surface of the plate. However, slipware took a different turn after the emergence of Pablo Picasso’s ceramics, and their tour around Britain in 1950. Picasso’s unconventional approach to the medium sparked a new generation of potters, who harnessed this traditional technique with designs inspired by modernist painting and sculpture.

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