Mike's Pots

The International Conference of Craftsmen in Pottery and Textiles
Dartington Hall 1952

Dartington Conference 1952

Jim Malone - Bottle vase

Dartington Hall

In the early 1920s Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst were looking for somewhere beautiful to create a special rural community. They purchased Dartington Hall near Totnes in Devon in 1925 and began their experiment by reviving the then dilapidated estate and creating a centre of education where crafts based on pottery, textiles and glass were prominent. The Elmhirsts wanted Bernard Leach to join them, he declined but recommended a friend Jane Fox-Strangeways who stayed for just two years. Leach did come aboard later and indeed wrote A Potter's Book whilst based at Dartington during the Second World War. A pottery was established at Shinner's Bridge which Leach ran with help from David Leach and Bernard Forrester until he returned to St. Ives in 1941. Marianne de Trey and her husband Sam Haile took over the pottery in 1947, Sam was tragically killed in a motoring accident in 1948 but Marianne worked at Dartingon for many years, eventually moving from Shinner's Bridge to a small studio close by. The Dartington Pottery Training Workshop was established at the pottery in 1975 to produce a range of domestic ware and become a training centre for potters.

The 1952 Conference

After returning to St. Ives, Bernard Leach kept in touch with the Elmhirsts and played a significant role in bringing the conference to fruition. One hundred delegates from twenty countries attended the event which had two main aspects, the conference itself built around a series of talks and an exhibition of pottery and textiles representing the best work being made in the U.K. Although the event was a celebration of British craftwork, Bernard Leach may have used his influence to include Shoji Hamada and Soetsu Yanagi from Japan.

The Conference Report

The conference took place in July 1952 but it wasn't until May 1954 that the conference report was published. The report was intended to include transcripts of all the talks taken from tape recordings but for various reasons not all were included. With the permission of the Dartington Hall Trust Archive I have included the introduction to the exhibition written by Peter Cox, head of the Dartington Hall Arts Department who sponsored the event, biographies of the craftsmen whose work was included in the accompanying exhibition and the pottery related talks.

Dartington in 2023

Today Dartington is still a creative community known as The Dartington Trust, a charity which supports the arts, ecology and social justice. Please visit the Dartington website for more information.