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Essay by Simon Fletcher


Mike Dodd

As I gathered my thoughts in preparation for writing this essay, I turned to Soetsu Yanagi’s book The Unknown Craftsman. The clarity of his thinking has to me been never less than revelatory, and is a perpetual source of fresh insight. Thumbing through, I immersed myself in his words for an hour or so, and then upon closing the back cover, I was struck by this simple introductory heading - Objects Born, Not Made. I remembered that as a student, this statement had puzzled and intrigued me. What did it mean, and how was the creation of these profound objects achieved? Encountering this bold assertion once again, it seemed imbued with a particular resonance. According to his autobiography, Mike Dodd’s first encounter with studio pottery was as a schoolboy in 1956; he had gazed through a shop window at a potter at work. Later he was encouraged to make his own first pots by an inspirational teacher, the aptly named Donald Potter. As he moved into adulthood, he went on to study medicine at Cambridge; but although he completed these studies, other more compelling interests held sway and his career soon changed direction. After only a year at Hammersmith College of Art and with the confidence of youth, he began his first pottery at Edburton in Sussex. Amongst potters in the UK, Dodd is now almost unique in terms of the sheer continuity in his creative output. There has barely been a pause from that moment forward, and he has diligently followed the


path ever since. Yet in talking of his work, he still speaks with the enthusiasm of someone new to the field. He must have passed Gladwell’s ten thousand hours a long, long time ago, but though the depth and range of his study is great, his talk is not of past achievements, but of new areas to explore and ideas yet unrealised. One soon understands that what motivates him, what drives him forward, is not a blunt desire for mastery, but the passion to engage with the perpetual search to understand the mystery we call Beauty. Studying the pots from the three firings that supply the body of this show, I began to sense that I was not simply looking in some kind of progressive way at the latest pots from a maker at the top of his field. Considering individual pieces more deeply, it became apparent that they often transcend the maker himself, possessing a life and authority of their own. Perhaps this then is the key to understanding the significance and power that resides within his work. Yanagi’s objects born, not made, were almost always the product of endless repetition by craftsmen whose first concern was utility, and then subsequently, the quiet embellishment of the object. But he also held out the hope for the modern artist-craftsman, that a similar innate beauty might be achieved through a deep and intuitive understanding of tradition and one’s chosen materials and techniques. When this becomes fluent, second nature – as much a part of one’s creative being almost as thought itself, then a freedom can be achieved which truly liberates the imagination. Although at first glance Mike Dodd’s work seems to fit broadly within the category that has come to be known as Anglo-Oriental, the sheer diversity of his repertoire distinguishes him from those


more dogmatic individuals among his contemporaries. Many different aspects of his creative output exhibit a far more wideranging and investigatory approach. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the variety and richness of his glazes. Almost from the beginning of his career, he has involved himself deeply with the prospecting and incorporation of naturally occurring materials as glaze ingredients. No other potter working in the UK today has engaged in such a thorough study of found materials, or made them so integral to their work. Penlee Stone, Somerset Basalt, Corsican Pine Ash, River Iron and Peat Clay are just some such minerals to be found in his descriptions of pots. None of these are to be seen listed amongst the homogenous ingredients in the catalogues of pottery suppliers; they have been gleaned directly at source, and their singularly unrefined and impure character contributes significantly to the depth and sophistication of the glazes you see here. The range of forms on offer also displays a much wider sphere of influence than this strict bracketing would imply. While it is true that a proportion of his forms might be seen to have their root in either the Far East or in English Medievalism, there are also shapes that could well have derived from early European sources. An ongoing range of waisted forms remind one of Italian Majolica apothecary jars; and some vessels, with an almost inverse balance in the way they flare from shoulder to hip, recall early Roman pieces in the British Museum. Needless to say, despite their bold shape, there is still a subtlety to their profile which draws a sigh. The necks of his taller vases and bottles, which can sometimes be the undoing of the works of others, are invariably a delight, poised and characterized by a refined elegance.





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Since moving to his current workshop Dodd’s decorative vocabulary has expanded greatly, and if you are lucky enough to visit his home and studio, the source of this inspiration is not hard to locate. As one surveys his garden, which has a distinctly Oudolfian natural beauty, and the broad, expansive Somerset landscape beyond, it is impossible not to encounter the echo or reflection of the many decorative devices and techniques that he employs. From shimmering grass to the graceful willow and onward to the majestic sweep of ploughed fields, the visual links surround you. To my eye, particular mention should be made of the linear almost calligraphic motifs he sometimes uses under a liquid ash glaze. Whether flora or fauna, his intuitive ability to produce these images with such surety of touch, is deeply poetic. In their execution there is a sublime, lyrical quality that is quite breathtaking. He has himself written about the creative state of mind required to produce such imagery, calling it Spirit in Action, and I cannot help but be reminded of William Blake, who wrote that, ‌to the Eyes of the man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. As one takes in the whole; the beauty of the work and location, his veganism and deep commitment to animal welfare issues, it becomes apparent that he is constantly striving to achieve unity not just in creative terms, but also across the spectrum of life itself. It would be a mistake to assume that this is founded solely upon romantic idealism. One can also observe in his make-up a more contemplative and analytical dimension, a scientific and reasoned approach which would have been employed to great advantage during the early training in medicine. This is the attribute that has for example, enabled him to determinedly undertake the glaze development, a task that has undoubtedly required considerable patience and objectivity.

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The pots presented here, though possessed it may seem of a quiet simplicity, are nevertheless objects that inspire us to dwell upon matters of a deep and profound nature. They are not meretricious projections of the intellect or angst, but encourage one to look outward and beyond. They are utilitarian, but instill a contemplative state of mind. They speak softly to us of the materials from which they are made, and then of the wider natural world; but perhaps essentially, and in a deeper more spiritual way, they have much to tell us about creativity itself. Simon Fletcher

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A selection of domestic ware.

Large casserole Individual handled casserole Side handled pipkin Large and small baking dish

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Medium casserole Individual handled casserole Side handled pipkin Salad/mixing bowl Set of 6 small bowls

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Illustrated Pots

All sizes in cm

1. Large Vase. Dimpled, basalt black glaze

60.0 x 32.0

2. Large Vase. Fluted, basalt black glaze

55.0 x 28.5

3. Tall Vase. Two ash glazes

49.5 x 23.0

6. Textured Vase. Two ash glazes

24.0 x 25.5

10. Waisted Vase. Ribbed & incised, two ash glazes

28.5 x 19.5

16. Bottle Vase. Faceted, peat clay glaze

26.0 x 16.0

17. Flattened Bottle Vase. Two handled, two ash glazes

23.0 x 16.0

18. Bottle Vase. Impressed, iron glaze

25.0 x 18.0

20. Vase. Paddled, granite glaze

19.0 x 17.0

21. Squared Vase. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

16.5 x 15.5

23. Porcelain Box. Brush decoration 24. Vase. Box ash glaze with iron brushwork

5.5 x 8.0 11.0 x 12.5

25. Jug. Combed, two ash glazes

27.0 x 19.5

26. Side Handled Teapot. Combed, basalt black

13.0 x 18.0

28. Store Jar. Porphyry ash glaze

26.0 x 20.5

29. Store Jar. Granite & ash glaze

25.0 x 21.0

30. Bowl. Faceted, basalt black and ash glaze inside

12.5 x 24.0

33. Set of 8 Footed Bowls. Basalt black glaze, ash inside

7.5 x 16.0

38. Waisted Vase. Two lugs, impressed & incised, ash glazes 22.0 x 17.0 39. One Handled Bottle Vase. Opalescent ash glaze

17.0 x 13.0

44. Narrow Necked Vase. Faceted, ash & river iron glaze

18.5 x 13.0

58. Bowl. Opalescent ash glaze over broken slip

10.0 x 11.0

66. Yunomi. Three dot decoration, ash glaze

10.5 x 9.5

68. Yunomi. Wax resist pattern

10.0 x 9.5

72. Tall Jug. Banded, two ash glazes

32.0 x 19.5

73. Tall Vase. Ribbed and incised, ash glaze

59.0 x 25.0

74. Tall Vase. Dimpled, porphyry ash glaze

55.5 x 25.5

75. Tall Bottle Vase. Granite glaze

49.5 x 22.5

76. Tall Bottle Vase. Combed, granite & ash glazes

50.0 x 23.0

77. Vase. Dimpled, blue grey / white ash glaze

44.5 x 22.5

78. Vase. Granite glaze with hornfels stone

45.5 x 23.0

79. Flattened Bottle Vase. Blue grey / white ash glaze

35.5 x 20.5

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80. Vase. Ribbed, granite & ash glaze

30.0 x 21.0

82. Faceted Vase. Basalt black and ash glaze

28.5 x 19.5

83. Faceted Vase. Porphyry ash glaze

27.5 x 20.5

93. Vase. Broken slip, ash glaze

25.0 x 14.5

95. Faceted Vase. Granite glaze with river iron

32.0 x 19.5

97. Dish. Wax pattern, Penlee stone overglaze

9.0 x 36.5

98. Dish. Finger trail, Cornish stone glaze

10.0 x 34.5

102. Faceted Vase. Basalt black & granite glaze

18.0 x 12.5

103. One Handled Vase. Penlee stone over Cornish stone

17.5 x 13.0

105. Fluted Vase. Porphyry ash glaze

18.0 x 13.5

120. Textured Vase. Two ash glazes

35.5 x 24.5

122. Large Footed Bowl. Ash glazes

12.5 x 30.0

124. Bottle Vase. Blue grey / white ash glaze

30.0 x 19.5

125. One Handled Vase. Broken slip, ash glaze

23.0 x 17.0

129. Faceted Vase. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

24.0 x 16.5

130. Two Handled Vase. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

23.0 x 16.0

131. Bottle Vase. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

24.5 x 17.0

132. Vase. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

24.0 x 14.0



136. Bowl. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

12.0 x 21.0

153. Yunomi. Faceted, basalt black glaze

10.0 x 9.0

154. Yunomi. Faceted, porphyry ash glaze

10.0 x 8.5

155. Yunomi. Ribbed & roped, ash glaze

9.5 x 9.0

157. Yunomi. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

10.0 x 9.0

159. Yunomi. Wax pattern, Penlee stone 162. Yunomi. Basalt black & granite

9.5 x 8.5 10.5 x 9.0

166. Porcelain Bowl. Fluted, ash glaze

8.5 x 17.5

167. Porcelain Faceted Box. Celadon glaze

7.0 x 10.0

170. Porcelain Fluted Vase. Ash celadon glaze

16.0 x 13.0

171. Narrow Necked Porcelain Vase. Celadon glaze

19.0 x 12.0

172. Narrow Necked Porcelain Vase. Cornish stone glaze

18.0 x 13.0

173. Large Teapot. Porphyry ash glaze

16.0 x 16.5

175. Teapot. Wax pattern, Penlee stone

13.0 x 13.0

176. Yunomi. Broken slip, porphyry ash glaze 179. Teapot. Porphyry ash glaze 203. Porcelain Faceted Box. Granite & ash glaze 205. Large Pedestal Bowl

10.0 x 9.0 13.0 x 13.0 7.5 x 9.0 20.0 x 36.0

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Biographical Notes Born 1943 in Sutton, Surrey.

Training 1957-1961

Bryanston School, Dorset. Studied pottery under Donald Potter (a


Cambridge University. Studied Natural Sciences Tripos (Medicine).


Hammersmith College of Art, London. One year post-graduate

student of Eric Gill). Honours Degree. course in Ceramics.

Potteries 1968

Started first pottery in Edburton, Sussex. Two chambered wood and oil fired kiln. Ash glazed stoneware and porcelain.


Moved pottery to larger premises at Woods Place Farmhouse, Whatlington, Battle, Sussex.


Moved pottery to Cornwall. Built a wood-fired Korean climbing kiln. Used only local materials for the bricks. Started making glazes from local granites, clays, wood ashes, irons, ochres etc.


Asked by Survival International and Oxfam to build a large climbing Korean kiln, similar to the one built in Cornwall, in the central jungles of Peru for the "Amuesha Indian Project" - a project aimed at keeping the indigenous people in their natural home. Spent 6 months there under the guidance of the American project leader, Connie Talbot.


Moved pottery to Cumbria, concentrating on using local materials, granites, hornfels, andesites, irons, ashes etc. in the making of glazes.


Pottery at Manor Farm, Cheddington, Beaminster, Dorset.


Moved to present pottery at Dove Workshops.

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Teaching Full-time 1981-1986 1981

Senior lecturer (Vocational Pottery Course) at Cumbria College of Art, Carlisle, Cumbria.


Department Head (Vocational Pottery Course) at Cumbria College of Art, Carlisle, Cumbria.

Part-time Assignments 1972

Farnham College of Art, Surrey.


Medway College of Art, Kent.


Harrow College of Art, Middlesex.


Royal College of Art, London.


Derby College of Art, Derbyshire.


Dundee College of Art, Dundee, Scotland.


Manchester Polytechnic, Manchester.


Preston Polytechnic, Preston, Lancashire.


Addressed International Potters Camp at Aberystwyth, Wales lecture entitled Selling Water by the River.


Bolton Museum, main speaker at Landshut Functional Pottery Conference.


Germany. Workshop at Landshut College for Ceramics.


India. Workshop at Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry.


Guest demonstrator, Irish Ceramics Festival, Kilkenny.

Selected Exhibitions 1972

Group exhibition, Craft Potters Shop, London.


Group exhibition, Amalgam, London.


Solo exhibition, Camelford Museum, Cornwall.


Wood Fired Pottery by Mike Dodd, Craftworks, Guildford.


The Leach Tradition - A Creative Force, Craft Potters Shop, London.


Nine Potters, Paul Rice Gallery, London. Mike Dodd, Amalgam, London (solo).

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Out of the Earth, Craft Potters Shop, London.


Mike Dodd, Amalgam, London (solo).


Mike Dodd and Ken Allen, Woodsplace Farmhouse, Battle.


Pottery by Mike Dodd and John Jelfs, Chestnut Gallery, Bourton-onthe-water.


Group exhibition, Espace La Main, Brussels. Solo exhibition, Beaux Arts, Bath. Form & Function, Contemporary Applied Arts, London.


Mike Dodd - Ash-glazed Pots, Vincent Gallery, Exeter. Mike Dodd - New Work, Woodsplace Farmhouse, Battle. Mike Dodd - New Pots, Amalgam, London (solo).

1995 1996

New Ceramics - Mike Dodd and Phil Rogers, Oxford Gallery, Oxford. Bettles Gallery, Ringwood. On-Line Gallery, Southampton.


Mike Dodd - Recent Pots, Amalgam, London. Bough and Line Gallery, Bath.


Bettles Gallery, Ringwood. On-Line Gallery, Southampton.


Ombersley Gallery, Ombersley. Alpha House Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset. Group exhibition, Hugo Barclay Gallery, Brighton.


Bettles Gallery, Ringwood.


Paddon & Paddon, East Sussex. Alpha House Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset.


Harlequin Gallery, London. Oakwood Gallery, Nottinghamshire.


Dove Workshops, Somerset.


Bettles Gallery, Ringwood. Alpha House Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset.


Paddon & Paddon, East Sussex.


Goldmark Gallery, Uppingham, Rutland.


Harlequin Gallery, London.


Alpha House Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset.


Oakwood Gallery, Nottinghamshire.

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Collections Victoria and Albert Museum, London British Crafts Council Collection, London Bath Study Centre, Bath Cleveland Craft Collection Ulster Museum, Belfast


Articles Articles by Mike Dodd: In Deference of Tradition, Pottery Quarterly, 1974 (invited to a discussion with Bernard Leach in St. Ives, on the strength of this article) Vol. 11, No. 41. Confused Ramblings, Artist's Newsletter, 1982. Letter from Peru, Oxapampa Project, Ceramic Review, 1983. Makers or Breakers, Artist's Newsletter, March 1984. Running a Vocational Course, Real Pottery (formerly Pottery Quarterly) 1986.


Healthy Roots, Artist's Newsletter, June 1987. An American Experience, Artist's Newsletter, January 1993. Function and Dysfunction, Ceramics: Art and Perception, 1998. Trembling on the Edge, article on Patrick Sargent, Ceramic Review, May/June 1999. Other Articles: Tim Proud article on Mike Dodd - Unambiguous Potter, Ceramic Review, Sept/Oct 1987. Mike Dodd by Tanya Harrod in Ceramics Monthly, January 1991. Eileen Lewenstein, Review of China Clay: The Eastern Tradition in British Studio Pottery, Crafts, Sept/Oct 1991. An Interview with Mike Dodd, Studio Pottery, April/May 1994. My Time at Cambridge, CAM, 1997.


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front cover: pot number 6 inside front cover: pot number 203 Mike Dodd pots may be purchased direct from Goldmark Gallery View online at Goldmark Gallery, Uppingham, Rutland, LE15 9SQ 01572 821424 Text Š Simon Fletcher 2009 Photographs Š Jay Goldmark Design Porter / Goldmark ISBN

978-1-870507-28-8 2009



Phil Rogers New Pots 2005 2 Clive Bowen New Pots 2006 3 Lisa Hammond New Pots 2006 4 Mike Dodd Recent Pots 2007 5 Ken Matsuzaki (2007) Thirty Years of a Living Tradition 6 Svend Bayer (2007) New Pots 7 Jim Malone (2008) The Pursuit of Beauty 8 Phil Rogers (2008) A Potter of our Time 9 Lisa Hammond (2009) Unconscious Revelation 10 Ken Matsuzaki New Pots 2009 11 Mike Dodd New Pots 2009


Phil Rogers A Passion For Pots Ken Matsuzaki Elemental

For further details or to order any of the above visit or phone 01572 821424 Goldmark Gallery Uppingham Rutland LE15 9SQ England

Mike Dodd - Ceramics  

A 64 page online catalogue of new work by Mike Dodd with studio photography and an essay by Simon Fletcher.

Mike Dodd - Ceramics  

A 64 page online catalogue of new work by Mike Dodd with studio photography and an essay by Simon Fletcher.