Troika, as the name suggests, was founded by a trio. Lesley Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Sirota put up £1000 each in February, 1963 and bought the Wells Pottery at St Ives, Cornwall. Sirota was the only potter of the three, having the distinction of two years experience working with Douglas Zadek at Cobham. The other two, though, had artistic backgrounds; Illsley was a sculptor and Thompson an architect.
They could make only small items at first, due the size of the kiln. Their first pieces were tiles and small bottles. Later in their first year they bought a larger kiln and progressed to bigger pieces.
They are known for two distinctly different styles; the rough textured and the smooth white.
Although derided at first by a significant segment of the St Ives establishment, their work was soon accepted when it proved popular in fashionable London stores. It was a departure from traditional practices and concepts, but was appreciated by masters of the trade who had experienced the same criticism early in their own careers.
Jan Thompson left the company in 1966 to move to Scandinavia. In 1970 the lease on Troika pottery expired and the Penwith Council refused to renew it. The partners loved St Ives and were reluctant to leave it, but larger premises at Newlyn were found and they moved from the north coast to the south coast. As close to Lands End as those two towns are, the distance is only seven miles. Newlyn was an artists' colony before St Ives, and there they found the company of Maggie Fisher, with her Celtic Pottery and Eric Leaper.
They rode through the early seventies on a tide of success, but the second half of the decade saw a decline in popularity. By 1980 a disenchantment had set in. Benny Sirota left and Illsley was not able to maintain any impetus. The banks foreclosed in 1983 and the company folded.
|Further Reading||Troika Ceramics of Cornwall
by George and Wendy Perrott
|Troika Pottery St. Ives
by Carol Cashmore