This week’s Profile features a short documentary film, originally filmed back in 2014, following the working life of their maker, Phil Rogers.
A veteran potter of considerable skill and expertise, Rogers needs little introduction. Having taught himself to throw in the early 1970s, using Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book as his only guide, he has over the years established himself as one of the world’s leading studio potters. Alongside his proficiency on the wheel, Rogers has published widely respected volumes on ash and salt glazes and basic throwing techniques and has given lectures, workshops and masterclasses all over the world.
Today, Rogers continues to pot from his workshop in Rhayader, Mid-Wales, just off the banks of the River Wye. Working in what many would dub the ‘Anglo-Oriental’ style, his ceramic influences extend further afield than the Leach / Hamada narrative. Drawing from traditional Korean wares, medieval German salt glaze pottery, 17th century English slipware, and American settler pots, Rogers produces work that is decidedly his own.
(above) Phil Rogers throwing a bowl in his studio workshop; (below) a yunomi with incised deocration
Making use of a variety of techniques from different ceramic traditions, Rogers’ pots reflect much of the surrounding hills and valleys, tumbling streams and broad rivers of the Welsh countryside.
Though little clay suitable for throwing can be found near his studio workshop, Rogers strives to keep as many of his materials local to his place of work: ash glazes are mixed using pine ash gathered from his fireplace; iron-rich clay is dug up from nearby woodlands to be made into a rich slip that turns a pot surface to deep reddish rust.
Rogers’ workshop houses three kilns, two of which are responsible for the majority of his work: a reliable oil kiln, in commission now for a number of years, and a wood kiln constructed back in 2008 which continues to test his significant firing experience.
Despite its occasional unreliability, the new addition of the wood-firing kiln has already produced numbers of exceptional pots. Dark, orange surfaces contrast beautifully with rims, lids and handles covered in olive-green ash glaze, each pot and its blushes of colour telling the story of the flame path in the kiln during protracted and unforgiving firings.
(above) Phil Rogers trims a bowl foot in his studio (left); (right) a selection of Rogers’ many tools and decorative stamps; (below) bowl with hakeme decoration
Though much of the decoration of these wood-fired wares is left to the kiln, Rogers frequently decorates his pots with stamps, combs, incised marks, and brushwork.
A favoured technique is hakeme, or ‘gye yal’ in its original Korean, in which white slip is brushed onto a pot in strokes that leave some of the surface beneath exposed. The resulting patterns of swirls are especially well-suited to bowls, small cups and plates.
Rogers’ forms range from monumental bottles and baluster jugs to smaller vases, jars and yunomis, each one carefully balanced with great attention paid to their weight and silhouette.
Rogers likens the throwing process to ‘drawing in the air’: the form of a piece on the wheel is like a three dimensional line, where the slightest press of a thumb or pull from the fingers can redirect the external shape of the pot.
a typical guinomi with iron brushwork
In recent years we have worked closely with Rogers to produce magnificent sets of guinomis, miniature cups originally designed for drinking sake, arranged in large custom-built display cases.
Just this week we have had delivery of a new set from Wales with an extraordinary range of different forms and glazes demonstrating the breadth of his repertoire.
Each set features 80 unique pieces with varied surfaces and takes upwards of 6 months to complete, ensuring that Rogers has enough time to place the guinomis in different firings to achieve a contrast of styles and glazes.
(above) details of the many different guinomis in our most recent set from Phil