Craftsman used earth from his garden to create pottery masterpieces that have stunned experts

Posted on 05/08/2020 in Press Coverage

Soil dug up in his own back garden provided the clay for a talented Midlands potter to create hundreds of eclectic objects, many of which are now set to go auction.

Edward Campden from Langley Mill, on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border, died at the age of 89 in April. However, he left a stunning lasting legacy of unique studio pottery crafted at home and amassed over a lifetime. The collection includes drawings and paintings – some using Cornflakes-packet cardboard as a canvas.

“He didn’t like to waste money,” laughed his daughter, Georgina Clark. “It used to annoy my mother that he painted on the reverse of Cornflakes boxes but when the piece was mounted and framed, only we knew. He was a great recycler.

“Who knows how many times the soil had to be sieved and purified to provide the clay for his pots. He used earth dug up when we created a pond and patio and when his neighbour had an extension built. It had to be refined to ensure there weren’t any impurities or air pockets or the piece would explode in the kiln.”

The home-sourced clay proved perfect for Edward’s creative fingers – and his talent knew no bounds. According to his family, he plucked inspiration from modernist potters like Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, John Maltby and African/Asian art.

The result, a vast wealth of unique studio art pottery, has stunned the experts at Hansons Auctioneers which is set to sell more than 60 objects from Edward’s eclectic collection on August 14.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “It’s astonishing to think that this man literally used the earth from his garden to create wonderful art pottery. What a hidden talent. He never sold commercially, preferring to teach and make pieces for friends and family.

“I very much hope this auction will provide an opportunity to celebrate the life, work and talent of a man who created pottery from the earth beneath his feet and who continued Langley pottery even though the factory itself had closed.”

Edward's workshop and garden in Langley Mill.

Edward, who was born in Birmingham in 1931, came to the area from Banbury, Oxfordshire, in 1957 to work at Langley Mill Pottery. Prior to that he studied at Oxford School of Art, held his first exhibition in 1952, won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and graduated in 1955.

Georgina, 63, from Langley Mill, a retired receptionist, said: “He was made redundant from the pottery and turned to teaching. He worked in several Nottinghamshire schools but spent 18 years at the former Cottesmore Secondary School where he became head of art and pottery and taught classes after school. He finished his career at Haywood Comprehensive School.

“He made many spectacular pieces. When me and my sister Irene went into the loft to go through his collection it was magical because, as we opened boxes, we found masterpieces we’d only seen in sketch books. Things like sculptural figures and pottery inspired by African and Asian art. He did all kinds of fantastic work and took his inspiration from many different styles.”

Irene Campden, 59, from Uxbridge, Middlesex: “Dad loved talking about art and critiquing my art work. I attend art classes and work as a book conservator so I suppose I have inherited some of his skills, although I’m no potter. He was such a good teacher. My father’s nephew Mark Campden is a talented potter based in Ireland so the Campden pottery line lives on.”

Edward, who lost his wife, Frances, in 2017, became ill with cancer towards the end of his life and eventually went into a care home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire – but his creative days were far from over.

Georgina said: “He wasn’t making pots anymore but he got a second wind. From July last year until he died in April, he did lots of drawings and paintings. We couldn’t believe it. He even helped a young carer make some posters.

Edward's garden; with his daughters Georgina, left, and Irene.

“We are keeping some of our favourite pieces and still have quite a collection of dad’s work at home but there is so much, we thought it would be nice to share it.”

Edward Campden’s pottery, which also includes objects he and his wife collected over the years, will be sold on August 14 in Hansons Auctioneers August 13-18 Antiques and Collectors Auction. The catalogue is due online on August 8 at To find out more, email [email protected]