One family’s love of ceramics

11 February 2015 by Lynn

Pamela and Len Ratoff

Pamela and Len Ratoff

Ben Jones, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, shares his experience of working with this unique family collection of studio ceramics.

We were privileged last year to receive a large donation of wonderful material from the Ratoff family. The Ratoffs, Len and Pamela, were both active members of the Liverpool medical community, Len being a Doctor and Pamela, the Senior Social worker and head of department at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Throughout their working lives they indulged a love of ceramics, buying from a great number of North Welsh artists in easy reach of their then home in Llangwm, Gwynedd.

Studio ceramics is a loose category that is unified by the people who make it, rather than any technique; they are made in small or single person workshops and are often both decorative and functional. They are often affordable too, meaning it is truly an art form everybody can have in their home.

Vase by David Frith

Vase by David Frith

It was my first job as part of the Decorative Arts department to document the collection, making it ready to be displayed partly in the Walker Art Gallery and fully online. As my first physical and digital display it was a big task, and I was grateful that the materials themselves were so beautiful. The Ratoff’s purchasing pattern was driven entirely by their sense of taste rather than any view to investment, which really imparts the entire collection with a unique and personal feeling.

If you can, come along to the Walker Art Gallery and see the pieces on display there at the entrance to the Craft and Design Gallery, on the ground floor, as well as upstairs in Room 13.

See the complete Ratoff studio ceramics collection online now.

  1. Ivan Ratoyevsky says:

    Dear Ben & Alyson,

    I think my parents love of studio ceramics underlines the importance & the benefits of art itself. My parents love to surround themselves with beauty & beautiful objects. Such a collection has a direct effect on one’s day to day existence, lifting & enriching life, adding another dimension to living. Why else would one collect such objects unless the objects themselves didn’t add something to life. Its far too easy too dismiss art as an irrelevance or an extravagance but studio ceramics at their best add & enrich life & in a very earthy way.

    This is “THE BEST” public memorial I could have ever wished for, for my parents. Its just the best legacy any son could have asked for. Once again my heart felt thanks to you all.


  2. Ivan Ratoyevsky says:

    Humans have been making pots since we were hunter gatherers, for thousands of years. Pottery shows how through imagination & resourcefulness that we can create something highly functional such as a water jug or a simple bowl to eat from. Humans took the raw material of the earth i.e. clay and made something that works functionally & has a satisfying form. Ceramics and especially studio ceramics takes that ancestry of pottery & creativity to the next level, adding amazing glazes and finishes to the form to create ceramics which truly dazzle the eye and the imagination. Mere clay & earth transformed by fire & hand into wondrous gems. Its almost a form of alchemy. The Ratoff collection shows pieces of the highest order of skilfulness, seeing them is a real pleasure.

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