What exactly constitutes research is much debated. At different times I have undertaken sustained investigation into different topics about which I wanted, or needed, more knowledge. There are many topics, both visual and technical, and both recently and long ago, which I have investigated, and which have affected the way I think, or work. I regard this type of research as an integral part of the normal development of work, which continues throughout every working life.

But two study topics stand out as major because both had a public, as well as a personal, outcome.


The first study arose from the wish, as a teacher of pottery, to become aware of the diversity of objects which constitute the history of pottery and the range of rich visual quality which they exemplify. Working with my late, first wife, Bonnie van de Wetering, we set ourselves a project to systematically trace the history of pottery. The project was visual, decidedly not academic, and was personally selective, rather than encyclopaedic.  From 1962 to 1966 we devoted most weekends to visiting English museums with noteworthy collections of pots, and we made slides of pots of visual interest. And in the summer vacations we made visits to museums in Germany, Austria, Greece, Turkey and Italy to extend what we had recorded in England. The personal outcome of this work of seeing the objects, and selecting what to record, was a heightened awareness of what can be done with materials, and, in selecting what to photograph, of identifying objects and trying to focus on definitive quality. The more public outcome was that the collection of images was the basis of twelve talks I gave on the history of pottery, from the beginning to the Middle Ages, to students at the Central. Bonnie gave twelve talks from the Middle Ages to the mid twentieth century. These talks are kindly recalled by Alison Britton in her essay on Central Ceramics in “Making their Mark”, the book about the Central School. Some of these images became illustrations in my book “Pottery: Techniques of Decoration” and I continue to refer to images from that work.


The second study occurred from the mid to late ’70s because I, together with some of the students I was working with at Corsham, became dissatisfied with the working and visual qualities of the clay bodies which were then available. I was fortunate to have the space in my outbuildings at home both to make tests in worthwhile quantities, and to store the wide range of kaolins, ball clays and fireclays and other materials necessary to make stoneware and porcelain bodies. I made and tested scores, and scores, of tests. The immediate outcome of this was that through the knowledge and experience I had gained, I was able to advise and assist interested students to mix their own clay bodies, using the dough mixer and clay making filter-press plant which existed at Corsham. A second, and ongoing, outcome is that almost everything I have made since then has been made with clay mixed specifically for the work in hand. And a third outcome is that when La Meridiana International School of Ceramics encountered problems, around 2014, with the plastic clay bodies that they were importing I was asked to make trials to come up with some alternatives which could be produced on site. Working, with Pietro Maddalena, we evolved three standard bodies: Ambra, a warm, grogged fireclay and ball clay body for large and small throwing; DOC White an off-white clay suitable for reduction and oxidation; and a Porcelain. I also made a series of tests evolving bodies for Cone 6. A more unusual project was to evolve a body for cooking utensils which could withstand direct flame.