William Staite Murray was the most import British potter of the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in south-east London in 1881, and developed an interest in painting as a teenager. In his late twenties he attended pottery classes at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and then went on to work at Yeoman Pottery in Kensington.
Here he worked with the influential Cuthbert Fraser Hamilton who was member of the Fitzroy Street Group, a founding member of the London Group and had worked at the Omega pottery with Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The Yeoman Pottery ran from 1915 to 1919.
After the great war he set up his own pottery in Rotherhithe, south-east London, at his brother's factory premises. In the twenties he developed a relationship with Shoji Hamada, who visited his London pottery. His reputation grew throughout the early 1920s and in 1925 he was appointed to the staff of the Royal College of Art. The following year he became head of its Pottery Department.
He patented his kiln design; a gas fired kiln that afforded good control and enabled him to produce glazes of consistently high quality. His quality of throwing and skill in decoration set his pots in a class of their own and his work was eagerly bought for unprecedented sums of money.
In 1929 he moved his workshop to Berkshire. Ten years later while travelling in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) he found himself cut off by the second world war. Attempts to return to England were in vain, so he settled there and stopped potting. In 1955 he became Trustee of the National Arts Council of Southern Rhodesia.
There was a very successful exhibition of his works in 1957, but by this time he was suffering from cancer which claimed his life in 1962.
His students included Sam Haile, Constance Dunn and Henry Hammond.
|Studio Pottery by Oliver Watson|