issue 6

Michael Casson – Special Suppliment


Mick Casson interviewed by Anna Hale

Subject: Craftsmen Potters' Association (CPA)

Date: 24 February 2000
Location: Mick Casson's home at Wobage Farm, Herefordshire.
Tape recordings held at the Ceramic Archive, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.




Tape 1 Side 1 (questions are difficult to hear)

Pre CPA, British Crafts Centre, 1950s, elitist, leading light. Keith Corrigan, Wrens, Briglin, Eileen Lewenstein, never could have joined. MC joined through Arts & Crafts Society. MC got in but Victor Margrie rejected/put on probation. Arts & Crafts dominated by Leach/Heather Matthews. Rural Industries Bureau/New Zealand deal. Meetings in Oxshott, about 1957. Coram Fields meeting, Cardew, Fishley Holland.

Lady Glenconner exhibitions. Walter Lipton's influence. Structure, Rules. Potters isolation, Ian Auld. Henry Rothschild. Corrigan Gallery1954 met Cardew. Porcupine quill. Fossilised cucumber. David Eels. Sandwiches in the V&A. Few pots or exhibitions. Own workshop, ironmongery, selling pots, Marchmont St, Bloomsbury. Sold to Heals, Sylvia Pollack, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Woolens. Robert Fournier. Publications - Murray's book. Leach's book, Keith's book. Crafts Centre exhibiting. Sheila Pocock. Intimidating atmosphere. 1962 MC & VM had own exhibition. Description of Craft Centre layout. All that early CPA was not. Victor Margrie Administrator. Bernard Leach - first heard 1948. Staite Murray, BL/SM rivalry. Crafts Council influence. Impressions of Leach. Anecdotal stories about Leach. Bernard Leach's book. New beginnings. Leach ideals of potting being a way of life. Beginning of CPA, not on first council, a split of people who did not believe in Leach, such as the Wrens. Antipathy. David Canter, Hon Secretary from 1958, importance of Canter. RIB.

Tape 1 Side 2

Early CPA needed guiding hand - Walter Lipton followed by David Canter. Appearance of WL. Remit of RIB for Potters. Purchase tax. Comparison with France. CPA - remember meetings being call, but can't recall first meeting he attended. First meeting 1958 - Coram Hotel. Previously at Oxshott. Report of the Working Party. Dennis Moore, big meeting - get something done. Likes beginnings of things. Pro non selection, egalitarian, socialist idea - changed view. Meetings not attended by Central School of Art people, more grass roots, country potters. Priorities - exhibitions. Lady Pamela Glenconner, Lady Lester, meeting other potters, exchanging information,. Team working. Fast expansion. Rules of CPA. Start of selection, poor quality of work. David Canter. Central tenets - the objects. (Mick reads through the Objects) High quality did not follow from non-selection. Shared experience, talking about skills. Vagaries of earning of living. Gregarious, such as evidenced in potters' camps. Selling pots, Lady Glenconner's, touring and at CPA shop. Incestuous - potters buying other people's pots. Talks by Lady Glenconner. Approachable. Supportive.

Buying public, Bill Ismay. Buying public built up through CPA and education. Early 1950s, enrolment for evening classes - very long queues.

Supported Non-selection initially, met egalitarian beliefs. Changed when he saw some of the pots. 1958 period. Standards. Re-submission. Selection. Dennis Moore and Buckland conflict. To tell or not to tell reasons for rejection.

End of side 2


Tape 2 Side 1

Description of Dennis Moore (very faint). 'Standard'.

Changes in education at other institutions. Separation of functional and sculptural.

Stanislas Reychan. David Canter - seminal figure. Wren student. Introduced by Rosemary to help with CPA. Background. Range of skills and abilities. Strong person. Cohesive element. Vision. Laurence Keen left CPA. Friend, colleague, sociable, socialist. Egalitarian but for selection. Business acumen. Unpaid Hon Sec. For 25 years. Strong rejection of 'Jewish' description by Rosemary. Physical appearance. All round creative person. Rebuilding of first CPA shop - "The Hole"

Innovative about shop. Contribution - business procedures and creative. Sub-committees. Got things done. Dictatorial. Meetings friendly, later some ill feeling, occasionally differing motivations. Lowndes Court - state and clearing out.

Denise Wren's comment. Committee occasionally unrealistic, but David realistic. Committed to CPA. Had been taught art at Bryanston School. Loved Music, architecture, the Arts. Not mentioned in literature.

Shop at Lowndes Court - vital to CPA development. Pan volunteered by MC. Meetings and demonstrations in the shop - selling venue, display area and meetings.

David, MC and Lawrence Keen built the shop. David Canter designed the shop and the second one. MC ambivalent to change. Function/characteristics of CPA have changed. 6-9 months to renovate. Lawrence Keen engraver and potter - different sort of character from MC and David Canter. New shop very good. Lowndes Court - photos of Godfrey Rubens - false impression from photos. Ray Finch opening, 200 people. Paul Barron, Henry Hammond, Leachs not there, Beatles. Sale of tiny room for £3,000.

Tape 2 Side 2

Sale of tiny room continued. Pan's involvement in CPA. First manager of shop. More volunteers in early days than now. Associate members. Pan ran shop, did newsletter, took meeting minutes and correspondence. Knew pots from MC's making. Premises Fund - paid in £1. Exhibition fee. Pre and post selection. Pre-selection - disaster, v. poor pots. Some 'hidden'. After argument went for selection. Every pot in shop had to be gone through. Took 24 hours. Rejected group were asked to be 'lay' members. Resubmission. Scottish experience of selection. Watershed. Two tier system, Full and Associate. Standards, core of every meeting. John Reeve, Canadian, teaching at Farnham. Dennis Moore objected because of Buckland's rejection, but Reeve let in. Pan had to tell rejected applicants why. Resented by some people. Remarks related to technical aspects. Rejection of Richard Batterham's work by Pan from her own gallery. Quality of clay bodies. Leach's 'standard', difficulty of establishing a standard. Moral and ethical aspects. Digression to Reeth/television content. 'Camps' within field of ceramics but still camaraderie. Materials and processes versus design. Necessity for exchange of knowledge through early CPA now no longer prevalent.

Co-cooperativeness continues despite independence of character. Cardew Geology course. Potters who made a contribution to early CPA - David Eels. Rosemary Wren, Ray Marshall, difficult to remember. Rosemary very forceful - £50 for a potters conf. MC objected - told Beano [KPB] and thereafter KPB gave £50 occasionally which MC gave to needy potters. Others with organisational skills. Okshott meetings. Impressions of Wrens. Rosemary naïve, Denise an eccentric. Loss of workshop in Wrens' garden! Pots unpredictable - 'knitted'. Differences between Wrens and Leachs. 62-64 Wooing of the Leachs. Must have 'greatest living potter' on board. Bernard would not join. Lunch, David Leach, Bernard Leach, David Canter, Pan, MC - "I will not join - standards not high enough" Only 5 good enough - "Michael Cardew and Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Janet! - and me!" David Leach's abilities. Harry Davies & Bernard Leach, looking at pots - methods of rejection. Wm Staite Murray's walking stick approach. David's relationship with father. Bernard asked to attend selection committee meeting. Denise Wren invited along also. "What makes a good pot" - seminal meeting. Denise Wren's categorisation - 85 areas - went through relentlessly. Analytical. Leach's response "Has it got heart". Technical potters make good but not the best pots. Spiritual presence.

End of tape 2


Tape 3 Side 1 (questions difficult to hear)

Denise Wren, her ability with drawing, Rosemary Wren, forceful (tape slipping)

Chairmanship, retired from Craft Study Centre, move to Farnham. Demonstrators at CPA shop. Merits of being self-taught. Teaching. David Canter's influence on keeping CPA cohesive. Conflict of "high quality" with non-selection. Selection raised standards. Changes in academic structures. Buyers. Middle class, egalitarian. Lord Eccles story. Pots bought for use. "Wholemeal Pots". David Canter, administrator and equal on ceramic matters. Bernard Leach's joining CPA "Your standards are not high enough, but you have good fellowship so I will join". CPA meetings. CPA aspirations. Difficult to include ones with several employees and those in the very north of UK. Midlands and South based. Selling work. Use of shop as a show place. Selection. (Reeve meeting). Politics in the CPA and Arts in general. CPA set up for economic reasons and as a contrast to the British Crafts Centre. Raising standards, selection panel methods. Membership backgrounds. Rejection. Aesthetic - where it resides? What is a good pot? Writing about the unwritable - Julian Stair/Edmund de Waal book. Insight of makers when writing. Bernard Leach talking to the CPA. Articulate, but not always logical or clear. Superior, move from earthenware to stoneware. Briglin, Stanislas Reychan, sculpture, but increasingly, Leach's ideal of domestic ware, but CPA not Leach based. Change inevitable, "is it good of its kind", Richard Slee's work. Emmanuel Cooper's influence.

Tape 3 Side 2

'Copying' of other's work. Educational role of CPA. Meetings and demonstrations for Associates. Camps, big schools. Move to new shop. Economic struggle, commissions. Change in legal structure. Start of Ceramic Review . Emmanuel Cooper and Eileen Lewenstein editorial team. Magazine helped support the CPA. Members gave extra financial support. International Academy. MC - Gold Medal at Prague. Significant Pots versus a significant life - the lifestyle of the potter. Interaction on human terms with foreign people preferable to foreign arena for pots. Dissemination of ideas - 'evangelical'. Money always difficult. Engagement/openness with Potters"

CPA Activities - Educational. Talks, demonstrations, first CPA demonstration of handles. Cramped conditions of talks in Lowndes Square shop. Love of demonstrating. Potters' Groups encouraged. First one South Wales Potters.

Promoting craft knowledge. OBE - "for services to his craft". Visits to America.

Involvement in Potters Camps - David (Canter's) idea. Started early 1970s. Loseley family - put on craft show and show people the farm and introduce to Pots. MC first master of ceremonies - about communication. Master of ceremonies for all - only stopped because hearing got bad. Sub committee and then volunteer helpers. Demonstraters. Colin Kellan life size figures. Amateurs. Large body of people.

Highlights - things that happened. Whole lot of people in marquee - heard a pin drop. David Eels, David Winkley, ..all pulling handles on jugs. MC nudged each potter to watch David Eels (biggest potter - massive man) - original method. Pink slip - brought out in Camps. Aberystwyth with Nigerian women - high point, description of women's work. Ray Finch said "doesn't that humble you?" Colin Kellan throwing, Rosemary Wren's anteater, Nigel Wood throwing a flowerpot, 60lbs of clay, Hungarian Potters. David died in 1981, last camp was tribute to him. International Festival took off late '80s. Last camp enormous, brought in other crafts including glass blowing, green wood furniture makers, Richard La Trobe Bateman, weavers. David 'getting his hands dirty' - helping cars by pushing them out of the mud! Food at Potters' Camp - Magdalena Odundo, making porridge in the canteen.

Ceramic Review - now independent. Never ashamed to teach. How as important as Why. Visit to America, NCECA - De Stabler and Rhodes. International influence of Ceramic Review . Paul Rice's (?) magazine and Murray Fieldhouse.


Tape 4 Side 1

Magazines, reading. Meetings of CPA. Democracy and politics. Death of David Canter 1981. 'Cranks', State of CPA. David Winkley. Changes in format of Shop. Economic status. Crafts expansion. Reasons for longevity of CPA Importance of being a member of the CPA. Contribution of CPA - Education, Standards and allowing change.

End of interview

(Side 2 blank)


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Michael Casson - An Appreciation

by Emmanuel Cooper

Pan Casson Henry interviewed
Moira Vincentelli

29 November 1994 and revised in
April 2005

Michael Casson at Aberystwyth, 1999

Michael Casson and Walter Keeler discussing a collection of jugs

5 September 1995

Michael Casson and Walter Keeler discussing a selection of French country pottery

5 September 1995

Michael Casson in conversation with Jack Doherty about the Craftsmen Potters Association (CPA)

26 February 2000

A summary of an interview with Michael Casson by Anna Hale (No.1, The Craft Potters' Association)

24 February 2000

A summary of an interview with Michael Casson by Anna Hale (No.2, Biography)

25 February 2000

A summary of an interview with Michael Casson by Anna Hale (No.3, The Studio Pottery Course at Harrow)

probably February 2000

Michael Casson – Special Suppliment • Issue 6