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Les Blakebrough, Mittagong, New South Wales

David Moore1962 (printed 2000)

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
Canberra, Australia

Les Blakebrough AM (b. 1930), ceramic artist, known for his careful manipulation of clay to emphasise the translucency and fragility of his materials. Arriving in Australia from England in 1948, Blakebrough studied pottery in Sydney during the 1950s, before beginning an apprenticeship with the Sturt pottery workshop under Ivan McMeekin in 1957. He travelled to Japan to study under ceramicists including Takeichi and Kanjiro Kawai before returning to become director of the Sturt workshop. Located in Mittagong, Blakebrough found that the quality and variety of natural materials in the surrounding area gave him the opportunity to experiment with glazing techniques that were not available to him at East Sydney. In 1973 he established the ceramics department at the Tasmanian School of Art, and he later set up his own studio at Mt Nelson, Tasmania. Whilst there, Blakebrough established the Ceramic Research Unit at the University of Tasmania in collaboration with colleague Penny Smith. This Unit was able of producing domestic ware and created ‘Sothern Ice’. Translucent and pure white, this gained international recognition as one of the finest clays and has been used to produce extraordinarily delicate ceramics.
This photograph was taken just before Blakebrough left for Japan in 1963. After returning from his apprenticeship, he trained apprentices and invited potters-in-residence from Japan and England. Blakebrough believed that it was necessary to know how to turn clay retrieved directly from the ground into saleable items.

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