David Puxley: Wedgwood’s First Studio Potter
Since its founding in 1759, Wedgwood has brought in outside artists from time to time in order to keep designs fresh and contemporary. In 1964, the firm hired 21-year-old potter David Puxley to play an unusual role – he would be Wedgwood’s first studio-potter-in-residence.
The term “studio pottery” emerged in the early 20th century to describe objects made by ceramic artists who worked either alone or as part of a group. These artists designed, crafted, and finished their objects and emphasized their handcrafted quality, in contrast to objects that were mass-produced in factories.
Puxley remained at Wedgwood for three years, where he was given a studio at the factory, access to all materials and personnel, and total creative freedom. Heavily influenced by a simplified Scandinavian aesthetic, the mid-century modern look of his ceramics differs greatly from Wedgwood’s well-known blue-and-white wares, and reflects the artist’s individual style and interpretation of traditional materials.
The Birmingham Museum of Art owns more than 150 pieces of studio pottery made by Puxley during his time at Wedgwood. This collection, the largest in the world, ranges from vases and lamps to tableware and storage jars. A selection of these objects is currently on view in David Puxley: Wedgwood’s First Studio Potter.
Today, Wedgwood no longer supports a studio-pottery program, but it does continue to work with freelance designers on specific projects. Indeed, the desire for handmade objects continues to exist as people always value unique items. Internet sites such as Etsy serve as platforms for discovery, experimentation, and marketing, allowing makers to set up virtual shops that sell a variety of items from handmade stationery to one-of-a-kind sculptures.
Visit the David Puxley: Wedgwood’s First Studio Potter special feature in the Museum’s smartguide to explore more works from the exhibition and to hear commentary from artist David Puxley.
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