Adam Dworski: a Potter’s Centenary (handstiched book by Graeme Hobbs, 2017)
Introduced by Gareth Howell-Jones
One summer holiday in 1975, my parents stopped by chance at the Wye Pottery. This wasn’t the sort of thing they usually did. Their 9-year-old son – me – was bored and needed distracting. Expectations weren’t high.
Once inside, however, they were enchanted by the richness of the glazes on plaques and chalices, and charmed by the wit and gentleness of the man who made them. And so we came to know Adam Dworski.
Oblivious to all the grown-ups’ chatter, I was transfixed by the figure of a bull. What was it that so fascinated me? I was not a precocious or artistic child, but I think I sensed that the bull not only looked like a bull (that was to be expected), but felt like a bull – even was a bull. And I hadn’t known art could do that. It was rough; it had power and strength and barely concealed menace, but it also had a vulnerability, showing that this animal, like us, was mortal flesh and blood, fragile as all nature (and pottery!) In a word, it was creaturely.
Through the 80s and 90s I visited most years, tramping over the hills from Pandy and returning with a figure or plaque or two, rooting out Mrs Lloyd who had the key when he was away, but always hoping he would be there. I shyly enjoyed his company, though I struggled to drink his clayey coffee. His delight at my enthusiasm was flattering. Why did a man who ran a successful gallery care about my young and inexpert thoughts? Because enthusiasm – in fact, love – was the hallmark of all he did and made. Love for his heritage – Classical antiquity and the culture of Christendom; love for nature, and for the female form (I don’t think he often bothered modelling male torsos).
Above all perhaps he loved the whole business of making – trying new styles and methods, intrigued by new challenges however they might turn out. In this way, unconsciously, his personality shines out from his work. You can tell it’s the work of a generous man. There is no egotism, and no artistic credo except love for the subject, for the making and for the delight of his customers.
I didn’t get the bull that day. But two weeks later, on my tenth birthday, there it was. My Dad had secretly slipped back the next day – a long round-trip – to buy it for me. It has been all over England and Wales with me since, and five years ago moved back to Clyro just a hundred yards from where it was made over forty years ago.
I don’t pretend to have known Adam Dworski well. I was too young and lived too far away, but he and his work have always been a quiet delight to me, and it’s in the knowledge that so many others share the same feelings, that we suggested a celebration.
With Emma Balch, current owner of the cottage in Clyro where Adam Dworski lived and set up his Wye Pottery, we organised a nine-day exhibition – Adam Dworski: a Potter’s Centenary – as part of h-Art. Some 20 people generously loaned over 160 pieces of Adam’s work, and exactly 400 people visited the exhibition. This hand-stitched book was produced by us to explain more about Adam Dworski and his life and work, and helped to cover the costs of the exhibition.
A small number of the books are available to buy for £4. Please contact Emma Balch on 01497 822931/07879 373431 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to order one. Photos of the exhibition will be posted to www.potterycottageclyro.com