After ten months packed away in a shipping container on our block, this 30 cm high, reduced lustre jug, signed and dated ‘Peascod 83’ now graces the downstairs foyer in our new house. We first saw it exhibited at the Watson Craft Centre in 1983 or 1984 and had to own it. I can’t remember the exact price but I think it was around $375. This was an enormous amount for us to pay for a piece of pottery at that time, but worth every dollar for the pleasure it has given us over the years.
Alan Peascod (1945-2007) was born in England and came to Australia with his family in 1952. His father, the Illawarra painter Bill Peascod ((1920-1985), awakened his interest in painting and drawing, but he chose to become a potter, obtaining a ceramics certificate from East Sydney Technical College in 1965. His teachers – Peter Rushforth at ESTC and Les Blakebrough at Sturt Pottery where he spent six months in 1966 – trained him in the Anglo-Oriental tradition, and this is reflected in early works illustrated in Pottery in Australia. Nevertheless, he found the adherence to Leachian principles in England restrictive during the twelve months he spent in London in 1968, preferring the medieval pottery he saw there.
On his return to Australia, he worked from his own studio at Mt Kembla and taught for two years at Wollongong Technical College, before taking up a position at the Canberra School of Art and teaching there from 1972 to 1984. It was there in 1972 that he met Said el-Sadr, an Egyptian with an interest in reduced lustre ceramics. This changed his life, leading him to visit Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Europe to study Islamic ceramics.
Our jug dates from the end of this period and represents a mature artist’s adaptation of Islamic traditions to his own aesthetic. In the photograph, light from the window is reflected in the lustrous black glaze which covers the whole surface, from the flat base to the spout. The wide globular body is thrown in two pieces and joined at the shoulder. The dark surface is decorated in silver and gold lustre, irridescing in places to pink and blue.
The ewer shape, with its angled, closed spout, and the calligraphic nature of the decoration, allude to Islamic art and the spiritual world of the Qu’ran, but the overall effect is modern and secular. The decoration consists of loose arabesques and abstract plant forms. The patterned band around the neck, on inspection, consists of scribbled lines. A panel on the side contains the head and shoulders of a man who could be seen as medieval or clerical, but might just be a slightly comic or satirical everyman figure. Below this, another panel alludes to human artefacts of some kind but the decorative scheme as a whole is too abstract to support any specific iconographic interpretation.
After leaving Canberra, Peascod was head of the ceramics department at the Glasgow School of Art from 1985-1986, and at the Illawarra Institute of Technology from 1987–98. He was awarded a Doctorate in Creative Arts in 1995 for his research at Wollongong University from 1987-1995. The inspiration for a range of figurative ceramics came out of this research. In 1999 he retired from teaching and moved with his family to a property near Gulgong, NSW. An interest in majolica was sparked by a residency in Gubbio, Italy, in August/September 1999 which he attended with Stephen Bowers and Pippin Drysdale. It was there he met the Italian potter Giampietro Rampini. In 2002 he received an Australian Foundation for Studies in Italy Grant to work with Rampini in Gubbio, where he researched 16th century maiolica techniques.
Peascod’s death in 2007 left many mourning the loss of a significant figure in Australian and International ceramics whose understanding of clay’s creative potential he had passed on to many students over the years. Owen Rye (2007, p. 12) perhaps best summarises his achievements in the following paragraph:
Over the years his innovative and unusually extensive repertoire on vessels included various dry glazes, lustres (reduced and resinate including his signature all gold works), alkaline glazes, majolica, and saturated metallics, as well as a variety of post-firing finishes. Each type required a different approach both conceptually and technically, and he developed many specialised kilns to achieve overall technologies unique to him. Some, such as the dry glaze, were his inventions, and others, such as the reduced lustre techniques, are his revivals of traditional technologies at a standard few others can match.
- Shirley Moule, “Alan Peascod”, Pottery in Australia, 11#1, Autumn 1972, pp. 4-6.
- Peter Haynes, “Alan Peascod”, Pottery in Australia, 24#3, August/September 1985, pp. 33-39.
- Owen Rye, “Alan Peascod’s dream of flight”, Ceramics Art & Perception; #58, 2004, pp. 44-46.
- Simone Fraser, “Reflections”, Journal of Australian Ceramics, 46#1, April 2007, p. 9.
- Owen Rye, “Alan Peascod 1943 – 2007“, Journal of Australian Ceramics, 46#1, April 2007, pp. 10-15.
- Works by Alan Peascod, Falls Gallery (viewed 1 February, 2009).
- Alan Peascod (website, viewed 1 February, 2009, but now no longer available).