Lucie Rie 1902 - 1995


Private Collection, USA


Tony Birks, Lucie Rie, Marston House, Yeovil, 1994, similar example illus b/w p69


Vase with Fluted Body, c1976 is a very fine example of Lucie Rie’s work in stoneware. Rie eschewed the traditional two-stage process of bisque-firing, glazing and then re-firing a form, choosing instead to apply glazes directly onto her ‘greenware’, meaning that her objects only had to be placed in the kiln once.

The technique of fluting is only found in Rie’s stoneware pieces, where she would often work a spiral of deep parallel lines around the body of a vessel, as we see in this example. This was achieved by carving into the body of the pot, with a spoon-shaped metal tool, when the clay was leather-hard. Rie used this technique quite often in the 1950s and 1960s, but it is rarer in her later work. The distinctive shape of the vase, which opens up into a wide, flared lip, is found in other examples, some of which have a more extended neck. In order to create this shape, the neck and body would have been thrown on the wheel separately and then joined together afterwards. The resulting vase is a pleasing combination of rhythms - the neck and body are pinched, rather than round, while the lip of the vase curls both up and down on opposing sides, in contrast to the body.

Volcanic, or crater glazes, begin to appear in Rie’s work in the 1960s. This distinctive effect is produced by mixing silicon carbide, or sometimes barium oxide, into the glaze. Both react with heat towards the later stages of the firing process, giving off carbon dioxide, and it is this gas which causes the surface to bubble up. Here, the eruption of the glaze has softened the sharpness of the fluted lines, while some of the glaze has travelled down the body in rivulets. The combination of gently tapering grooves, with a mottled, pitted surface and grey-blue glaze, are highly reminiscent of weathered seashells, particularly molluscs. Rie’s vases have been likened to other organic forms such as opening flowers, but while Rie was inspired by nature, she did not intend to represent it in any explicit way. Cyril Frankel recalls how Rie could ‘absorb the perfection of a bird’s feather, the structure of a leaf, the natural colours of marble as well as the form of a Cycladic carving.’1

1 Cyril Frankel, Dame Lucie Rie: Sale of a Lifetime, Bonhams, 17 April 1997, intro. p27