Born in Hong Kong, Bernhard Howell Leach was a British ceramicist. He had his headquarters in St Ives, Cornwall and Devon. At the Slade School of Fine Art, London, he studied painting. He went to Japan to teach art at the age of 21.
He lived in Japan from 1909, where he taught design and engraving and where he discovered pottery in 1911. He had no idea of taking up pottery, Leach said, but he met potter Ogata Kenzan VI, a master of the long line of Japanese potters. Between the years of 1916-1918 and later Korea, he travelled across South East Asia to visit China.
He returned with Hamada to England in 1920 where, with Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, he founded a pottery at St. Ives. Together, they investigated early English pottery techniques and styles, including the different types of country slipware. Influenced by his initial Japanese training, Leach introduced the Japanese notion of a potter’s responsibility for all phases of the creative process.
He shared his principles and his facilities with many potters during the 1920s, who became well known during the 1930s. It was at this time that Leach became free to travel and teach when his son David joined the pottery.
He taught at Dartington Hall, Devon, beginning in 1930. He accepted the National Craft Society’s invitation to visit Japan in 1934, where he travelled with Soetsu Yanagi and Shoji Hamada for a year and worked in various pottery shops across Japan.