The papers of Lucie Rie

Scope and Content

The papers of Lucie Rie, including records of her life in Vienna before the Second World War and training at the Kunstgewerbeschule under Michael Powolny. Records of her work include glaze recipes, order books and letters, etc, about commissions and orders, exhibition correspondence, catalogues and posters, and there is memorabilia of collaboration with Hans Coper. Appointment diaries survive only for 1971-1991. There is a large amount of material about her family, dating from the 1870s, the photographs including images of tours in France in the 1920s with her uncle, Sandor Wolf, and images of her grandparents' house in Eisenstadt, Austria (now the Burgenland Regional Museum). She preserved sketchbooks and letters of her brother, Paul Gomperz, who was killed in the First World War, and she acquired material about the history of the Jews in Eisenstadt, and a family history of the Wolf family. A little personal correspondence, [c.1927], 1939-1995, includes letters from Ernst Plischke, who designed the furniture for her flat in Vienna which she transported to London. There are also records of honours and awards, 1930-1987, portrait photographs and a drawn portrait by [Michael] Garady, and photographs of pieces by LR and of her workshop.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lucie Rie was born in Vienna on 16th March 1902, daughter of Professor Benjamin Gomperz and his wife Gisela (nee Wolf). Her parents were both from wealthy families, and her maternal uncle was Alexander (Sandor) Wolf, antiquarian and historian. She studied ceramics 1922-1926 at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule under Michael Powolny, and her work came to the attention of the Principal, Josef Hoffman, who sent her pots to the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Modernes in Paris in 1925.

She married Hans Rie (b.1901) in 1926, and made pots in their apartment. They joined the Jewish diaspora from central Europe in 1938, when they moved to England with the intention of settling in the USA. LR stayed in London, however, and the couple divorced.

During the Second World War LR ran a ceramic button-making business employing fellow-refugees. She also produced jewellery and buckles, but always intended to return to making pots and after 1945 began to make domestic wares.

In 1946 Hans Coper (1920–1981), also a refugee from the Nazi state, came to LR's studio looking for work. She taught him to make pottery and they shared a workshop until 1958. Although their styles remained distinct, each had a crucial effect on the development of the other's work.

In 1948 LR acquired an electric kiln and began to make stoneware and porcelain in which a greater range of glaze effects was possible. She showed pots at the Festival of Britain in 1951, and in 1967 an Arts Council exhibition of her work established her importance in a broader context. The following year she was made OBE, and in 1969 she received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art. She was promoted CBE in 1981 and DBE in 1990. She was one of four British potters whose work was illustrated on an issue of stamps from the Royal Mail in 1987.

Lucie Rie continued to exhibit and to work into her late eighties, but after a series of strokes she was finally forced to stop working in the early 1990s. She died at her home, 18 Albion Mews, on 1st April 1995.


A box-list of the papers was prepared by Margot Coatts, one of the Trustees of the Crafts Study Centre, at the end of 1999. The papers were then in 18 boxes, but they were slightly re-arranged when boxed up into 12 larger boxes for transportation to the new CSC building in Farnham in 2000. A box of material given by Cyril Frankel in 1999 included items removed from the main sequences for the exhibition of 1997.

In 2004-2005 the papers were surveyed by Sophie Heath, who allocated accession numbers, at first attempting to number every item, but confining herself to numbering files towards the end of her 15-month project. She wrote an extended essay on the papers, and 600 items were photographed.

Neither of these surveys had attempted any re-arrangement, but the papers were very muddled, making it impossible to know more than very roughly what the archive comprised. In 2008-9 the papers were sorted by Shirley Dixon into a hierarchy reflecting the generation of each item, and were assigned 'RIE' reference numbers. Items which were marked with an accession number still bear that number along with their archive reference.

  • RIE/1 Family and childhood 1902-1993
  • RIE/2 Training and pre-war work 1921-[1938?]
  • RIE/3 Emigration to Britain and life in London during the Second World War 1938-1946
  • RIE/4 Collaboration with Hans Coper [1950s]-[1987]
  • RIE/5 The ceramics 'factory', and post-war official documents 1942-1982
  • RIE/6 Glaze recipes [c.1923]-[1960s]
  • RIE/7 Orders [1940s-1990s]
  • RIE/8 Invoices and receipts 1941-1996
  • RIE/9 Other financial papers 1939-1990
  • RIE/10 Teaching [1940s?]-1981
  • RIE/11 Exhibition correspondence 1949-1995
  • RIE/12 Exhibition catalogues and posters 1952-1994
  • RIE/13 Auction catalogues 1983-1993
  • RIE/14 Honours and Awards 1930-1987
  • RIE/15 Appointment Diaries 1971-1991
  • RIE/16 Personal correspondence [c.1927], 1939-1995
  • RIE/17 Publicity [1950s]-1995
  • RIE/18 Death of LR, and posthumous tributes 1995-2002
  • RIE/19 Pre-war photographs [1870s-1990s]
  • RIE/20 Post-war photographs 1940s-1990s
  • RIE/21 Portrait of LR by [Michael] Garady [1970s?]
  • RIE/22 Gifts to LR [1970s-1980s]

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre, c.2004. The biography was written by Frances Lord. This entry was updated by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist, May 2020.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf handlist is available on request.

An extended essay giving an overview of the Lucie Rie archive can be downloaded from the Crafts Study Centre website .

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.


None expected.

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre also holds:


Selected Bibliography

Birks, Tony, Lucie Rie Alphabooks Ltd, A&C Black, London, 1987

Coatts, Margot (ed) Lucie Rie & Hans Coper: potters in parallel Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1997

Cooper, Emmanuel (ed), The Life and Work of Lucie Rie 1902-1995 Ceramic Review, 2002