Auld, Ian

First name: 
Year of birth: 
Hove/ Brighton - Sussex
Country of birth: 
Great Brittain

Ian Hamilton Auld was born in Brighton om January 5, in 1926. He first trained at Brighton College of Art and then the Slade School of Fine art, where he studied painting and print-making. His interest in ceramics developed after 1951 when he was taught by William Newland. In 1954 he went to Bagdad, Iraq, where he set up a pottery department in an art school and travelled extensively around the Middle-East. On his return to England, he built a kiln in Essex and began teaching at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. He was appointed Head of the Ceramic Department in 1974, and taught students such as Jim Malone, Julian Stair and Sara Radstone. Auld was a pioneer handbuilder, using the slab technique to make a variety of fine simple bottles, dishes and other vessels.

The Guardian, Tuesday 14 March 2000

Ian Auld, Innovative potter and teacher entranced by Middle Eastern architecture and African culture
Ian Auld, who has died aged 74, was a member of the postwar generation of innovative potters who came to prominence in the 1960s. He also created one of the most successful and happiest ceramics departments in London and was a major collector of African material culture.
Born in Hove, Sussex, to a businessman father and a part-American mother, Auld spent the early years of the second world war in Devon. As a schoolboy he was drawn to country life, and for a while wanted to be a farmer. A period painting theatrical scenery and cinema hoardings was followed by wartime service as a naval radar operator. After the war, rather against his father's wishes, he decided to become an artist, spending a fruitful year at Brighton school of art. From 1948-51, he was at the Slade in London, where he felt lonely but won a prize for his lino and woodblock prints.
Everything changed when, as an insurance policy, he took a teacher's certificate at the institute of education. There he encountered the potter William Newland: "For the first time, I found a teacher who was friendly and wanted to help."
In 1952, Auld worked at John Bew's Odney pottery, at Cookham, Berkshire, "wheeling barrows of coke and packing things in straw", subsequently becoming the technician in the stimulating atmosphere of the Central school's ceramics department. He spent 1954-57 in Baghdad, starting up a pottery department at the city's art school and travelling to India, Turkey and Iran to study early and traditional work in clay, metal and glass.
On his return to England, he settled with his first wife, the weaver Ruth Harris, at Wimbish, near Saffron Waldron, where he built an oil-fired kiln. He taught both at the Central school and at Camberwell school of art, where he worked alongside Hans Coper. At this time he made some of his most impressive work, mostly powerful slab-built pots inspired by middle eastern architecture. Most were ash-glazed in subdued colours, and some were impressed with plaster of Paris seals incised with a private language of abstract signs. Others were remarkable for their rough surfaces, influenced by painters such as Antoni Tapies.
By 1966, Auld was living in Chippenham, Wiltshire, sharing a studio with fellow ceramicist Gillian Lowndes, who was to become his life's partner. He also taught at Bath academy of art and Bristol polytechnic.
In 1969, a year after the birth of his son Ben, he opened a small shop in Camden Passage, Islington. In 1970, he showed some East African pots there, and that year took leave of absence from Bristol to become a research fellow in the department of African studies at Ife University, Nigeria. This, too, was to prove a transformative experience, and Auld, Gillian and Ben travelled round Nigeria in a camper van, immersing themselves in the visual culture and, in particular, studying Yoruba carving and shrine paintings.

Auld became head of ceramics at Camberwell in 1974, swiftly broadening the interests of a department best known for its concentration on clay bodies. Inspired by the ethos at Bath academy, he invited (and retained) the best practising ceramicists to teach at Camberwell on a part-time basis. The quality of students who graduated during this period - including Henry Pim, Sara Radstone, Sarah Scampton, Julian Stair and the late Angus Suttie - testify to this golden age.
But running a department took its toll, though he made some of his most tender work on his return from West Africa - inspired by sources as varied as Ashanti weights and the cowrie jackets worn by Yoruba Ibeji figures.
Auld had always been a keen and discerning purchaser of objects, buying English slipware, William and Mary plates and 16th and 17th century furniture. His tastes were broad and, informed by the standards both of early modernism and of the authentic vernacular, included fine early Cypriot, Chinese and pre-Columbian ceramics, Samoan bark cloths and Roman glass.
But the glory of his collec tion was its African art, in which he brought together the finest group of Yoruba carvings and metalwork to be found anywhere in the world. Auld bought with the discerning eye of a modern artist and his taste was remarkable for its focus and formal sensitivity.
His manner was direct and candid. He hated pretension and was modest about his remarkable knowledge. After retirement from Camberwell in 1985, he was to be found holding court in his shop in Islington (a meeting place for all serious collectors of African art), or planting vegetables and tending his bees in a windy garden full of chickens, handsome cockerels and speckled guinea fowl.
Gillian and Ben survive him. 

Ian Hamilton Auld, potter, educationalist and collector died February 10 2000.

Portrait (source Galerie Besson); Shouldered vase (source Ebay); slabbuilt pot (1960-70s), h. 24 cm (Galerie Besson); small vase, ca. 1965 (source MAAK Auctions London).