Bible of British Taste

March22nd

11 Comments

This is the house that Prue Piper and her husband Edward found in the 1960s. Built from the local oolite limestone, It was once the laundry for a large country house. a place where not only washing but also drying was accomplished in a high-ceilinged space inside with three long windows, or out on the windy slope it stands above. Food is growing now where linen sheets once flapped and tugged at their pegs. Prue Piper and her sculptor son Henry, his wife Janine who is also a ceramicist and their young children all live and work here. They are self-sufficient in sheep, wind-power and fruit and vegetables.

The Old Laundry in Somerset. This is the house that Prue Piper and her husband Edward found in the 1960s. Built from the local oolite limestone, it was once the laundry for a large country house. a place where not only washing but also drying was accomplished in a high-ceilinged space inside with three long windows, or out on the windy slope it stands above. Food is growing now where linen sheets once flapped and tugged at their pegs. Prue Piper and her sculptor son Henry, his wife Janine who is also a ceramicist and their young children all live and work here. They are self-sufficient in sheep, wind-power and fruit and vegetables.

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This is a corner of Prue’s ceramics studio.

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Prue’s late husband Edward Piper was born in 1938, the eldest son of the artist John Piper (one of the greatest neo-Romantic painters of the C20th) and his wife the critic and librettist Myfanwy Piper. He and Prudence MacKillop were married in 1961 soon after he graduated from the Slade School of Art, and just as she was embarking on her Ph.D as a Biochemist. They bought this house for £4050 at the end of  a long search for a place with land that they could afford, cashing in some shares given to Edward by his aunt ; Edward died at home here in 1990. The living and work spaces here have evolved gradually to suit all their changing needs. Now it is a combination of the simple, practical and very beautiful. This is the kitchen and dining room, the principle downstairs space.

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The dresser is stacked with a mixture of the French crockery and the ceramics that Prue has been making here for thirty years.Above is a continuous frieze of female nudes painted on rice paper by Edward and a photograph of a medieval gargoyle.

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Prue with her Mermaid jug.

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Corner of the kitchen-and-living room, note the two-tier ceramic snow drop ‘theatre’ by Prue on the table.

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Kitchen-cum-living room, rear wall with paintings by Edward Piper and a ceramic mask by Prue.

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Edward Piper made his name as a painter and a photographer. As well as the highly distinctive and idiosyncratic black and white landscape and architectural images taken for the Shell County Guides he made hundreds of paintings and photographs of the female nude, of which more later.

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Garden-gargolyle, Henry’s squirrel-proof bird feeder behind..

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A C17th carved wooden figure of a bare-breasted woman from Stokesay Castle gatehouse and a pair of ‘Normans’ around the stone font in the church at Armitage in Staffordshire, both by Edward Piper, photographed for the still unsurpassed Shell County Guides that he worked on with his father John Piper, and that Piper had begun with John Betjeman.

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Sources for Prue Piper’s meticulous sketches towards ideas for new ceramic forms.The Beano is  lurking somewhere at the bottom of the pile.

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2009 Green Man birthday card painted for his mother Prue by her elder son the artist Luke Piper, and redolent of John Piper’s Foliate Heads prints  and tapestries that also referenced the ‘Green Men’ found in the architecture of medieval church buildings.

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Prue’s studio in the bleachingly bright January sun, contrived from two small stores for the coal that fueled the Victorian laundry here once, and that were first used as the Piper children’s bedrooms.

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A turquoise-glazed Madeline Toby Jug amongst other pieces on an upper shelf. Being highly practical, with a doctorate in Biochemistry, Prue learned to pot at classes in Frome and then taught herself the rest. Equipped with the (now defunct) kiln from John Piper’s Fawley Bottom studio, she invented Staffordshire-style figurines of the Celtic deity Cernunnos and these Green Man plates and jugs, impressing haloes of oak leaves into their wet clay which are burnt off in the first firing.

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A Green Man plate just seen on a lower shelf, prices from £75.00.

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Adam and Eve, a pair of Green Man jugs and a ‘Bearded King’ jug. Prices from £75 to £150/200 for her most elaborate pieces.

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An army of ceramic frogs ( available to buy individually from Prue).

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Studio shelf, more gargoyle photographs, a Pig and Acorn lidded jug or creamer (prices at £75), and another ceramic mask. Some of her patterns come from Owen Jones’s Victorian Grammar of Ornament, some are smothered in a livery of cross-hatched and dotted pattern raised in multi-coloured slip, bright as the boiled sweets in a confectioner’s shop.

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The courtyard.

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Henry Piper’s ‘Daffodil’ outdoor light blooms in the hedge. Before the Old Laundry was was built here, this site was a kennel yard for the Earl of Cork and Orrery’s staghounds.

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A wind mobile and garden sculpture by Henry Piper, temporarily flattened by winter gales. I hope to show you a picture of it upright again soon, in a future piece about his work.

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Looking at Henry Piper’s wind mobile and Moon sculpture. in the field by the lake which they dug out decades earlier.

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In 2000 Prue published a book of her late husband’s experimental art photography, Nudes by Edward Piper, in a limited edition of only 1000 copies, price £19.95. (My copy is numbered 378, and there are still a few available for sale : contact Prue Piper : pruepiper@btinternet.com ) Prue was his favourite model, others were ‘friends of ours, or local girls who liked to show off.’

Edward and Prue in the 1970s

Edward and Prue in the 1970s

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Prue exhibits with Messums. Her ceramics are unshackled by rules of taste or design, free to be as funny, archaic or kitsch as she wants them to be.

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With many thanks to Prue and Henry Piper. Contact details for Prue Piper : pruepiper@btinternet.com .  Her cermaics range in price from £60 to £200, please contact her if you are interested in individual pieces shown here. All images copyright Prue Piper and/or bibleofbritishtaste. Full and accurate links and references to this site and authorship/copyright must be supplied when excerpts are used.

 

 

11 Comments

  • Comment by Jill Alo — 23 March, 2015 @ 6:34 pm

    Wonderful to be transported to Somersetshire from Austin–thank you!

    (Love all the ceramics esp.that pig with acorn and the lion)

  • Comment by Kristin Nicholas — 23 March, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

    Hi Ruth – This is such a fantastically inspiring article. I am involved in the textile world but made pottery many years ago. I am starting to get back into it now and this is just what I needed. My husband, daughter and I live on a sheep farm in western Massachusetts although we are not self-sufficient w/ power.

    Thank you so much for all your inspiring articles. I love when I see them come into my in-box. Fabulous!

  • Comment by hannah barrett — 25 March, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

    I want that mermaid mug

  • Comment by Ruth — 25 March, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

    I wanted it too!(which is why it is in the main portrait photograph) As far as I know it is still for sale, unique and the only one in the world. Prue’s prices are very reasonable, enquiries to : pruepiper@btinternet.com

  • Comment by Patricia Youell — 26 March, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

    I am new to your site and am enjoying it very much.
    I inspired by this post especially. It all looks so very beautiful and all the pots give off a wonderful vivacious energy.

    Thankyou
    Patricia Youell

  • Comment by Andrea Brooke — 11 April, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

    This is the MOST fantastic portrayal of British houses, people and things.Thank you so much for producing & writing I’m sure it is a huge amount of work – I just shared it with my network.
    Kind regards
    Andrea Brooke
    Grace & Favor
    NY

  • Comment by Madeline Harris — 11 May, 2015 @ 2:13 pm

    Hello,

    I wanted to let you know that I find your site exceptionally beautiful. What’s best is how your subjects know you well and don’t over-prepare for your visits. All of the homes look perfectly lived in, and that’s what makes your photos so interesting. Thank you for all you do!

  • Comment by Bob Hill — 15 May, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

    hello,I have a pair of frog bookends bought from David Messums exhibition of your work a few years ago.Do you have one of your Lions for sale?i should have bought one but could only afford The Frogs at the time!!

    Kind Regards Bob Hill

  • Comment by Anna Kirsen — 13 June, 2015 @ 11:50 am

    I love the Green Man jugs. They are so quintessentially English, much akin to the 18th Century Toby jugs. The ceramics all have a lovely jovial gregarious style to them.

  • Comment by Jo — 29 July, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

    I stumbled on your blog when looking up The Green Man.
    I’ve always admired John Piper’s Foliate Heads imagery and all things Green Man, so enjoyed seeing the Green Man jugs. That cozy corner of the kitchn/living room looks very inviting.

  • Comment by Kyron Michael — 19 May, 2016 @ 7:39 am

    Great post that beautifully portrays the true essence of being British.Your photos are top class,keep up the awesome work you are doing.

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