Image via ajoge.blogspot.co.uk Image via ajoge.blogspot.co.uk

Yet those days are declining, contemporary ceramics is now being taken seriously as an art form with major dealers and collectors buying the works of Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Edmund de Waal and many other potters at ever increasing prices and housing and positioning them aside and against works by major global artists.

cover67-480x480 Hans Coper and Lucie Rie photographed together.
Image via kaolin.org

The propulsion of the whole market has been fuelled by the ever increasing demand for the work of Rie and Coper, two early 20th Century emigre ceramicists, who settled in Britain and developed a new sculptural form of ceramic art closer to European and Bauhaus traditions than the Leach and Cardew school centred on the Japanese aesthetic which had been predominant in the earlier half of the century.

Coper particularly ashrewed the craft tradition led by Bernard Leach and in the 1950s he reacted to the work of Lucie Rie, who he worked alongside at her Pottery in Albion Mews after the war, but was left unmoved and uninfluenced by other modern potter's of this generation. Coper saw himself as a sculptor as much as a ceramic artist and his greatest influences were the great modernist artists Giacometti and Brancusi.

Image via Sotheby's Hans Coper 'Cylcadic' Form showing the influence of European modernist sculptors. Sold for £47,500 (including premium) in London in November 2015.
Image via Sotheby's

540x360-2 Hans Coper winged spade form. Sold for £47,000 in Northern England in October 2015.
Image via Adam Partridge

In other potter's workshops of his generation forms were thrown in one, and the art of throwing was seen as of the utmost important skill. Coper created works by forming together separately thrown items and conjoining them skilfully and harmoniously to create sculptural forms of beauty the power coming from the balanced tension he created in each work. They are now sought out by engaged and knowledgeable collectors as the epitome of the medium and prices reflect this, as the best and most important examples can make upwards of £100,000.

Image via Phillips Hans Coper early and large globular pot with abstract design from 1953 sold for $197,000 (including premium) in New York in December 2013.
Image via Phillips

Lucie Rie's work has similarly escalated in price and demand, although she did receive aesthetic and pubic acclaim in her lifetime with retrospectives of her work at the Arts Council (1967), a Damehood in 1991 and alongside works by Coper had a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1994-5).

Image via Mallams Lucie Rie uranium yellow porcelain footed bowl with manganese dripped rim bought in 2006 at auction for £4,000 sold at Mallams in December 2015 for £19,800 (including premium), a more than four-fold increase.
Image via Mallams

Rie's work focussed on delicate and spare aesthetic lines, textured surfaces, and interesting coloured glazes, not appreciated by many of the leading commentators of the period including Bernard Leach who advised her that her pots were too thin and did not clearly show the hand of the potter as no potting rings were obviously visible. Her ceramics are often angular and thin-walled, sometimes decorated with thin sgraffito lines and seem impossibly delicate showing the clear influence of the modern continental aesthetic. However, they are modern, timeless and beautiful objects clearly showing the hand of a master artist at work, and they are now espoused alongside the work of Coper as works of the highest quality by the foremost masters of this artistic form.

Image via Dezeen Lucie Rie sgraffito porcelain footed bowl with manganese dripped rim broke Lucie Rie's record achieving £68,500 in October 2015.
Image via Dezeen

H0046-L80884922 Lucie Rie porcelain vase with flaring rim clearly showing the angular form and delicate decoration inspired by the European aesthetic. Sold for £9,375 in September 2015.
Image via Sotheby's

Image via Maak Emmanuel Cooper blue volcanic glazed jug shows the influence of Rie's volcanic glazes and broke all expectations achieving £8,500 against an estimate of £500-700 in October 2014.
Image via Maak

Image via Sotheby's Rupert Spira's two cylindrical 'poem' vases fetched £11,250 in September 2015.
Image via Sotheby's

They inspired generations of new ceramic artists laying the foundations of the modern movement that we see today. What is interesting to see is that the work of leading contemporary artists influenced and inspired by Coper and Rie have also started to gain traction in the art market in the last 12 months. Notably works by Rupert Spira, Emmanuel Cooper, Jennifer Lee and Edmund de Waal, which all clearly show the influence of Rie, have seen spikes in there prices that shows no sign of abating. This will clearly be an interesting market to watch over the next 12 months and I expect some surprises for works by these artists and beyond.

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