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Archaeology of the house - site, object, context. Interpreting a collection: a study of the life and work of Robert Louis Blatherwick (1920-1993)

Blatherwick, Susanna (2015) Archaeology of the house - site, object, context. Interpreting a collection: a study of the life and work of Robert Louis Blatherwick (1920-1993). Masters thesis (MPhil), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis began as a response to a question raised by an eminent craft historian relating to the ceramic work of my late father Robert Louis Blatherwick, to find out why his work was unknown when he had worked for the most influential British studio potters of the twentieth century. It responds to this history. I set out to make a record by taking photographs of pots preserved within the family home by my mother, after her death.The house that my parents had designed and converted when they both worked at Lincoln School of Art had become an archive of contextual reference material relating to my father's work. In searching through the items within the house I discovered that objects of material culture contained essential narratives, which provided links to his work and background. I wrote descriptive and reflective passages about the house that I grew up in, responding to items discovered, and incorporating reflective memory and personal thoughts. Research involved retracing his life, making enquiries to places where he studied or worked, visiting an archival collection of letters, and interviewing former colleagues and students. By weaving findings from within the house together with existing historical texts I made discoveries relating to the existing histories of 20th-century studio pottery I discovered that the family archive provides a rich resource which is structured according to a different discourse than that presumed important by archivists and historians, and that record keeping in institutions and archives perpetuates knowledge of those already known. I discovered that RLB succeeded in areas that more well known studio potters had abandoned, and that subconscious discriminatory practice within the studio pottery world has favoured stoneware over earthenware, contributing to a hegemonic dominance.This raises questions about the recording of history and exhibition policies.

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