Ray Finch and Functional Matthew Partington    



When one begins with a few words spoken between Ray Finch and Anna Hale, what one has is an isolated quote. It is not definitive, but it does direct us towards some of the prominent debates circulating around the crafts in England during the 1930s: Finch prefers the English word, Tustin prefers Cardew's English pots, Newland compares the natural English with the hard, straight Germans and suddenly the discourses around Englishness, Modernism and Europe begin to open up. Finch refers in the interview to the influence of Gill and we look at Cardew's writings and find the importance of Gill to him. When we then look at Gill's writings we discover Chesterton and Gill's brand of neo-Thomist Catholicism and recall Cardew's interest in the subject.

Finch doesn't use the words Modernism or Europe and he doesn't define Englishness, but these discourses are evident in the context of the interview as a whole. The Japanese philosophy of 'the unknown craftsman' is suggested by Finch's own words in the interview, as are the importance of Gill and Chesterton on his own philosophy. The discussion of 'function' and 'useful' arises out of Finch's vehement dislike of the word 'functional'. His preference for the English word 'useful' leads to Englishness and the lifestyle of the country potter.

Video or audio interviews are not carefully considered accounts of the sort found in scholarly biographies, but they are equally valid. They are first-hand accounts, which cast a personal light upon the broader issues of the day. The methodology employed in this article has been to look at small elements of audio recordings in great detail and then to work out from the words spoken to the ideas and concepts suggested by them. By linking this approach to the use of more traditional sources, such as published books and articles, the discussion of ceramic history is expanded and enriched. Furthermore, by valuing oral testimony we can give a voice to the individual.

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Functional and Useful




Ray Finch and Functional • Issue 1