Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Troika pottery

Troika Pottery is a really something. It was initially met with great scepticism when it was first established in the Cornish coastal town of St. Ives. The failure for the new venture was immediately predicted, giving it just three months to survive. The company’s unconventional ceramics, which design was opposite the fashion of the time have a things to think about, but concerns were proved unfounded when Troika was snapped up by discerning London stores such as Heal’s and Liberty’s, and became world-known.
The company was founded in 1963 by sculptor Leslie Illsley, potter Benny Sirota and architect Jan Thompson, who chose the Russian name ‘troika’ to represent the team of three. Despite initial successes, Thompson walked away from the enterprise after two years, leaving the other two to build the business. Troika products, such as vases, lamp bases and some tablewares, were produced with the use of moulds, which were taken from originals, and then hand-painted. This process meant pieces had the look and feel of unique Studio pottery, but could be produced far more economically. 

Early pieces were usually smooth, glossy, on-glaze ware, although distinctive textured pieces, which were to become common in later years, were also produced. Tiles and wall plaques, some up to five feet long, were also made in the first few years and can now sell for up to £1,000 or more.

Despite the appeal of glazed ware, Troika began to concentrate on textured pieces. The small team of skilled artists who were encouraged to experiment with new and exciting types of decoration. Textures were diverse and inspiration behind the distinctive decoration was certainly ecclectic: a primitive Aztec design, the landscape of Cornwall, and the geometrical paintings of Paul Klee were combined to produce radically different pieces. Their beauty was in both functional and visually appealing.

Early pieces, and exceptionally large, rare or unusual pieces can be worth over £1,000. The decorator, identified by a monogram or initials on the base, can also dictate appeal and value. Look out for the Aztec-style mask sculptures that are hard to find today. 


Troika suffered during the late 1970s economic depression and from the flood of cheap imports from the early 1980s. The factory was finally closed in 1983, much to the disappointment of its many devoted fans. But that fact make Troika pottery even more wanted today.

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting story on Troika Pottery. I noticed that you used a photograph that I took for my blog, Potshots. That's OK but a small mention for Potshots would be nice. I suppose if you publish this comment that's done now. Thanks.


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