Alan Caiger-Smith and the Legacy of the Aldermaston Pottery

Speaker: Jane White

Tue, 5 Dec 2023

About the lecture:

In February 2020, Alan Caiger-Smith passed away. His international reputation as a giant of twentieth-century British pottery and a lustreware expert is undeniable, and much has now been written about his work and life at Aldermaston Pottery, near Reading.

Alan Caiger-Smith established the Aldermaston Pottery in 1955, “a cooperative workshop of about seven potters making functional domestic ware and tiles, as well as individual commissions and one-off pots. By trial and error he revived and perfected two virtually lost techniques: the use of tin glaze and painted pigments on red earthenware clay, and the firing of lustres on to tin glazes.

We remember Alan’s remarkable legacy and enormous contribution to Reading’s artistic life, both as a master craftsman and as a Trustee of the Reading Foundation for Art (RFA)

Our lecturer: Jane White

I love adventure, taking risks, pushing boundaries.  I love the countryside, the sea, and the mountains.  And I live in a remote valley farm, deep in the Chiltern Hills. For most of my life, I have been involved with ceramics in one way or another.  When my family were growing up I worked at the prestigious Douglas Watson Studio, making and decorating ceramic tiles. I was Artist in Residence for 18 months at the local primary school, in the years leading up to the millennium, working with the children to create a 3 x 2 metre relief tile mural for the new school’s reception area.

Following the success of the tile mural I was encouraged to follow a more formal education in ceramics, and after achieving an A level (Aa) in Ceramics at a local college, I gained a place to study for a BA (Hons) in Ceramics and Glass at Bucks New University.  It was during the 2nd year of my degree, whilst experimenting with smoke-firing, that I discovered the unusual technique of ‘pit-firing’.  This is a process in which pots are buried in sawdust in a large deep trench, surrounded by seaweed and other organic material, and then a large fire is built over them, which at its height reaches about 1100 degrees centigrade.  The pit is then sealed, and 2 days later it is uncovered to discover the results buried in the ashes.