ART MARKET / Up for sale

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The Independent Culture
THE spectacular flambe glazes achieved by William Howson Taylor at the Ruskin Pottery in Smethwick, near Birmingham, are among the ceramic triumphs of the 20th century. Taylor started the pottery in 1898 and closed it in 1933, two years before he died; he destroyed his records, ensuring that the secrets of his glazes were lost. Although highly thought of during his lifetime, his work has attracted little attention in recent times.

He left his own collection of Ruskin pots to Robert Ferneyhough, whose children are now selling them off. Until some of Miles Ferneyhough's pots appeared at Christie's in 1991 there had been no high prices for Ruskin pottery in the London salerooms; then a hand- moulded vase with a red-mottled blue glaze made pounds 3,960. At a second sale in February 1992, prices were higher and one piece set the auction record at pounds 5,500.

Sotheby's has now signed up Miles's brother Adam, and is selling his 110 pots on 20 April. Some pieces are estimated below pounds 100, many in the low hundreds and a sprinkling over pounds 1,000. The sale coincides with the publication of the first properly researched book on the subject, Ruskin Pottery by Paul Atterbury and John Henson (Baxendale Press pounds 45; from Richard Dennis Publishing, tel 0460 42009). In Sotheby's catalogue, Atterbury describes Taylor as 'Britain's greatest ceramicist of the 20th century'. (Photographs omitted)