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Tall Vessel with Ellipses: C.6-1997

An image of Vase

© David Roberts. Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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Object information


Tall Vessel with Ellipses


Roberts, David (b.1947) (Potter)



Coiled clay raku-fired vessel, smoke-black inside and crazed white with smoke-grey elliptical decoration outside. The tall slender vase stands on a circular base. The sides swell outwards slightly, and then curve inwards into an elongated, elliptical neck. The mouth is lower at the front than at the back. The grey elliptical lines form an approximate oval on the front, and extend over the whole height. On the back they are angular and stop about a third of the way down from the top.


History note: The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Legal notes

Gift of Nicholas and Judith Goodison through the National Art Collections Fund

Measurements and weight

Height: 55.7 cm
Width: 17 cm

Relative size of this object

17 cm55.7 cm What does this represent?

Relative size of this object is displayed using code inspired by Good Form and Spectacle's work on the British Museum's Waddeson Bequest website and their dimension drawer. They chose a tennis ball to represent a universally sized object, from which you could envisage the size of an object.

Place(s) associated

  • Holmfirth ⪼ West Yorkshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1997-03-03) by Goodison, Nicholas and Judith


20th century
Production date: AD/CE 1995


David Roberts (b.1947) has an international reputation as a leading practitioner in raku ceramics. He became a full-time potter in 1981, following a decade as an art teacher, and now lives and works at Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. His large vessels are coil built, generally using a clay mix of 'T' material and porcelain. He abandoned glazing in the in the early 1990s and creates his surface effects through smoke generated by the raku firing process, aided by slips and resists.

Text from object entry in A. Game (2016) ‘Contemporary British Crafts: The Goodison Gift to the Fitzwilliam Museum’. London: Philip Wilson Publishers: David Roberts is a distinguished English potter, with an international reputation as a leading practitioner in the ceramic art of raku. He studied Ceramics as part of his degree in education at Bretton Hall in Yorkshire, and following a decade of art teaching he became a full-time potter specialising in the raku process in 1981. Roberts is acknowledged as responsible for the introduction and promotion of modern, large-scale raku in Europe. The technique involves removing the pot from the kiln whilst still red hot and placing it into a container filled with combustible materials creating a reduction atmosphere that generates particular surface qualities. In his personal mastery of the technique and exploration of this ceramic tradition, Roberts has transformed raku into a vibrant form of contemporary expression. He sees this particular tall vessel ‘as of great importance as it was one of the first resolved pieces achieved by this process.’

This is one of a series of tall vessels in which Roberts explores the ability of form to activate space. A sense of movement is created by the lean of the body, the shape of which suggests human form, and the surface decoration. When placed in a group the vessels lean towards and away from each other, as if in dialogue. The surface is ground after firing, to lighten the colour depth. Roberts is widely acknowledged as responsible for introducing modern large-scale raku in Europe and sees this vessel ‘as of great importance, as it was one of the first resolved pieces achieved by this technique’ (Game).

School or Style

Studio Ceramics

Materials used in production

clay mix 'T' material clay mix Porcelain

Techniques used in production

Coiling : Coil built, raku fired ceramic
Raku firing

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: in impressed circle

  • Text: DR
  • Location: On base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Maker's mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.6-1997
Primary reference Number: 81917
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 30 April 2021 Last processed: Saturday 1 May 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2020) "Vase" Web page available at: Accessed: 2021-10-19 09:51:24

Citation for Wikipedia

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{{cite web|url=|title=Vase|author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2021-10-19 09:51:24|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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