Richard Baxter is a prolific potter from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. He runs a studio and gallery in the beautiful town of Old Leigh, overlooking Hadleigh Ray and the River Thames. We went to meet him at his studio which is also home to a kayak and a canoe (ready for a quick paddle when time and weather permit), and where old records regularly spin on the potter’s wheel.
I was born 1959 and have mostly lived in Leigh-on-Sea where I have my studio. I studied for a ceramics BA at Loughborough from 1978-81 graduating with a First. Then I set up my studios, firstly in Westcliff, then Southend until moving to Old Leigh Studios in 1991 where I am now. I am a potter.
I constantly look at the world and its cultural produce so inspiration comes suddenly and from unexpected directions, but it is important to keep alert. A lot of my current work is derived from the 100,000 pots I have already made.
I love mugs – I have quite a collection of potters’ mugs, each different in size, material, handling. I like the interaction of a mug with the hands and lips.
78 rpm Atlantic shellac disc by Big Joe Turner singing Boogie Woogie Country Girl.
It is a scrap book of places people, birthdays, Christmases, it is a refuge and a tiny corner of the world unlike other people’s.
10 minutes’ walk up the hill from Old Leigh, a small house full of pots, pictures, records and musical instruments.
I am very closely integrated with my work, but pots are abstract objects, so it is too hard to say where I start and stop and the pots start and stop. I hope my pots are recognisably mine.
I want them to see good craftsmanship, originality, beauty, investigation, a frozen moment, and something relevant to today.
His secretary had been a good collector of my work, and bought him a piece for his birthday which he apparently loved, later getting a second piece. A great honour – clearly a man of superb taste.
My early work was all terracotta, only glazed internally, which is how I still sometimes work. Around the year 2000 I started making porcelain to achieve brighter colours and translucency. I have no idea when the next quantum leap will occur. I seem to do a significant shift every 4-6 years.
The potter Lucie Rie is probably my greatest influence – mid-century modern clean lines.
My college tutors Martin Smith and David Scott pushed me in the right way 35 years ago. Beyond that it has been my own determination to continue at low levels of financial reward that mean I am still in the game and enjoying my work as much as ever.
Tea is taken regularly. I keep the place reasonably tidy. Music of many kinds is playing most of the time. The gallery is open 11-5 but work day can be from soon after 9 until nearer 7 depending on workload. I supply about 30 galleries around the country as well as our own retail gallery at the studio. I also sell online and at big events like Art in Clay and Art in Action.
Keep your costs as low as possible, and keep working. Show anywhere and everywhere, use social media, contact galleries with a very brief Who I Am and a couple of images. Do other things to earn money but keep enough time for your art work, or that work will NEVER GET MADE. Everything is a stepping stone to the next thing.