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  • 12th Nov 2022
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  • 4 minutes

How ceramicist Lucie Rie transformed the world of pottery

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MIMA’s new exhibition, Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery, showcases hundreds of pieces of her work from across six decades.

‘To make pottery is an adventure to me. Every new work is a new beginning’ – Lucie Rie (1902 – 1995)

Lucie Rie was a ceramicist who transformed how ceramics were made and viewed in the UK and beyond.

With her lifelong exploration of process and form and immense technical knowledge, there’s no wonder Rie is among the most celebrated potters of the twentieth century.

Being one of a small number of female potters working independently, Rie forged her own path often at odds with prevailing trends.

From 11th November 2022 to 12th February 2023, MIMA invites you to look closer at Rie’s innovative talent in their new exhibition.  Showcasing over 100 of her pieces and this exhibition offers us a rare opportunity to experience her ground breaking practice across six decades.

While collaboration was key to her process, this exhibition proposes Rie as a singular and leading voice in ceramics and the broader field of art.

Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery is organised by Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and MIMA, Middlesbrough, who both hold works by Rie in their collections and have long-standing commitments to the study of ceramics.

‘This exhibition foregrounds Lucie Rie as an innovator whose beguiling ceramics and incredible making techniques laid the groundwork for many others,’ says Elinor Morgan, Artistic Director at MIMA. ‘It is an opportunity to focus on a lifetime of her pots and we are excited to welcome to MIMA those encountering Rie’s work for the first time as well as art and craft enthusiasts who know her work. We invite you to look again and look closer.

‘Our area’s rich and creative histories of making and manufacturing thread through the Middlesbrough Collection at MIMA and fuel our programme. As a public gallery and museum at the heart of Teesside University’s School of Art & Creative Industries, we are invested in developing new discourse and research around making practices. We hope that this significant exhibition brings new voices to the study of Rie’s important work.’


Rie was famous for making functional tableware and unique ceramic pieces and her restless and playful sense of experimentation is evident in her collections. The exhibition considers afresh Rie’s radical approach to form and decoration, which can be seen in her iconic use of sgraffito and variety and subtlety of surfaces including coloured, metallic and ‘volcanic’ glazes.

The 1930s

Born in Vienna in 1902, Rie’s prizewinning early pots of the 1930s are infused by Viennese modernist tenets of simplicity and a belief in innovation, characteristics that were to inform her artistic approach throughout her career.

In 1938, Rie had to escape the Nazi persecution due to her family being Jewish and was forced to leave Austria and settled in London, a watershed moment in her life and work.

The 1950s

During the Second World War, she turned to make glass and ceramic buttons for use in garments. Following this, she exhibited at the 1951 Festival of Britain and made a new reputation throughout the 1950s and 1960s for her tableware. Through her later decades, Rie developed increasingly ambitious one-off pieces showcasing highly original experimentation in form and glaze.

While Rie’s work was different in both look and feel from the dominant school of studio pottery in Britain, which was inspired by traditional ceramics from Japan, Korea and China, she did draw from these and other sources, including ancient pottery and the organic and natural world.


At MIMA, the exhibition will be seen alongside a new, permanent display of the organisation’s ceramics collections – one of the most significant holdings in the UK with around 550 works from the 1920s to 2020. Through MIMA’s recent capital development, the team have also developed a new centre for the study of the collection and its archive.

Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery exhibition is designed by David Kohn Architects and supported by the AKO Foundation. Curated by Andrew Nairne, Eliza Spindel and Elinor Morgan.

The exhibition at Kettle’s Yard will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, including new texts by Tanya Harrod, Edmund de Waal, Kimberley Chandler, Helen Ritchie, Sim Panaser, Nigel Wood and Eliza Spindel.

For more information about this and all of their upcoming exhibitions, visit MIMA’s website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Rachael Nichol
Creative Solutions Manager

After gaining a first in her BA Media and Journalism degree at Northumbria University, Rachael worked at Newcastle’s leading regional newspaper with her stories being picked up in national and global newspapers She spent two very successful years giving a voice to those communities across the North East who otherwise…


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