Matthew Darbyshire and The W.A. Ismay Collection at The Hepworth, Wakefield


The Hepworth Gallery by the River Calder in Wakefield

On Thursday I revisited The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. I went back specifically to see the Matthew Darbyshire installation of pots juxtaposed with modern white goods in Gallery 10. Unfortunately this exhibition closes today but the pots, which belong to the York Art Gallery collection, will be back in a special new gallery to be created at York when the museum reopens in 2015.

With my new-found appreciation of studio pottery I was looking forward to seeing this exhibition. I was not disappointed.

Hepworth poster

This fascinating project brings together one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary artists, Matthew Darbyshire, with one of the world’s most significant assemblages of post-war studio pottery, the W.A. Ismay Collection.

Ismay 2

Librarian and collector William Alfred Ismay (1910-2001) lived in Wakefield his whole life. From 1955 he began to collect pieces by some of the most renowned makers of studio pottery from Hans Coper and Shoji Hamada to works by local Yorkshire potters, Barbara Cass and Joan Hotchin, alongside lesser known ceramicists.

His extraordinary collection of 3,600 items, by 500 makers, covered all the available surfaces of his small terraced house in Wakefield. This extraordinary collection offers an insight into the compulsive and systematic habits and protocols of a unique and unusual collector.” [Introduction from The Hepworth website]

Ismay and TV

Contemporary installation artist Matthew Darbyshire assembled the display based on the floor plan and the furniture or kind of furniture that Ismay would have owned in his Wakefield terraced home; he added modern streamlined household white goods as a contrast to the handmade ceramics and he used just 700 of the total of 3,600 pots from Ismay’s collection. In addition a flat screen TV shows a loop of original motion picture clips that Darbyshire has put together on the themes of man and machines and dance including hip-hop and other natural human movement contrasting the manmade with machines and technology.

And here is my selection of pots (mostly teapots) :

With Coloseum

Includes a Roman Colosseum ‘pot’

Teapots 1

Teapots 2

Teapots 3

Teapots 4

Teapots 5

Teapots 6

Teapots 7

Teapots 8

Teapots 9

Nice pot

Viewing the pots made you really want to pick them up so luckily there was a small selection of pots that you were allowed to feel and examine and another TV loop of potters talking about their first meetings with Bill Ismay.


You may pick up these pots

See how Matthew Darbyshire put it all together here :

And here is Down By The Dougie’s view of “Lots of Pots” and more photos.


9 comments on “Matthew Darbyshire and The W.A. Ismay Collection at The Hepworth, Wakefield

  1. ms6282 says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Barbara. It will be good to see the collection in it’s new home once the York Gallery reopens. A good excuse for a day out in York! And thanks for the mention!

    • Yes, I look forward to revisiting the gallery in York. I have kind of missed it since it closed. I’m very glad that you don’t mind be linked into some of my posts – when you have got there first! Thank you.

  2. Julie Stivers says:

    When next you come we must visit Peter the Potter south of Whitehall. Can’t think why we haven’t before.

    • We have visited a local potter to Stony Lake (The Clay Banks) – we went with your sister, Dianne, one time- I have the ‘studio pot’ to prove it. You must always save something for the next time, Julie. The Globe at Blue Lake Art camp for one and now Peter the Potter, too!

  3. nilly hall says:

    This looks well worth seeing for its impact as an installation as well as for the pots. I’m afraid that my taste for studio pottery is very selective (maybe it appealed to a slightly older generation and my taste was formed in the colourful ’60s). I like William Staite Murray very much and a few others, but most of all I love slipware with plenty of lettering, patterns and figurative elements. I enjoyed the Youtube interviews too.

  4. I have to say I agree with you, Nilly. I now have an ‘appreciation’ of studio pots; not yet a ‘love’. Slipware also passes me by, I’m afraid. Still, like the Art and Life, it was an excellent and interesting display and I needed the curator’s response to set in context. I shall visit York when the gallery reopens to see more from the WAI collection.

  5. Ruth Oldenburg says:

    Unique way to display the pots. Love the teapots!

  6. […] pots are displayed around the gallery in the cases and wall of pots. I wrote about my visit to The Hepworth in Wakefield to see part of this vast collection in an unusual […]

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