During the last two decades William Plumptre has built a reputation as one of the outstanding English potters working in the distinguished Anglo-Japanese tradition, founded in the early twentieth century by the great friends and potters Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach.
After leaving Chelsea School of Art he spent two years working in Japan, which included the unique opportunity of one year within the workshop of Tatsuzo Shimaoka, a pupil of Shoji Hamada. Plumptre was one of only 12 students who worked for the distinguished potter during his lifetime. In 1996, Shimaoka was created a Living National Treasure, Japan’s highest honour. Plumptre’s study with Shimaoka had a pivotal influence on his future work, as he returned to England with a heightened knowledge and experience of the processes and possibilities of working with clay, glazes and firing with wood.
Plumptre creates classical but powerful forms, with a strong commitment to the centuries-old repertoire of Japan. He works with stoneware clay, mostly thrown on the wheel, although some of his work is slab built and press moulded. Texture is introduced to the pottery with rope impressions, fluting, combing, sgraffito and brushwork.
Further texture and colour is achieved with the application of cobalt and copper slips and glazes, which are produced using local stone and wood ash. The colours are often soft and muted reflecting colours in nature, ranging from tenmoku browns and copper reds to creamy whites and cobalt blues. The decoration on each individual pot is carefully considered and the effect is understated so as to retain elegant proportions and purity of form.
Working from his 17th Century farmhouse in the Lake District, Plumptre throws on either a traditional Japanese kick wheel or an electric wheel, using a mixture of two clays, a Dorset Ball Clay and a Cornish Fire Clay. The pots are glazed with wood ash glazes, he also uses Scottish granite which is high in silica and a local quarry for Kirkstone slate dust. All the work is fired in a 65 cubic foot gas-fired kiln Plumptre designed and built himself.