Fire and Earth: The Compton Pottery

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Until 30 April 2019
Watts Studios

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Fire and Earth: The Compton Pottery
25 November 2018 – 30 April 2019
Watts Studios | Friends free

Inspired by Mary Watts's speech delivered at a conference on 'Village Life After the War', this new display will explore the materials and technological advances of the Compton Pottery, focusing on the history of the multiple kilns that were constructed and the use of local Surrey clay.

With earth rich in clay, Surrey has been long associated with brickworks and the pottery industry. In the eighteenth century, diminished by the market dominance of the Staffordshire potteries, the county witnessed a decline in production. However, in the nineteenth century the Arts & Crafts movement, reacting against mass production and monopolisation, encouraged the revival of locally produced artisanal handicrafts. Mary Watts and her husband were keen supporters of the movement, with G F Watts lamenting that in the face of Industrial Revolution 'the joy of beauty' was being 'crushed by the wheels of machinery and forgotten in the competition for wealth'.

Following the completion of the Watts Chapel, Mary was approached by participants of her clay-modelling class, who expressed their interest in turning the recreational lessons into a professional career. Inspired by the ideals of the Home Arts and Industries Association, Mary readily accepted and this social enterprise, turned village industry, would become known as the Compton Pottery or Potters' Art Guild.

In 1917 the Rural Organisation Council published Village Life After the War, a text that recorded conferences convened by the organisation, including twenty speeches given by representatives of 'Societies working for rural betterment'. Mary Watts, on behalf of the Potters' Art Guild, was amongst the speakers. She delivered her paper 'A Village Pottery – A Developed Industry', which has provided this display with a unique first hand insight into the materials, processes and developments of the Compton Pottery.


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Watts Gallery is a registered Charity. Charity No. 313612. All profits help us to provide excellent educational activities, stage critically acclaimed exhibitions, and maintain our collection, buildings and estate for future generations to enjoy.

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