Encounters with Ceramic: The Writings of Tony Birks


During the 1970s, studio ceramic grew dramatically as a force on the international art scene. In Britain and America particularly, but also across Europe, the practice flourished and powerful thinkers sought to define and describe what was happening. It was a dynamic and a controversial time, in which the nature of pottery showed itself capable of radical change. In the decades that followed this outburst, ceramic consolidated into a complex aesthetic and cultural discourse.

Tony Birks was at the heart of this new wave of activity. A consummate writer and an artist himself, he supported what had happened in previous decades to generate a Modern ceramic art, and he championed the new generation blossoming around him. His publications provided crucial support to a discipline barely served by mainstream art history and criticism. He wrote monographs on major established figures, but he also had an extraordinarily perceptive eye for new talent, which served to bring attention to vibrant young artists. A number of these artists went on to become leading forces on the international scene.

This book gathers together for the first time a comprehensive selection of Tony Birks’s writing. Whilst some essays are about the nature of ceramic practice, the majority are about individual practitioners. Taken as a whole, the book is a window on the world of ceramic art at a crucial time in its growth – the issues and the personalities – opened for us by one of its most significant critical voices.

Edited by Paul Greenhalgh, Sim Panaser, and Theo Weiss.

Publisher: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Pages: 176

IBSN: 9781916133679