Photographic autobiography and correspondence of Eric Mellon

Scope and Content

Photographic autobiography (300 images of works by Mellon, with summaries of his career and inspirations), correspondence, 1975-2000, between Mellon and Bill Ismay, with 7 photographs of Slindon School, and Mellon's account of the Hillesden Community, including photographs.

The letters report news – and the strong opinions of the two correspondents - of the craft world. A letter of 3 July 1975 appears to be the first letter exchanged between the two men – Mellon writes 'how pleased I was to meet you…' – but Ismay is reported to have 'had so much from me in the past years'. As well as discussing Mellon's work and that of other craftsmen, the correspondence covers articles each wrote for publication, the organisation of the Art Week run annually by Mellon at Slindon in Sussex up to 1990, which Ismay recorded photographically, and exhibitions which they attended and to which Ismay loaned pieces. Ismay travelled the country by public transport, and his letters often report on his travel plans. Letters in the 1980s often mention Mabel Padfield and her disappointments with attempts at firing ceramics.

Administrative / Biographical History

Eric Mellon was born 30 November 1925 in Watford. His grandfather had been a cabinet maker, and his father taught woodwork and technical drawing. He studied at Watford School of Art (from the age of 13), then at Harrow School of Art (from 16 to 18), then studied painting and printmaking at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.

In the early 1950s, Mellon became part of an artistic community at a hamlet near Hillesden, Buckinghamshire. He married a fellow-member of the community, painter Martina Thomas (1924-1995), and in 1957 moved to Bognor Regis, where he established a pottery that would be his studio for 56 years. He was a founder member of the Craftsmen Potters Association. He investigated ash glazes, using ash from trees and plants in his garden, from 1979 assisted by Mabel Padfield, a scientifically trained neighbour. In the 1970s he was Head of Art at Slindon, a boys' school in West Sussex.

With Paul Foster, Mellon wrote Decorating Stoneware: Ash Glazes and the Art of the Brush (2007). He also continued with printmaking, and in 2010 published 65 Years of Printmaking .

Mellon died 14 January 2014.

Bill (William Alfred) Ismay (b. 10 April 1910) was a librarian, writer and collector based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. He began collecting 20th-century studio pottery in 1955, and by the time of his death on 13 January 2001 he owned 3,600 pieces from 500 makers. He had an extensive knowledge of the subject and befriended many makers. He compiled the index for each month's Ceramic Review . In the 1980s he was a Trustee of the Crafts Study Centre.


  • EJM/1 Photographic 'autobiography'
  • EJM/2 Catalogue 'The Ceramist as Artist', 2000
  • EJM/3 Correspondence with Bill Ismay, 1975-2000
  • EJM/4 Photographs of Slindon [1980s?]
  • EJM/5 Mellon's account of the Hillesden Community [1989?]

Access Information

Archive material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist, in April 2020.

Other Finding Aids

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

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

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