Walter Keeler has singularly transformed the face of British functional studio pottery, and what I have always loved about it is its Englishness. In literally re-shaping the language of tablewares in the 1970s and 80s, of giving it new and exuberant form, he has celebrated so richly its own history, from the 17th and 18th century salt glaze potters of Fulham and Nottingham to the tortoiseshell colours of Thomas Whieldon.
Walter has brought to modern pottery so much of the expressive spirit of the English workshop and factory, a fascination with the design and mechanics of pots that goes back to his youth, riverbank-combing for clay shards on the Thames Estuary. Anyone who has examined his inventively improvised thrown and assembled pieces from the 1960s onwards will have got a very strong sense of other kinds of tradition, a delight in constituent parts, of junctions and joins, of extrusions, sections and so forth. His pots have an engineering that is as suggestive of lathes and drills and metal components as of the potter’s wheel. It is no surprise that he draws on a much broader love of industrial and craft history and its objects, not just the long story of our pottery making. His work has a precision and crispness that owes just as much to the life and beauty of good factory wares as to the spirit of the studio.
Like the potter there is an eternal youthfulness, a perennial sense of excitement about these pieces, whether we are looking at the comparatively austere (but always playful) salt glaze, inkwash and creamware shapes or the sumptuous spectacle of his baroque Whieldon ‘cut branch’ forms. Walter’s maverick work is so very humane, adding another dimension to our dining tables, to our shelves, to our lives. I have known him for thirty years, and in that time his pots have always looked so fresh, constantly moving and evolving, broadening our perception of the potter’s art.
David Whiting, October 2017.