John Leach (1939–2021), continued the St Ives Leach tradition by crafting handthrown, wood-fired pots at Muchelney in Somerset. Each piece resonated with the Leach philosophy, emphasising beauty in simplicity of form and decoration. Classic Muchelney kitchenware, known for its warmly textured patina, had been in continuous production since John established the pottery in 1965. The familiar range, featuring sturdily rounded casseroles, bowls, jugs, and jars, found its place in thousands of homes as part of daily use. John had developed individual signed work, notably his ‘Black Mood Pots’. His style drew on a lifetime’s influences, such as his own training at St Ives, a love of English mediaeval pottery and early American folk pottery to the traditional leather water vessels of the Middle East combined with the impact of a 1984 study trip to Nigeria.
For John, this eclectic melting pot of influences is a natural reflection of his belief in an international kindred spirit between potters from the past and the present. Alongside his creative work John had, like his grandfather, developed the skills of the communicator, running workshop demonstrations and giving regular international lecture tours. He accepted with pleasure what he saw as a responsibility to communicate and share with like-minded people his lessons and experience as a potter.
“I am happy to repay my good fortune in life by sharing with others the fulfilment I have found in my work, work which I see as a rewarding therapy in this over-standardised age.” John Leach
His pots are hand-thrown, using West Country clay and wood-fired at 1320ºC in a three-chambered kiln that he designed and built in the Oriental tradition. The kitchen pots’ distinctive ‘toasted’ finish is the result of the firing process. The individual black pots are saggar-fired, their signature white markings are a spontaneous effect of the saggar’s undulating sawdust packing.