Over the last two decades William Plumptre has built a reputation as one of the outstanding English potters. He works in the distinguished Anglo-Japanese tradition founded in the early twentieth century by Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach. After leaving school and a brief career at a coffee trading company in the City of London Plumptre enrolled at Chelsea School of Art. After graduating he initially worked as a painter, however he was given the use of a pottery studio in London and this this rekindled an idea sown at school, where he had been introduced to the work of Leach and Hamada. He decided to go to Japan to study pottery, and his two-year stay there was transformed when he joined the workshop of Tatsuzo Shimaoka, a former pupil of Hamada. Plumptre was the only English student to work in this workshop and one of only twelve students in total to work for the important potter, one of Japan’s Living National Treasures.
In 1987 Plumptre returned to England and set up a studio deep in the countryside of the Lake District, which he had grown to love from earlier family holidays. From annual summer exhibitions in London and in his studio, his reputation has spread.
Plumptre’s work has an aesthetic classicism focused on simple but powerful form, combined with a strong commitment to the centuries-old repertoire of Japan. He works with stoneware clay usually thrown on the wheel, although some of his work is slab built and press moulded. Texture is introduced to the pottery with rope impressions, fluting, combing, sgraffito and brushwork. Further texture and colour is achieved with the application of cobalt and copper slips and glazes, which are produced from local stone and wood ash. The colours are often soft and muted, reflecting nature; and they range from tenmoku browns and copper reds to creamy whites and cobalt blues. The decoration on each pot is carefully considered and understated, to retain elegant proportions and purity of form. Plumptre’s work is reduction fired in a 65 cubic foot gas-fired kiln, which he designed and built himself.