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BUYERS GUIDE


As well as making a small range of elegant and refined domestic pots such as teacups and saucers, plates and coffee-pots Rie produced individual vases and bowls. These were decorated either in rich, deep colours such as greens and yellows, many with a metallic bronze and gold rim, or were covered with dry, pitted glazes with dramatic but carefully controlled volcanic textures. All were thrown on the wheel and turned so that no throwing lines were left to disrupt the crisp profile and smooth surfaces. As a potter working in the centre of a large city, Rie had limited space, her output was small and she produced in limited quantity. As such the prices of her pots tended to be high in comparison with those of her contemporaries, a fact of which she was always acutely aware!


The pottery studio below her flat in Albion Mews was always kept immaculately clean and tidy. Two continental potters’ kick-wheels stood below the windows, the large electric kiln occupied one end and a stove to the other. Rie threw in an acutely personal style using a minimum of water and she would step off the wheel after throwing as clean and spotless as when she went on.


Firings were a long and slow process and short periods of sleep were snatched between kiln adjustments. Over the years as the processes and materials became more refined, some of the earlier effects became more difficult to reproduce, however endless testing took place to develop new glazes and colours. Contemporary potters curious to know her secrets were given scant information, though in later years more recipes and processes were divulged, but always with the warning that they only worked for her.


Exhibitions at the old Burlington Galleries above the Royal Academy and at the Berkeley Gallery brought her pots before a small but highly appreciative audience. Galleries overseas were equally, if not more, enthusiastic. It was not until the Arts Council's retrospective exhibition in 1967 that she gained the official recognition she merited. A year later she was appointed OBE and received an Honorary Doctorate at the Royal College of Art.


In 1991 she was created a Dame and in 1992 a large retrospective exhibition at the Crafts Council Gallery reviewing her career as a potter attracted record attendances and rave reviews.


Following this a continual stream of visitors called to see her. They were politely shown round the studio and, with traditional Viennese courtesy, offered strong coffee or tea along with homemade chocolate cake or fruit pudding. Spare moments grabbed between visitors were spent in the studio making or finishing pots and Rie would often work late into the night.


Quietly spoken and still with a strong Viennese accent, Rie could be both alarming and delightful, her small trim figure carrying a commanding presence. Her acute observation of contemporary work, of which for the most part she was highly critical, could make her seem forthright in her opinions, but these were always tinged with kindness and understanding. A stroke in 1990 left her unable to continue work, though she retained a lively interest in pots and potters and was able to attend her Crafts Council retrospective.


One of the most creative studio potters of the century, she leaves a legacy of work which will be admired and enjoyed for years to come.


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