The RJ Lloyd Collection: Explorations and Responses

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: Bath School of Art and Design


The project will explore aspects of the heritage of the North Devon pottery industry through contemporary artistic practice. A key theme (and one that differentiates it from other projects) is to question how such a study can reflect upon and communicate the key values of a tradition to modern audiences. The PhD will be based upon the longstanding institutional and individual relationships between the Burton Art Gallery & Museum, Bideford and Bath School of Art and Design, Bath Spa University (BSAD); relationships that are being codified into a formal Memorandum of Understanding between our institutions. The studentship will explore the RJ Lloyd collection of North Devon Pottery at the Burton Museum & Art Gallery, Bideford. The research activity is enveloped within Torridge Council's planning for expanding the public use of the museum's archives and collections and for seeking their formal designation as of pre-eminent national and international significance.

Social and cultural historians, historians of art and design and archaeologists and ethnographers, acknowledge the historical significance of the North Devon Pottery industry. It is far less well understood by the public today and a central objective of the collaborative project is to help address this lack of understanding. North Devon is a relatively isolated area by land, but from earliest times it was accessible to the Bristol Channel and beyond through its ports at Bideford, Barnstaple and Appledore. It was through these maritime links extending as far as the Caribbean and eastern seaboard of North America that the pottery of North Devon rose to significance in the 17th century. Work by the Smithsonian Institution has demonstrated the extent of the trade and the importance of the North Devon industry in understanding the development of international trade in the Western hemisphere. The output of the industry was mainly utilitarian in nature but the production of sgraffito-decorated wares, and in particular the distinctive highly decorated harvest jugs and relief- moulded pattern tiles have also come to be seen as distinctive of the North Devon tradition. It is likely that this decorated tradition was a catalyst for the significance of the area as a major centre for Arts and Crafts movement activity during the late 19th century when pottery firms such as Brannam, Lauder and Baron produced 'art wares' on a large scale alongside traditional potters who transitioned into art pottery and then studio pottery.

This studentship centres on a collection of approximately 500 ceramic artefacts spanning 300 years. A key theme emerging from the collection is the way that potters working in the North Devon tradition have continually interpreted and reinterpreted its qualities whilst retaining common stylistic and utilitarian themes that have kept the tradition alive. The student will explore what this means to the contemporary ceramist. The main medium of response will be clay but it is expected that the student will utilise the wide-ranging technical facilities of BSAD to stretch the boundaries and possibilities of the response. Two tutors based at Bath School of Art and Design and the Visual Arts Manager at the Burton will support the studentship. The student will have access to permanent studio space at BSAD as well as the technical facilities and technician support of one of the major centres for ceramic education in the United Kingdom. The specialist art and design library will be a significant resource for the student. At the Burton the student will be provided with public-facing studio facilities that will allow the student the opportunity to explore and develop methods of communicating the key themes of the North Devon Pottery tradition to a modern audience composed of both the indigenous population and tourists.


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