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Treasures from West Berks Museum: Aldermaston Pottery

Museum curator Janine Fox celebrates Alan Caiger-Smith’s iconic studio

Trish Lee

trish lee

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

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Above: Tin-glazed bowl, chestnut and pale blue swirls on a white background, 1993; below:  tin glazed bowl, abstract blue swirls on grey, 1970

Image courtesy of West Berkshire Museum Tin glazed bowl, abstract blue swirls on grey, 1970

IN 1955, the artist and ceramicist Alan Caiger-Smith (1930-2020), founded the Aldermaston Pottery, which was located in The Street, in the centre of Aldermaston. Caiger-Smith spent some time as a child living in Berkshire and was educated at Stowe School, Camberwell School of Art and Kings College, Cambridge. He pursued a life filled with art and travel, which would inspire his designs and work.

The Aldermaston Pottery produced domestic, everyday pieces – such as plates, bowls and teapots – and also individual commissions. The company operated as a co-operative of creative craftspeople. Over 38 years of production, Caiger-Smith employed around 60 artisans as assistants. The buildings that once housed the pottery now form part of a private
residence and the 18th and 19th- century buildings, previously a blacksmith’s workshop, are Grade II listed.

West Berkshire Museum holds a small number of pieces designed by Caiger-Smith and manufactured at Aldermaston Pottery. An example of a commissioned piece in the museum collection is a glazed rectangular dish in pale blue decorated with a pike with green, brown and black colouration. This dish was commissioned in 1967 and, in conversation with Alan in 1995, he told the museum he remembered them leaving the detail of the design to him.

Many of the pieces in the museum illustrate Caiger-Smith’s technique of using tin-glaze and painted pigments on red earthenware clay. Often the pieces were fired in wood-fired kilns to achieve a lustre effect. There are two examples of this in the collection, both glazed bowls. One is decorated in abstract blue swirls on grey and was produced in 1970. The other is
decorated in chestnut and pale blue swirls on a white background, and was produced in 1993.

Following scaled-back production from 1993, the Aldermaston Pottery continued operating until 2006. In its final year, it produced a souvenir paperweight for the 50th anniversary of the annual York Nativity Play, held at St Mary the Virgin Church,
Aldermaston, in December 2006, in which the Caiger-Smith family had participated over the years.

Alan Caiger-Smith sadly died on February 21 this year and we hope this small selection of pieces, preserved in the museum, helps to celebrate his work and beautiful designs.

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