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'The Young and Beautiful': Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture

Wednesday 15th October 2014


Michael Cardew: Large Lidded Jar

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Michael Cardew was one of the most remarkable craftsmen of the 20th century. He was a man of paradox, a modernist who disliked modernity, a husband and father whose life was radically altered by his love for a man twenty years his junior, a colonial servant who despised Empire and an intellectual who worked with his hands.

He ended his days a ceramic magus, his pottery at Wenford Bridge, Cornwall an outpost of the counterculture and a haven for disaffected youth. In sub-Saharan Africa, and later in Australia, he offered the egalitarianism of craft as an antidote to racism and inequality. As the novelist Angela Carter observed in 1977, he came to seem ‘the Last Sane Man in a crazy world.’

Tanya Harrod is the author of the prize-winning The Crafts in Britain in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press 1999). She contributes regularly to The Burlington Magazine, The Guardian, Crafts, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Her collected journalism, The Real Thing: making in the modern world, will be published by Hyphen Press in 2014. In 1999 she was given a Ceramics Arts Foundation Award for distinguished service to the Ceramic Arts. With Glenn Adamson and Edward S. Cooke she is the editor of The Journal of Modern Craft. Her most recent book The Last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, modern pots, colonialism and the counterculture(2012) has won the 2013 James Tait Black Prize for biography.