Friday, December 1, 2017

Anthony Morris exhibition - wonderful history

Here I am straying into studio pottery, but I have to write about my visit to the Anthony Morris exhibition at Morris and James in Matakana. I loved it!  The exhibition is entirely focused on the art/craft of Anthony Morris, rather than on the wider Morris and James products.  Morris and James is famous for its pots and platters in amazing bright bold colours and patterns, but this exhibition shows a different side to its co-founder. 

The exhibtion closes on 10 December 2017. I hope you get a chance to see it. 

First I have to point out that I am not a qualified critic of studio pottery. My opinion is definitely based on the old saying - "I don't know much about pottery but I know what I like". 

Let's start with his 'shades' - there is a whole wall of plaques decorated with human faces, created at a time when Morris was at a personal low point.  This one caught my eye.  They are not for sale. 
Anthony Morris learned to pot in the UK, here are some of his early salt glaze jugs from the exhibition.
 Close up  on this mug you can see his mark. 
A trip to France inspired large rustic platters, with the irregular decoration which is one of his hallmarks. 
 These big fat pots are decorated with sgraffito on white slip. He told me that his aim at the time was to develop a slip that slowly flaked off the terracotta, giving his pots a gentle aged look.  Much of his older work was hauled in from the garden for the exhibition - some still has a patina of moss and algae. These pots are big - from memory over a metre tall. In the background to the left you can see the wall of  plaques he calls shades. 
There is a series of fat wonky African-style pots that really took my fancy.  From memory 40-50 cm tall. I would happily have any one of them in my house - but again, these are history and not for sale. 
Most impressive were these huge pots below, made of coiled clay and in the most amazing rich colours.  They were made on a turntable with a helper slowly revolving the base to keep up with Ant as he built his pot higer and higher.  The largest are at least as tall as I am.  I could not manage a photo that does them justice - I hope you get the chance to have a look for yourself.
Anthony Morris had a severe stroke in 2004 at the age of 68. Since then he has returned to pottery with only his good side functioning - the stroke deprived him of the use of his dominant left hand.  His work is now smaller and more 'wonky' than it was pre-stroke but he is creating some interestingly glazed and decorated slabwork plaques and dishes. 


Also exhibited are glass pieces which Morris created before his stroke. 
And here is Anthony himself, still thinking of his next (secret) project which will be unveiled in the fullness of time. 
That's all for now.  Next time I will be back to commercial pottery! 


  1. Oh I do like his new work .... and Ant does have a commercial side that worked very well for many years :D

    1. Yes - Morris and James still sells a glorious array of big bright planter pots and platters. I just bought a lovely jug on Trademe so I will have to do a post featuring it!

    2. I have only just learned of Ant Morris's previous work, having attended his exhibition and viewing on line, absolutely adore his early work and new work which proudly sit on my table and walls.

    3. Yes Vicki I agree. I have a couple of his new pieces too.

  2. Thanks Val for reviewing this, annoyingly I'll be in the area 3 days after it finishes!!. A side of Morris and James I hadn't been so aware of. We visited the shop and pottery while on holiday last year and I'd really recommend the factory tour. They take you right through the place and give the full story from digging out the clay right through all the many processes. Really interesting.

  3. I wish they could leave the exhibition up a bit longer but I guess they have to draw the line - there is a cost in space and in staff time. I have been on that factory tour and thoroughly enjoyed it too. Well worth a vist.