This week started as most weeks. Into the office, fire up the Apple and check out the e-mails that have accumulated over the weekend.
Only this week what is generally a tiresome chore had a spark of joy. That was because one of the senders simply read Maggie. This instantly told me that I had received an mail from Maggie Angus Berkowitz; the renowned Lake District ceramicist. Even better, the e-mail included an invitation to a party being arranged to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Any Tile Addicts out there who don’t know Maggie’s work are in for a treat. She has studied, worked and made ceramics in UK, Italy, USA, Africa and Japan but now lives and works in the place where she was born: Milnthorpe, Cumbria.
All her tiles and tile panels are original and unique paintings, often made for an individual client or for a specific site. They are best seen as pictures painted with glazes and oxides, and then fired onto unglazed tiles, often quarry tiles.
Many will have seen Maggie’s unmistakable tiles without necessarily knowing who created them, such as the panel celebrating Kendal and Rinteln’s twinning in Elephant Yard, Kendal. She also created The Road to Jerusalem installation at Low Furness Cove Primary School, Great Urswick; Staff Dining Room, Newton Green Hospital, Leeds; Wren House, Rossall School, Lancashire; and the Hydrotherapy pool, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds.
For someone who has had such a stellar career, and garnered such a volume of international recognition, it is a sobering thought that Maggie only took up ceramics full time once she retired from teaching.
A graduate of Lancaster School of Art and London University’s Institute of Education, Maggie met her American husband, Marvin, in Tanzania, then moved to New York, returning to the Lakes in 1973 to teach at Milnthorpe Secondary School.
It was not until Abbot Hall Art Gallery director, Mary Burkett, offered Maggie an exhibition at the Kendal gallery that her career as a ceramicist really took off.
Maggie is held in particularly high regard in Japan. There was a major exhibition of her work there in 2002 in Gallery Ray; a period in which she also worked in a potter’s studio in Seto, while attending language classes in Nagoya City.
“I’ve been drawing, in order to understand life, for as long as I can remember, and drawing with clay and glazes for over 60 years,” says Maggie. “I’ve studied, taught, and made pots in the UK, Italy, Tanzania, USA and Japan.”
“One of my daughters went to teach in Japan, and won awards which enabled her to pursue her academic career. She got married and went to live in a pottery town and, with her help, I spent time in a Japanese tile factory, met potters, and learned some Japanese.”
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, May 2017.