The Inspirations and Works of Potter Len Castle

Aha! Here we go again, more pottery and ceramics. This time in the form of New Zealand potter Len Castle who received a CBE for Services to Pottery and has also been awarded many merits over his lifetime for his work in the creative arts. Although he sadly passed away at the age of 86 in 2011 his work still lives on and it’s fantastic to see not only his pieces, which are magical and quite unbelievable, but also his inspirations which shows how deep he delved into his own work.

Len originally trained as a secondary schoolteacher and only started making pottery in 1947, which means he was completely self-taught. He’s well known for travelling across to the St Ives workshop in Cornwall, England where he worked with Bernard Leach, a famous British studio potter, between 1956-57. After experiencing this he gave up lecturing and decided to be a potter full time, regularly exhibiting and studying in other countries. What was interesting to me was his passion for knowledge and exploration, he was always bettering himself and from what I’ve read he made regular trips out to Japan, Korea and China to learn and also to visit potters and gain some more insight into the work that he loved.

Obviously this sort of travelling is a massive inspiration to any creative, but Len also had a background in science which made him curious about the natural world and this definitely came through into his own work as a potter. We can see in the imagery below for example where we have a piece of his own work and what inspired the object next to it. Fascinating to say the least, it gives us a real insight into what went through his mind when he made these and also gives each piece more context in my opinion. I like the idea that it’s all a translation of life and working from natural sources, from earth to clay to hand and then into its final form.

Obviously you guys can go off and read into Len Castle and his life if you really like, for now I’ll leave a small quote below which I think summarises his thinking and some of his thoughts, I hope you enjoy the imagery that I picked out below.

“Coastline environments, volcanic and geothermal areas have been the stimuli for my recent ceramic works. The volcanic and geothermal localities of the central North Island, New Zealand, are areas to which I have returned many times since 1980 to record on film the detail and drama of these fascinating places.

Here at your feet, and in the air you breathe, are the feverish exhalations of volcanic activity. These sites are the art galleries of nature’s creations, thrust to the surface, from subterranean crucibles by steam, boiling water and gases to create ephemeral or slowly evolving, colourful abstract patterns.” – Len Castle, 2009