Gemma Bontempo, Farnham School of Art, ceramics, pottery,


Disabled persectives.
Celebrating Disability  everywhere in everything. 

Search this site

Gemma Bontempo

gemma bontempo
Gemma Bontempo

Bontempo, Gemma Martha (1938-2004). American citizen


Ceramist and teacher. Bontempo Studied fashion design at Pratt institute in new york from 1955-59 and then worked with the designer Charles James on an unfinished project for Jacqueline kennedy. Bontempo was accepted by Lee Strasberg to join the actor's studio, but instead turned her attention to ceramics, taking evening classes with Peter Volkous at the Greenwich House of pottery. In 1966 Bontempo emigrated to Britain, where Lucie Rie and Bernard Leach introduced her to Henry Hammond at the then West Surrey college of art and design, Farnham. She worked at the very traditional Wrecclesham Pottery, and was strongly influenced by ways of working that had hardly changed in the previous 50 years.

Bontempo then taught at the Farnham college ceramics department from 1967 to 1985. She was also a regular guest lecturer at Bath and Cardiff colleges of art. In the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Bontempo was a strong advocate for the revival of wood-fired and salt- glazed ceramics and reduced earthenware. Her over-riding aim was to introduce students to the richness and diversity of ‘culture’.

Her wheel-thrown and altered, functional ash-glazed stoneware and porcelain with pale blue and green celadon glazes displayed influences of European, Japanese and North American folk pottery. In her own work, she agreed with Kitaoji Rosanjin that great food deserved to be served in specifically appropriate, even ceremonial containers. From 1987 she taught ceramics and glass at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University college. Her students included amongst others Dominick Harris (uk photographer), Richard Launder, Pietro Maddalena, Magdalene Odundo, Mick Pinner, Patrick Sargent, Charles Spacey, Ranjana Thapalyal and Brian Usher (uk glass artist). In her teaching, Bontempo introduced contemporary semiotics, making the concepts, values, and issues within her students' work readable and relevant to today's art world.

Bontempo counted amongst her friends and colleagues Michael Cardew, John Chalke (Canada), Francine Del Pierre, Geoffrey Fuller, Mo Jupp, Siddiq El Nigoumi, Ettore Sottsass, John Reeve, Duncan Ross, Paul Soldner, Takeshi Yasuda, As Well As Jack Kerouac, Al Held, Jun Tomita, (Japanese Weaver),  Min Cooper (Uk Cartoonist), And Ex-Wife Of The Musician Ray Cooper (Also A Friend).


Written by Ferris Newton