Shoes, tea bowls and buttons reveal legacy of Jewish potters

Wind Rush, Antonia Salmon

Wind Rush, Antonia Salmon - Credit: Archant

Camden Town’s Jewish Museum is hosting an exhibition of ceramics by artists of Jewish heritage.

Camden Town’s Jewish Museum is hosting an exhibition of ceramics by artists of Jewish heritage.

Work by Edmund de Waal, Antonia Salmon and Lucie Rie all feature in Shaping Ceramics which runs at the Albert Street venue until February. The exhibition explores how Jewish émigrés such as Rie, Hans Coper and Ruth Duckworth transformed British ceramics by importing modernist ideas from central Europe and influencing a generation of British born post-war ceramicists.

After fleeing the Nazis all three potters were promoted by fellow German Jewish refugee Henry Rothschild who sold their work at his Chelsea gallery Primavera.

When she first came to the UK, Rie initially made ceramic buttons for the fashion industry to make ends meet, before establishing herself with vases and bowls that became icons of modern design.

Margaret Marks (born Grete Loebenstein) studied at the Bauhaus School and founded the Hael Pottery north of Berlin with her husband in 1923 but was forced to sell the factory by the Nazis and ended up working for several potteries in Stoke on Trent.

The exhibition then focuses on work by artists who were influenced by these pioneers including East End born Ray Silverman who was taught by Rie and Coper at Camberwell School of Art, and de Waal whose Arcady featuring 18 thrown porcelain pots stacked in a steel case explores the history of collecting and displaying porcelain.

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As the daughter of sculptor Charlotte Mayer who fled Czechoslovakia as a child, Salmon grew up in a home full of art.

The exhibition, which includes a potter’s studio offering demonstrations, concludes with the work of contemporary artists who explore their Jewish identity. The late Jenny Stolzenberg whose father survived Buchenwald and Dachau, is famed for installations of ceramic shoes which aim to restore identity to the unknown victims who abandoned them in the death camps.

David Jones, who references his grandparents’ experience in the concentration camps creates raku tea bowls. And Hampstead artist David Breuer-Weil’s Emergence references the Biblical creation story.

Jewish Museum director Abigail Morris says: “It’s the first time these ceramicists have been grouped and exhibited together in this way and it offers a new perspective on ceramics as well as an opportunity to see some beautiful artwork.”