David Cohen, Ceramic Artist and Master Craftsman

David has worked in ceramics for over 40 years. Former Head of Ceramics at the Glasgow School of Art (1986-1991) he specialises in Raku and designs large plate compositions for corporate and private commission. He presently works form his studio at Tantallon Studios where his work is on display in the garden and gallery.

Recent Exhibitions:

Gone Bananas  – Aberdeen Art Gallery 2012

Published books include

The Basics of Throwing

A Visual Language: Elements of Design 2nd Edition

Films : Scope 1971: Re-discoverd BBC Scotland Film featuring Dave working at his Studio in Juniper Green.

Artist Statement

Clay from the earth, water, air, and fire are the essential elements associated with the creation and permanence of ceramic forms. Each element is dependent on the other in the making and finishing processes.

Clay needs water for workability, air for drying, and fire for permanency. Beyond this simple explanation lies an in depth investigation that seeks to reveal how and why these elements interact with each other, providing visual variety to the finished product. Clay is reusable time and time again if not fired; I cannot think of another material, which is as flexible, easily found, and reconstituted so easily. For all of these reasons, for me, clay is magic.

How and why materials interact with each other applies also to the assessment of design. Clay is the material I choose to realise my designs.

My work over the last 50 years has evolved around three themes, primary geometric shapes, the human figure, and nature. These themes have also been used in conjunction with each other. I have become aware, that in order to communicate my creative intentions in a visual way, a visual language is necessary for my critical assessment and the development of my work.

Visual vocabulary informs the composition of my designs through the reflection and assessment of visual elements like; line, shape, tone, colour, texture, form, scale, space, and light. This vocabulary can be seen in everything that is visible.

These elements, like the letters of an alphabet, either singularly, or in combination with each other, are capable of creating visual meaning.

I recognise these elements as being the foundation of my visual world. Three primary guides remain central to my on going self reflection and assessment in the creation of my work; Intention (The initial inspiration for what I would like to make based on my initial design concept, theme, feeling, sketch) Selection (visual elements, materials, combination of materials, design, firing process; these are carefully assessed, understood, selected and applied to create the work) and critical assessment, (evaluating how closely the finished work relates to my intentions and using this evaluation to realise my next intention). I see my creative approach as a cyclical exploration of infinite possibilities.

My interests have evolved around installations based on modular structures. Clay, from the beginning of civilisation has been utilised for the purpose of construction. Tiles and bricks are two examples of clay ‘modules’ used for both utility and decoration.

The plate form is a module I use to create my large wall compositions. Geometric and nature themes have inspired my constructions of various dimensions and shapes. The architectural spaces that accommodate these installations have also influenced the final design.

I also use the module concept in the design of outdoor and garden sculpture. A module of extruded clay is assembled to create three-dimensional forms of infinite variety. Through experimenting, manipulating, and cutting the extrusion, a form can be created that is complimentary to the natural environment it is located in.

Further reading on the ideas presented in this statement can be found in David Cohen’s books: A Visual Language; elements of design, A&C Black Publishers, 2006 and The Basics of Throwing, A&C Black Publishers, 2008.

David Cohen

Technical Information

For the last 15 years I have been involved with the construction of two basic techniques, slip casting and extrusion from a de-airing self made pug. The slip cast clay is a basic earthenware with a firing range up to 1200 centigrade. The extruded clay body is a high fired stoneware body of 50 kilos of Hyplas 71, 25 kilos Grolleg China Clay, 4 kilos flint, and 4 kilos(120 mesh) Molochite. I mix this clay recipe in old dough mixer and then de- aired through the pug.

The slip and stoneware body are fired to the maximum temp of 1200 Centigrade in an electric kiln. I use one standard clear glaze, which is mixed with under glaze colours, oxides, carbonates, and etc. For Dry surface areas, a base slip of the stoneware body without the molaciite is used with colorants mentioned above.

I have also used the technique of RAKU for individual thrown ware on the potter’s wheel and hand build forms. The clay body is the same as the stoneware clay. Matt copper, 90% copper oxide, and 10% borax frit is my main surface finish.

Background History

Teaching Experience:
1965-86 Lecturer in Ceramics, Edinburgh College of Art
1986-91 Head of Ceramics. Glasgow School of Art

1947-51 Carpentry apprenticeship
1953-54 U.S Navy, Metalsmith School
1957-58 Layton Art School
1958-62 Edinburgh College of Art
1962-63 Fellowship Scripp’s College

Visiting Lectures:
1963 Iowa State University
1970 Haystack, Hinckley School of Crafts, Maine
1971 University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
1975-78 Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Israel
1978 Haifa University. Israel
1979 South Carolina Museum School, U.S.A
1982-83 Highland Craftpoint, Beauly, Scotland
1980-84 Ulster University, Northern Ireland
1985 Baer Sheva University, Israel
1989 Lecture tour, U.S.A:
1990 International Potters Camp, Aberystwyth. Wales
1991 Maryland Institute of Art and Design. Baltimore
1991 Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia Pa.
1991 Moorhead State College. Minn.
1991 Art Institute Chicago,.
1991 Ohio University. Athens. Ohio
1991 University of Wisconsin. Milwaukee
1991 Mt. Hood Community College, Portland, Oregon USA
2001 Rock Creek Community College, Portland, Oregon
2001 Sylvania Community College, Portland, Oregon USA
2001 Cascade Community College. Portland. Oregon USA
2001 Racine, Wisconsin, Craft Museum
2001 Province Town Gallery and Museum, Province Town
2005 Cape Cod, Mass. U.S.A.

Professional Experience:
1956 Motion Display Co. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1960 Product Design, Henry Wylie and Partners. Edinburgh Scotland
1964 Kilncroft Studios, self-established, Edinburgh
1968 Design Consultant to Charies Henshaw Foundry. Edinburgh
1975 Arts Council Awards Selection Committee
1979 Studio and kiln consultant, Scottish Development Agency
1979 Council. Scottish Society of Artists

Exhibitions History

1980 Scottish Craft Exhibition, Sheffield Museum, England
1983 British Craft Exhibition, Houston, Texas, U.S.A
1984 British Ceramics, Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh
1984 Fine Art and Craft Exhibition, Rufford art Centre, Nottingham, England
1984 Stoke-on-Trent City Museum. Stoke-on-Trent. England
1985 Scottish Development Agency Collection Exhibition, City Art Centre, Edin.
1987 Select Show of Scottish Ceramics, Perth, Australia
1988 Boundary Gallery. London
1989 Compass Gallery. Glasgow
1990 Usiskin Gallery, London
1991 Compass Gallery, Glasgow
1993 Glasgow City Arts Museum. Glasgow
1994 Booth House Gallery. Holmfirth, England
1995 Glasgow School of Art, solo exhibition. Glasgow
1996 Ayr Art Festival, Maclaurin Art Gallery, Ayr
1997 Aberdeen Art Gallery, solo exhibition, Aberdeen
1998 Maclaurin Art Gallery, educational, Ayr
1998 Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery. Continental Shift
1998 North Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, solo exhibition, Scotland
1999 Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, solo exhibition, Scotland
1999 Royal Museum of Scotland, mixed craft exhibition
2000 East Kilbride Art Centre, solo garden exhibition
2000 East Kilbride Art Centre, raku exhibition
2002 Gallery Heinzel, Aberdeen, Scotland
2004 Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, UK
2006 Stenton Gallery, East Lothian Scotland.


1964 Copper and wood sculpture, Edinburgh
1966 Ceramic mural, East Kilbride Computer Centre
1969 Aluminium mural, restaurant, Edinburgh
1970 Aluminium war memorial mural, Inverness Post Office, Scotland
1972 Aluminium and ceramic sculpture, James Marshall Architects. Edinburgh
1973 Wrought iron and cast aluminium mural, pub, Edinburgh
1974 Public water fountain (bronze), Edinburgh
1978 Cast aluminium and ceramic font, Unitarian Church, Edinburgh
1980 Ceramic garden sculpture. Carnegie Park, Dunfermline. Scotland
1998 Pavillion Restaurant, Edinburgh
1998 De Mare Fish Restaurant, Edinburgh
1999 Heriot Watt Business School


1970 BBC Television, education film on ceramics (15 min)
1972 BBC Television, programme on own work and studio (30 min)
1975 Radio Forth, programme on the development of own work
1984 Video for T.V, Programme on Raku (own work). (12 min)
1985 Article of Craft Work Magazine
1997 Large Scale Ceramics by Jim Robison Pub. A and C Black, London
1998 Video for North Berwick Exhibition (Raku) ‘The Clay Garden” 8 minutes
2004 Tim Andrew’s book on Raku Pub. A&C Black, London
2005 A Visual Language: elements of design, published by A&C Black, London
2005 Revised Second Edition Large Scale Ceramics A&C Black, London
2007 The Basics of Throwing, published by A&C Black, London 2008


Purchase Award Sacramento Craft Museum
Copenhagen Craft Museum
Glasgow City Art Museum
National Museum of Scotland
Leeds City Museum
Huntley House Museum, Edinburgh
Paisley Museum, Scotland
Stoke-on-Trent City Museum
Jerusalem University Museum, Israel
Perth Craft Collection, Australia
Scottish Development Agency Craft Collection: Purchases 1980,84,85,89
Queen Mother’s Collection
Victoria and Albert Museum Ceramic Collection, London
Dundee City Art Museum
Milngavie Art Centre, Glasgow
Aberdeen City Art Gallery
North Berwick Museum and Art Gallery
Milwaukee Art Institute U.S.A.
Baltimore Art Institute, U.S.A.
Ohio University, U.S.A.
Hood Community College, Portland .Oregon, USA
North Berwick Art Museum 1998, 2000
Heriot Watt University 2000, 2006

Work Styles

Bone China
Wax Resist
Slip cast
Dry Matt