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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Handmade In Britain – Ceramics: A Fragile History

Ceramics: A Fragile History

Episode One
Monday 10 October, 9-10pm, BBC Four

Ceramics are some of the most beautiful and treasured objects taking pride of place in British palaces, churches, stately houses and even family homes. Whether for celebrating birth, marriage and death, eating and drinking, or showing social status, ceramics reveal much about our taste and habits as a nation. They become, in effect, snapshots in clay.

This first programme in the opening series looks at the history of domestic pottery in Britain from the Tudor period onwards. It traces the evolution of different techniques and styles involved in the art of pottery and examines in intimate detail what British pots can tell us about how generations before us lived and how they saw themselves.

Examining key figures, including 17th-century potters John Dwight and Thomas Toft as well as contemporary traditional potters such as Mary Wondrausch, and drawing on the expertise and comments of contributors including David Attenborough, Edmund de Waal and Grayson Perry, this programme celebrates one of our oldest and most fundamental art forms.

Episode Two
Monday 17 October, 9-10pm, BBC Four

The journey of Stoke-on-Trent, as a city built on clay and the heart of Britain's once world-leading ceramics empire, is charted in the second film. On the back of the new 17th-century vogue for tea, pottery in Britain exploded into a cutting-edge industry, a source of enormous national pride and an internationally renowned export. 

The programme introduces the key characters responsible for putting British ceramics on the map, from Josiah Wedgwood – innovator, artist and marketing genius – and Josiah Spode, who revolutionised the industry by inventing bone china, to the 20th-century ceramicists Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper who designed ceramics that were elegant yet affordable. It also uncovers how demands for cheap labour since the Eighties have forced the closure of all but a handful of these great factories.

Contributors include AN Wilson, Neil Brownsword, Lucy Worsley, Miranda Goodby, Emmanuel Cooper and Matthew Rice.

Episode Three
Monday 24 October, 9-10pm, BBC Four

Studio pottery has become a great British triumph in the story of modern art, but it took an industrial revolution and two world wars to really start breaking the boundaries between art and craft.

The final episode of the series explores the story of pottery from the mass-produced ceramics of the Industrial Revolution through to the imaginative and provocative ceramics of today. From the Arts and Crafts movement, spearheaded by William Morris, to the rebirth of handmade pots by Bernard Leach, to the sculptural ceramics of Hans Coper and the site-sensitive work of Edmund de Waal, handmade pottery has accelerated rapidly over the past 100 years planting itself firmly at the heart of the British art world.

Drawing on the expertise and comments of contributors including Grayson Perry and Edmund de Waal and reviving archive interviews with studio potters Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie, this programme uncovers a whole host of revolutionary artist potters.

JB

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