Michael Cardew was born in Wimbledon. He read humanities at Exeter College, Oxford and, during his vacations, learnt to pot at Braunton Pottery, north Devon. In 1923, aged 22, he visited Bernard Leach's* St Ives Pottery and then took up an apprenticeship there. Leaving in 1926, he founded his workshop at the defunct Greet Pottery near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, and made slip-decorated earthenware, assisted by Sidney Tustin from 1927.
Cardew married in 1933, Winchcombe Pottery expanded, and in 1938 he had his first solo exhibition at the Berkeley Galleries, London. The following year he moved to set up anew at Wenford Bridge, Cornwall. By 1942 he was embarking on a new career as a pottery instructor in Ghana, West Africa; he set up a pottery at Vumé. Ill health forced his return in 1948 and he resumed potting at Wenford Bridge, built a downdraft kiln and made stoneware for the first time. For 15 years he spent 10 months a year working in Nigeria, returning, briefly, to pot. In 1965 he left Africa permanently, visited New Zealand and Australia (to help set up a pottery for Aborigines in the Northern Territory), and in 1969 published Pioneer Pottery. In 1976 the Crafts Council organised a retrospective exhibition of his work.
*Denotes included in the Crafts Study Centre Collection.