Leach: a name that has really stuck

When one thinks of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris is usually the first name to come up.

But what of the master potter Bernard Leach? He was at the vanguard of studio pottery, producing everyday items that were beautiful yet utilitarian. He believed that everybody - not just the rich - should be able to own and use hand-made decorated craftware. He was a visionary, actively spurring on the next generation of potters and fusing the decorative styles of east and west. I bet he never imagined that a charity bearing his name would exist in the 21st century.

The Bernard Leach Trust is based at the Leach Pottery studio and museum in St Ives, Cornwall. Recently refurbished thanks to a multimillion-pound project funded by local organisations and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Leach Pottery celebrates some of the visionary thinking Leach espoused and actively works with art students and fledgling potters who want to make a living from the craft. I recently met the lead potter, Jack Doherty, to discuss this.

The Leach Pottery's charitable ethos is to secure the place of potters in the next generation. It does this through a range of innovative schemes in schools - even more important now, at a time when crafts education in state schools is in as parlous a condition as music education. It runs an MA programme in partnership with University College Falmouth, exploring the academic aspects of individual creativity. Parallel to this is a business start-up scheme, which gives young potters at the start of their careers opportunities to use a stable studio environment to develop the enterprise skills to make a living out of throwing pots and allows them to contribute to a tableware range for the Leach Pottery.

Leach was proud of producing beautiful things for everybody. He was a true internationalist from a young age and had respectful eyes wide open to other cultures. As he wrote to his lifelong friend, Japanese potter Shoji Hamada: "We have been messengers between cultures on opposite sides of the world." What a legacy.

- John Knight is assistant director, policy and campaigns, at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com.

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