19 May - 24 June 2012
Paul Vibert’s collection has been amassed over his lifetime but the actual works on show are not those mentioned ‘seconds’ that young Paul pulled out of the river by the Leach Pottery. Those early salvaged pots were discarded in his own home as quickly as he brought them in, for in the family, as in the Pottery, they were considered castaways. By the time Paul noticed that the collection never grew in size despite his amassment of treasures it was too late to save them, he could only move forward with his kindled appreciation. Everything in the current collection has either been bought by Paul from William Marshall directly, or been given as a gift.
Paul’s interest in the pots has always been mediated through the personal relationship he had with William Marshall. His collection is primarily comprised of individual ‘signature’ pieces by William Marshall, although there are also examples of Leach Pottery standardware. While standardware can be made by any of the potters working at the Leach Pottery, and there are no marks to indicate individual makers, in these cases the pieces were all made and bought directly from William Marshall.
In displaying the collection we have chosen to highlight two contrasting approaches to appreciating such a unique and personal collection. On the one hand, or section of the gallery in fact, the work has been laid out to feature each piece as a work of art that it is thus affording maximum vantage point for viewing and admiring. In contrast, the other approach has been to gesture towards the domestic way in which Paul himself has lived with these pots, which is not to revere them to the point of precious ornament but to incorporate them into every surface of his home and vein of his being in a way that only someone with such a close association could use these rare artefacts.
In selecting a shortlist of featured items to price and catalogue out of over 370 in the collection we have chosen both representative pieces that show the range of the collection and of which we generally have more in that style in terms of shape and/or decorative techniques, as well as quite unique pieces that deserve special attention.
The collection is made up of both porcelain and stoneware ceramics. The shapes fall generally into recognizable domestic ceramic categories: jars, jugs, vases, bottles, dishes, bowls and cups. Yet, to reduce these pots to such generic forms is to deny the diversity and complexity of these objects, and their rightful place in the history of ceramics within the context of The Leach Pottery.
Each glaze, brush stroke, decorative motif and pattern has a history that bears the weight of its legacy. Kestle Barton is grateful to Andrew and Jeanette Marshall, who have given their time and unique expertise to help describe the individual pieces in Paul’s collection. Through their appraisal the terminology and significance of each feature has been shared. They have been able to identify the ‘berry’ pots as distinct from the cylindrical lidded jars, the ‘flask’ versus the slab built bottle and of course the tea bowls, Yunomi and Saké cups, that demonstrate the Japanese and Korean influence inherited through Bernard Leach and The Leach Pottery.
The classic pieces are all here, with excellent examples of cut-sided and slab built techniques, applied hakamé brushwork and Tenmoku glazes. For Paul, however, it is the pieces with unique qualities such as firing damage and experimental designs, as distinct from what is stereotypically deemed a William Marshall classic, that has often attracted him to an acquisition; such as the surface marks made on a pot that survived a kiln explosion or the shrinking cracks in an otherwise perfectly formed pot. Thus the collection is inconsistent in as much as it is complete, but above all it is personal and passionate.
This exhibition has been inspired by the passion of Paul Vibert as a collector and motivated by a desire to celebrate the great potter that William Marshall became through his lifetime commitment to the Leach Pottery and his craft. While Paul is willing to let works leave the collection, he is not seeking to relieve himself of any of them necessarily and the prices reflect this position.
This is a unique occasion to see a collection that has been compiled with such enthusiasm and personal interest. For other William Marshall ceramic collectors this is also a priceless cache of choice and opportunity and boasts absolutely stunning examples of the range and skill that William Marshall commanded. It is truly a ‘present from Paul’ to honour another’s life with such enthusiastic devotion and to share this ritual with the interested public here at Kestle Barton.
It has been a personal privilege to witness the collection in Paul’s home, to handle, code and photograph each one and then to bring the pots into the Kestle Barton environment and provide them with a temporary ‘home’ here. With each opportunity to handle and examine the individual pieces they have become more fascinating and reveal more about the pleasure of familiarity and overflowing abundance of character that describes both the collection and the collector.
Dr. Ryya Bread, Curatorial Director – May 2012