Platter by Les Blakebrough – <em>an influential ceramicist</em>

No. 94 Platter by Les Blakebrough – an influential ceramicist

Les Blakebrough (born 1930 in Kingston, Surrey, England) is one of Australia’s most influential ceramicists. Pioneering studio ceramics in the post-war years, Blakebrough’s work – such as this patterned, glazed platter – reveals a particular passion for, and dedication to, technical mastery and the use of natural materials with a repertoire that draws inspiration from both the Australian environment and international aesthetic movements. more...

Blakebrough left school at 15 to become a scene painter in London’s East End and briefly attended the famed St Martins Art School before migrating to Australia in 1948. Enrolling in East Sydney Technical College in 1952, he studied painting before switching to the pottery department to explore an interest in the three-dimensional. Following this, Blakebrough taught at the influential Sturt Craft Workshop in New South Wales, furthering his studies in Japan in 1962/63. He returned to Sturt for eight years before being offered a job as senior lecturer in ceramics at the Tasmanian School of Art. He moved with his family to Hobart in 1973 and in the same year he was invited to become a foundation member of the Craft Board of the Australia Council.

At the time, a deep understanding of materials such as clay and glazes was fundamental to the crafts and Blakebrough and his students toured the state looking for clay and mineral deposits. Former student, Jeff Mincham explains: “We dug clay and prepared rock glazes from Tasmanian rock. There was no structured course work, we simply proceeded in the workshop through all the necessary phases. Les had a fundamental belief in the virtue of the material, that clay has its own special nature that can only be perceived, understood and mastered by collecting and preparing it. This was part of his teaching method that springs from the Japanese tradition of years spent by apprentices in preparing and handling the raw materials of their craft.” (Holmes, J., Les Blakebrough: Ceramics, Craftsman House, Melbourne, Victoria 2005, p. 63)

The use of locally-sourced natural materials was driven by an ethic of authenticity that stood in contrast to anonymous industrial production. The influence of Japanese traditions on Blakebrough’s work is evident in this deceptively simple platter. A basic slab form is decorated with broad gestures indicating a control and mastery that comes from years spent honing technique.

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  • Object maker: Les Blakebrough
  • Object date: 1974
  • Object size: 7.5 x 44.5 x 44.5 cm
  • Object location: Hunter Street
  • Object display location: Off Display
  • Object source: Purchased
  • Accession number: P1974.39