Jonathan Mallinson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 357–368


  • English

Print Length

12 pages

Conclusion: Individuality by Design

  • Jonathan Mallinson (author)
If Moorcroft is rarely considered in books on twentieth-century pottery, it is largely because he falls outside the categories of ‘studio potter’ or ‘ceramic designer’ as commonly conceived. It is significant that he was described in one obituary as a ‘post-Morrisite’. If Morris’s legacy was being sensed both in industrial modernism (by Pevsner) and in the revival of craft (by Leach), Moorcroft was seen by some as another variant on that legacy, bringing together individualised craft and serial production in ways which even Morris did not achieve, and creating well-designed, hand-made objects for more than a privileged few. Although he was clearly not responsible for all aspects of production (like the single craftsman), his practice of divided labour, in which he himself was actively involved as both designer and chemist, brought pottery closer to a performance art than a production line. Design for Moorcroft was not a rigid template, but open to his own (frequent) modifications in line or colour, just as each enactment was subject to the inevitable variations of ware made by hand and fired in a kiln; each piece was individual, and none definitive. Moorcroft is characterised by his individuality, not just because his practice was different, but because his pottery was personal. His designs, so often singled out for their harmony of form, ornament and colour were the conception of a single mind, informed by a potter’s skill – which is why some described him at the time as a studio potter. But they were informed, too, by his sense of vocation. His writings, both private and published, reveal that he did not aspire to be a pioneer, but simply to be himself, and to share with others his sensitivity to the beauty of the natural world. This is the source of the expressiveness, authenticity or ‘soulfulness’ so often identified in his work, and which make of it, as one contemporary noted, ‘no ordinary pottery’.


Jonathan Mallinson

Emeritus Professor of French at University of Oxford

Jonathan Mallinson is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern French Literature and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He has written extensively on prose fiction, comedy and satire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and has edited works by Molière, Voltaire and Graffigny. His interest in British art pottery and its reception dates back many years.