08 Sept 2018
Murray Fieldhouse, 1925 – 2018
Bowls by Murray Fieldhouse (V&A Museum)
Murray Fieldhouse was an important figure in post-war studio pottery who edited the magazine Pottery Quarterly, the first periodical on the subject, which came out irregularly from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s, and was one of the founder members of the Craft Potters Association.
Murray was born in 1925, and after an unconventional wartime national service, when which he became a pacifist, he alighted on the crafts as a way of living out his Utopian and anti-establishment ideals. The choice of pottery came later. He served an apprenticeship with Harry Davis in Cornwall, who was also an anti-establishment Utopian, but more austere in his habits than Murray, who was well-known for his enjoyment of life.
In the 1950s, Murray ran Pendley Manor, an education centre in Hertfordshire to which he invited most of the top names in studio pottery to demonstrate. When I was researching the life of Dora Billington, he gave me some photos of her demonstrating there.
Pottery Quarterly in its early days contained reviews of everything that was happening in British pottery and is an important record of the period, but Murray was a fierce advocate of the Leach style of pottery and his reviews of exhibitions by potters who didn’t follow it became harsher over the years. Nevertheless, he was a close friend of William Newland, who didn’t like Leach’s artistic dominance.
Murray Fieldhouse was also one of the originators and founding members of the Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild. Murray along with Ray Phipps and Tony Plessner organised the first inaugural meeting in January 1975 and with over 350 people attending, the Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild (DCPG) was formed. Murray became the Guild’s first Secretary in 1975 and then President until 2011. Murray organised many Guild activities; the Potters Open Days / weekends, initiatied the “pot crawls”, many Raku and salt / soda firings and hosted social summer parties at Northfields Studio.
I joined the Guild around 1999 when Murray Fieldhouse was the president and at that time he would always act as MC for the Potters Open Day, an important annual Guild event which still continues. Murray was a literary man with a wonderful memory and love of good company. He wrote the second book on pottery making in the mid 1940’s when paper was still rationed – it was a very small book with small print and thin paper. (The first was by Bernard Leach). He later became editor of A&B Black and thus remained a fount of knowledge about the studio pottery movement. He must have been a most enthusiastic teacher for he and his pottery students founded in the Guild in 1975.
He and Dorley remained great friends and supporters of the Guild to end of his life, and many of us have fond memories of our cheerful and generous host at firings held in the old damson orchard at Northfield Studio. Even at the last soda firing in 2016 he appeared in a wheelchair with a bottle of red wine.
His passing, while marking the end of an era, also is a time for celebration of how his love of pottery and joy in making has been passed on to another generation. ‘From little acorns great oaks grow’.
Ros McGuirk – present Chairperson of the Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild
Murray Fieldhouse’s funeral will be held on Monday 17th September at 2.00pm
at the parish church, St John the Baptist’s, Station Road, Aldbury, Hertfordshire HP23 5RW
There will be a gathering afterwards at The Greyhound Inn in the village of Aldbury.
How to find the DCPG on Instagram: Search Instagram via DCPG
Events of Interest to Members
Clay & Art Exhibitions, Open Studios and Ceramic Festivals – locally and nationally.
Friday 19th – Sunday 21st August Art in Clay – Hatfield http://www.artinclay.co.uk
8th – 30th September: Herts Visual Arts Open Studios https://www.hvaf.org.uk