Two Beckley IOW vases

Two Beckley IOW vases

Two Beckley IOW vases - 3⅜" (85 mm) high.

Jo - IOW

Jo Lester, born April 1912, was injured in the second world war and was unable to continue his normal work so he decided to earn a living from his hobby - potting. He started in London in 1951 and moved to Freshwater, Isle of Wight, two years later. His work is marked by his first name above the initials 'IOW' in an outline map of the Isle of Wight, sometimes accompanied by the words 'Wightcraft' 'Freshwater' or 'Seaview'.

Some Jo pots are marked 'Hand Made West of England Pottery'. There is a good reason for this; Jo's unusual approach to expansion. In the 1950s and 60s Jo's work was much in demand, but he didn't want his workshop to grow into a full-blown factory. He hit on the idea of setting up his pupils (call them employees, apprentices or what you will - Jo claims he was never a qualified potter; just an enthusiastic amateur) in remote premises to work under his supervision. After ten years they had the option to buy their part of the business on terms agreed at the start of the period. (So you see there is no truth in the rumour that due to lack of tectonic adhesion the Isle of Wight drifts down towards Cornwall in the night, and has to be towed back in the early hours of the morning by the Isle of Wight ferry.)

Jo's work is typically hand thrown with a mixture of banding and sgraffito work - an instantly recognizable style adopted by most of his protégés - but he also used brushed decoration.

He is the father of Joe Lester (Alum Bay Ceramics, Isle of Wight) and grandfather of Renella Lester (Yarmouth Pottery, Isle of Wight) and teacher to Kenneth Scotcher (Totland Pottery, Isle of Wight). Of these, Renella is the only one still potting. Jo has not been active as a potter since the mid-1980s but is relaxing on the island with his long-term partner looking forward to the fiftieth anniversary of his business.


Leauger elephant