Pottery mourns loss of champion

Tarquin Cole, artist at work

Rye Pottery is to say a sad farewell to its longest-serving post-war director Tarquin Cole DesRCA FRSA at a memorial service in St Mary’s church at the end of the month.

Ceramic designer Tarquin, who died after a short illness on May 2, was at the heart of Rye’s famous pottery for almost 60 years. The son of renowned sculptor and potter Walter Cole MBE, he first joined his father’s company as sales director in the 1950s.

Remarkably at the age of 85 Tarquin was still providing design input to the town’s long-established pottery firm, now run by two of his children, until the very end.
As co-director alongside his wife Biddy from 1978, Tarquin played a key role in keeping the family firm’s manufacturing and skills base in Sussex at a time when many British ceramics companies replaced artisans with machines or moved production to countries with cheaper labour costs. His legacy ensured Rye has maintained its heritage as a centre of pottery manufacturing first established in the medieval period.

Rye Pottery figurines from the 1066 Bayeux Tapestry Collection on display in Rye Museum

The attractive tableware on which the pottery had built its reputation was complemented by Tarquin’s idea for a range of unique ceramic figurines and collectables that financially saved the company and have subsequently garnered a worldwide following. Tarquin had previously expanded Rye Pottery’s business by establishing a subsidiary, Rye Tiles, in 1974.

This was borne out of his early career as a ceramic designer and innovator in London. After a short spell in the design department at Wedgewood in the late 1950’s Quin established his first firm Ceramic Consultants Ltd and specialised in commercial & architectural ceramics and was at the forefront of the pioneering use of cladding buildings in what were previously deemed interior ceramic tile. Murals were designed for airports, textured 3d tiles for hospitals & Universities, acoustic tiles for office blocks and nightclubs as well as decorative work for London Underground. He also made his first move into retail at this time, representing the work of others including his friends Lucy Rie and Hans Coper with whom he taught at Camberwell School of Art.

Rye Pottery Jugs in Cottage Stripe

Over his career Tarquin won two Design Council Awards, three souvenir awards and both his ceramic and tile designs are held in permanent collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Among the many customers he attracted to Rye Pottery & Tiles were Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and the “fifth” Beatle Sir George Martin as well as commercial contracts including the Ritz, Liberty’s, St. Pauls cathedral, Harrods and Christian Dior.

Passionate about British design and manufacturing, Tarquin was also heavily involved with art organisations, both nationally and locally and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. As the South East representative for both the Craft Council and the Arts Council as well as a chairman of Friends Rye Art Gallery, manager of the Easton Rooms and past President of the Rye Society of Artists he championed regional talent helping foster Rye’s enduring reputation for the creative arts.

Canterbury Tales The Doctor of Physic

Deeply connected to the area for his entire life – his grandparents had a house at Winchelsea Beach between the two World Wars – Quin loved both towns and Romney Marsh. Many of his own watercolours feature the fascinating landscapes around Rye, whilst a love of natural history allied to his early training under celebrated war artist and illustrator John Nash, is evident in the miles of botanical tiles and tableware he has produced over several decades for Rye Pottery.

On top of running two businesses and sitting on the various arts boards he was also on the committee for the Rye Sea Cadets and served as chairman of Rye Arts Festival more than once in the 1970s and early 1980s. Fundraising for all these causes and his lifelong support for the Rye Hospital and Rye Museum cemented his reputation as an honourable local man.
A patient tutor with an encyclopaedic knowledge base of the hundreds of years of Rye’s ceramic history, many local people enjoyed working and training at Rye Pottery during his tenure.

A former British naval officer who trained at the Royal College of Art, Tarquin was a much-loved family man who is survived by his wife Biddy, daughter Tabby, son Josh and five grandchildren.

The memorial service will be at 2:30pm on May 24 in St. Mary’s. For additional information please contact Josh or Tabby Cole on 01797 223038 or 07734 213130 Tabby@ryepottery.co.uk

Source: Rye Pottery

Image Credits: Cole family archive , Rye Pottery .


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