Recalling the Wrens

Last weekend I took the train to Scotland to visit Denise Wren’s son-in-law Peter Crotty. He is one of the few surviving people with firsthand memories of living and working at the Oxshott Pottery. He lived there from around 1970 for eight years, together with Rosemary and Denise Wren, until they relocated to Devon. PeterContinue reading “Recalling the Wrens”


The Knox Guild 1912-1935

The Members, Part I ‘It is striking how few letters and archives associated with interwar women makers survive. The papers of…male artists, designers and architects, were carefully preserved by their wives and children. But …. women can drop out of the already fragile history of the crafts with alarming ease.’ Tanya Harrod (1999) The Crafts inContinue reading “The Knox Guild 1912-1935”

W.A. Ismay and the Wrens

Last night Dr. Helen Walsh of York Art Gallery gave a great presentation on ‘W.A. Ismay The Potters’ Champion’, hosted over zoom by the Decorative Arts Society. The talk covered Bill Ismay and the studio pottery collection he built up over fifty years from the 1950s, bequeathed to York Art Gallery. Over 500 potters areContinue reading “W.A. Ismay and the Wrens”

Birds from Buxton

Two newly acquired Rosemary Wren birds have just been installed in Kingston Museum’s Wren Collection display case. Last year, Bret Gaunt of Buxton Museum and Gallery contacted me to say that he was leading on an Esmee Fairbairn funded project to oversee the dispersal of material from the former Derbyshire School Library Service. Amongst the objectsContinue reading “Birds from Buxton”

Wasps and weeds

Potters Denise and Rosemary Wren were lovers of the natural world, both plants and animals, extending to the wild and weird. The Wrens had chosen to build their home in the village of Oxshott, surrounded by Surrey countryside, though well connected by train to London. According to Rosemary:‘My mother fervently respected all living things; the originalContinue reading “Wasps and weeds”

Time for Knox

In February I gave a paper via zoom as part of the Surrey Arts & Humanities Research Group Spring Seminar Series on the theme of Time. You can read a summary of the paper on the SAHRG site. One of the seminal figures in Denise Wren’s life was Archibald Knox, the Design Master at KingstonContinue reading “Time for Knox”

Creative responses to change

This New Year we emerge from restricted festivities into total lockdown. Those of us lucky enough to still have a job are used to working from home by now, but the weather is cold and dull, unlike 2020’s springtime quarantine. Shops, cafes and pubs are shuttered again, and parents are back to home schooling onContinue reading “Creative responses to change”

Pottering as panacea

A review of a book entitled Pottering: A Cure for Modern Life by Anna McGovern appeared in the weekend Guardian: Authored prior to the pandemic, its publication comes at a moment when many of us are finding lifetime routines interrupted and are encountering closures and postponements of the usual activities and events which punctuate the year. AContinue reading “Pottering as panacea”

Part-time pottering

Working as a curator at Kingston Museum initially brought me into contact with the Denise Wren collection of ceramics and archive. And curating the 2017-18 ‘Hope For Beauty’ exhibition sparked the idea of going in depth and continuing with the research as a PhD at Kingston School of Art. Denise Wren was herself an alumnaContinue reading “Part-time pottering”

Pottering in lockdown

Partial lockdown, or the semi-limbo in which much of the country seems suspended, ought to be a conducive moment for some pottering. And the uncertain trajectory of the Covid-19 virus and its probable aftermath has reshaped existence so that improvisation and ad hoc experimentation have become the default.  KSA moved all its postgrad teaching onlineContinue reading “Pottering in lockdown”