by Marty Gross, Filmmaker
In 1975 I ventured to St Ives to meet Bernard Leach. I was then planning a film on
village potters in Japan, which eventually become Potters at Work, completed in
In my reading of Leach’s writings, I had been intrigued by a reference to films that he himself had made in Japan in 1934-35, and realized that the only way I could learn more about these was to go and speak with him directly.
After some initial hesitation, Bernard Leach and Janet Darnell Leach welcomed
me warmly, and confessed that they’d been wondering what to do with 16mm
films that Leach had filmed, collected, or been involved with, during his long life. Most were by then mouldy, scratched and torn from multiple uses and repairs. One of the films in an old box was this extraordinary work,,
1952 which records, with simplicity and elegance, the daily activities of the
Pottery at the time.
Janet Leach later told me that this film had been made by
members of a local camera club, but she seemed to know no more. Bernard
Leach was in his ‘90s and almost totally blind by then. Although we had many
long and memorable conversations, I was not thinking ahead to the days when
we could renew and put this film into people’s hands in the form of a DVD, and so
neglected to question him about the history and origins of this rare and historic
In 2007 I asked Warren Mackenzie, who had worked at the Leach Pottery from
1950~52, to share his memories of the period. One cold winter day in his home in
Minnesota, Warren watched the video version once, then twice and a third time,
as we recorded his thoughts and recollections. Those recordings have been
edited to the film as commentary.
Only a few weeks before completing this DVD project, Warren Mackenzie sent me
a box of old films he’d saved over the years. At the bottom was a small reel of
black and white footage Warren had taken himself in 1952, featuring some of the
key craftsmen at the Leach Pottery at the time. This precious material has not
been seen for decades. We are grateful to have received this in time to have been
able to add it to the DVD as a special bonus feature.
We are proud to be releasing this DVD and hope that it will contribute to continued
appreciation and understanding of the legacy of Bernard Leach.
Back to The Leach Pottery, 1952
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