HOT BUT­TON TOP­ICS

Rochdale Observer - - SCHOOL NEWS -

both con­text and depth to the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Dame Lu­cie Rie (it’s pro­nounced Lutzee Ree, she was awarded the CBE in 1981 and made Dame Com­man­der in 1991) was born in Vi­enna in 1902, the third and youngest child of Pro­fes­sor Dr Ben­jamin Gom­perz, a pros­per­ous ear, nose and throat doc­tor.

She was ed­u­cated at the Vi­enna Gym­na­sium and at the age of 20, she at­tended the Kunst­werbeschule, where she stud­ied ce­ram­ics un­der Michael Powolny, a some­what old-fash­ioned ce­ram­ics mod­eller.

How­ever, it was there that she learned to throw pots, a tech­nique she came to rely on through­out her ca­reer, and first be­came in­ter­ested in the ef­fects that were pos­si­ble with vary­ing types of ce­ramic glazes.

She mar­ried Hans Rie, the man­ager of a hat fac­tory in 1926, but deter­mined to make a liv­ing from her stud­ies, she made earth­en­ware pots, work­ing at home with only prim­i­tive fa­cil­i­ties.

How­ever, in 1938, fol­low­ing the “An­schluss”, the union of Aus­tria with Nazi Ger­many, and ahead of the march of fas­cism with its threat of war, Lu­cie and hus­band Hans fled to Lon­don.

As refugees, they had very lit­tle and while Lu­cie re­mained in Lon­don, Hans trav­elled to Amer­ica to find work. Sadly, things didn’t work out and the cou­ple never got back to­gether again, di­vorc­ing in 1940.

Lu­cie rented a mews house near Mar­ble Arch where she both lived and worked, found­ing the Bayswa­ter Pot­tery that was to bring her fame.

She had won ac­co­lades in Vi­enna for her sim­ple, yet del­i­cate pots, in­spired by the Modernist in­te­ri­ors of their homes, but Leach, who favoured the rus­tic styles of the Arts And Crafts Move­ment, thought them too fussy.

How­ever, she per­se­vered and re­mained in Lon­don dur­ing the Blitz, sign­ing up for es­sen­tial war work at an op­ti­cal instruments fac­tory.

In her spare time she also worked at the Bi­mini glass stu­dio in Soho run by an­other Aus­trian refugee, the poet-artist Fritz Lampl (1892-1955).

He had founded the busi­ness with his two ar­chi­tect broth­ers-in-law in Vi­enna in 1923, but like Lu­cie, he em­i­grated to Lon­don in 1938.

Work­ing with lo­cal glass­blow­ers in Soho, he was awarded a cer­tifi­cate from the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of In­dus­trial Art De­sign­ers, but had dif­fi­culty reg­is­ter­ing the Bi­mini trade­name and changed it to Or­plid, which was also in­spired by a Ger­man poem.

De­spite be­ing au­tho­rised to work, like thou­sands of other refugees, in 1940 he was in­terned as an en­emy alien and when he was re­leased some­time later, he re­turned to find his work­shop flat­tened in the Blitz.

Un­daunted, he opened an­other work­shop in the base­ment of his rented home where he pro­duced dec­o­ra­tive glass ob­jects and blown and pressed hat­pin or­na­ments and but­tons.

They can be iden­ti­fied by the Bi­mini name and trade­mark, a tiny im­pressed flow­er­pot. Given the price her pots achieve, it might be worth check­ing your but­ton box.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing work for many of his fel­low refugees, Lampl in­vited Lu­cie to de­sign and pro­duce glass and ce­ramic but­tons of her own.

The op­por­tu­nity also al­lowed her to ex­per­i­ment with brightly coloured and tex­tured glazes that were to fea­ture in her later thrown pots. She con­tin­ued to work there un­til 1945, but spot­ting a gap in the mar­ket after many Bri­tish but­ton fac­to­ries had been req­ui­si­tioned for the War ef­fort, she con­tin­ued to de­sign and make but­tons in her own work­shop, adding jewellery and mir­ror frames that were or­nate yet prac­ti­cal. It was at this time that she gave work to a young Ger­man refugee named Hans Coper (19201981) who had fled to Bri­tain in 1939 but was in­terned as an en­emy alien in Canada un­til 1942. Coper was al­ready an ac­com­plished sculp­tor and, keen to learn the art of ce­ramic pro­duc­tion, he of­fered to work as Lu­cie’s stu­dio as­sis­tant. The two be­came close friends, ex­per­i­ment­ing with sim­ple geo­met­ric and sculp­tural, con­tem­po­rary de­signs.

Soon they were each pro­duc­ing an amaz­ing range of stoneware pots that although dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent from each other, are to­day sought ea­gerly by col­lec­tors.

Panel Pieces by both Lu­cie Rie and Hans Coper are on dis­play in CoCA One, un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of their re­la­tion­ship. En­try is in­cluded in the ad­mis­sion price to York Art Gallery. The ex­hi­bi­tion runs to May 12.

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