Lucie Rie 1902 - 1995

Provenance

Galerie Besson, London

Private Collection, UK, aquired directly from the above

Thence by descent

Literature

Tony Birks, Lucie Rie, Marston House, Yeovil, 1999, p10, closely similar examples illus colour p 209 and b/w pp 210-211

Description

This charming example of a Lucie Rie ‘knitted bowl’ is made from stoneware, with a small
foot and a subtle grey-green, slightly pitted, glaze. Tony Birks dates the first example of its
kind to around 1975, citing a bowl owned by Hans Coper’s wife Jane (1), and they appear in
Rie’s oeuvre up until the mid-1980, most varying in size between 18 and 32 cm in diameter.
The decoration on these knitted bowls is, in fact, an elaborate form of inlay. Rie would take a
‘green’ (unfired) stoneware bowl, to which she had already applied an overall glaze, and
incise a precise pattern of criss-crossing lines. She would fill in these lines with a darker
colourant, such as lead chromate, and once any excess glaze was wiped away, the work was
fired, the incised lines bleeding into, and reacting with, the base glazes to produce this
blurry ‘knitted’ effect. Gravity played a part in this process too, as we can see from the way
the lines increasingly merge towards the bottom of the bowl, as the glaze migrates
downwards during firing, leaving a more distinctly cross-hatched pattern nearer to the rim.
This combination of inlay and deep glaze is more open to chance than, for example, Rie’s
sgraffito and inlaid porcelain bowls (Fig.1), whose design would change far less during the
firing process. But as always, Rie gets this balancing act just right - as we see demonstrated
here where the knitted design ventures into but never ruins the integrity of the concentric
pale-coloured bands on the inside and outside of the bowl (see detail, Fig.2). As is typical,
this bowl has a thin unglazed band at the very bottom of the foot, where it has sat on a small
clay ring in the kiln, for its one and only firing. Rie used the same electric kiln from 1948
onwards and Tony Birks notes that it would take up to twenty-two hours for the kiln to get
up to stoneware temperatures, with the last hour of firing being the most critical. By the time
the ceramics had cooled down, they would have been in the kiln for three days.

1 Tony Birks, Lucie Rie, Marston House, Yeovil, 1999, p10, closely similar examples illus colour p 209 and b/w
pp 210-211