John Maltby | A Legacy of British Art Pottery

John Maltby | A Legacy of British Art Pottery

Sworders' Design department is thrilled to present three distinct sculptures by John Maltby in the upcoming two day sale on the 19 and 20 October. Featuring several members of Maltby’s recurring cast, from the humble raven to the monolithic king, these are expected to fetch £1,000-1,500 each.

29 September 2021

Rejecting the conventional Anglo-Oriental traditions defined by Bernard Leach, John Maltby spearheaded the development of a new Modernist movement in British Studio Pottery from the mid-1960s until his death in 2020.

Initially trained as a sculptor at Leicester University and Goldsmith’s, Maltby’s career as an art potter began in 1962, working with David Leach at Bovey Tracey. Leaving Leach’s tutelage in 1964, however, he felt no connection with the practices and aesthetics and instead set out his own artistic direction which would come to redefine British Studio Pottery.

Rather than drawing from the Japanese styles worked by his contemporaries, Maltby was influenced by artists such as Henry Moore, Alfred Wallis, Picasso, and Paul Klee, emphasising the symbiosis of abstract geometry and colour. Working in bolder palettes and asymmetric shapes, Maltby never regarded his works as mere vessels, but rather each piece as a sculptural entity enveloped with specific memories and emotions.


John Maltby works in Sworders Design October 2021

From left to right:

Lot 402 - John Maltby (1936-2020), a standing crowned figure, stoneware, the crown with two hanging ceramic beaded suspensions, with geometric motifs to the body, with artist's monogram 60cm high, on a fixed painted wood plinth. Estimate £1,000 - £1,500

Lot 403 - John Maltby (1936-2020), 'Fisheringfolk', 2006, a stoneware sculpture, with incised decoration, depicting two fishermen on a shore, one modelled holding a fish, the other holding a net, impressed with artist's seal, 32.5cm wide 29cm high. Estimate £1,000 - £1,500

Lot 404 - John Maltby (1936-2020), 'Raven and the World', 2014, a stoneware sculpture, with incised decoration, depicting a bird perched atop a hollowed-out disc, mounted on a wooden plinth, impressed with artist's seal, 15.5cm wide 33cm high. Estimate £1,000 - £1,500


The concept of memory was always at the heart of Maltby’s work and this notion was reinforced in 1996 when, following heart surgery, Maltby was forced to change his practice being unable to work the clay as he could previously. This lead to the perhaps most significant change in his artistic career, the transition from pottery vessels to sculpture. The shift in practice made Maltby’s previously employed patterns and aesthetics spring to life, and introduced many returning ‘characters’, taking the form of birds, fishermen, kings, knights, and many more. These characters took on token characteristics of Maltby’s life, and he embodied into them specific memories or emotions evoked by pieces of art or music.

Maltby always sought for his work to regale a narrative, be it the far away chivalrous tales of knights and kings, or the humble tales of the fishing folk surrounding his Devon home - they all held equal importance in Maltby’s mind. Continuously revisiting these for the last 24 years of his life, Maltby has built a unique legacy in the echelons of British Art Pottery. The playfulness in his work continues to attract collectors, new and old and has made them universally applicable in any interior context. They are at their heart conversation pieces, and in discussing them they become subject to new narratives, and new memories.




Otto Billström - Valuer | Design



We consign works by studio and contemporary ceramicists for our flagship Design auction, held four times a year.

To discuss a valuation, please contact a member of our specialist team today -

John Black - | 01279 817778

Otto Billström - | 01279 817778






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