LONDON – With London Fashion Week already a distant memory, the crowds of glitterati are beginning to disperse. But these fashionistas need not go far. Staying in London, eyes are turned to Sotheby’s forthcoming Made in Britain auction, and in particular, the impressive collection of work by ceramicist Lucie Rie, whose link to the fashion world is truly fascinating.
Escaping growing Nazi pressures in Europe, Rie, alongside artists like Frank Auerbach, Naum Gabo and fellow ceramicist Hans Coper, sought refuge in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s. As part of her wartime efforts, Rie began making press-moulded glass and ceramic buttons which soon became highly desirable bursts of colour in an otherwise grey London cityscape. Demand was so strong that Rie employed six people in her small studio. After the war, she continued to produce buttons, as well as ceramic jewellery and stoneware umbrella handles sold by some of London’s most recognisable and fashionable retailers.
A SELECTION OF RIE’S BUTTONS AND AN IMAGE OF HER BUTTONS ON THE RUNWAY.
In the 1950s, Rie moved away from accessories to focus on producing decorative pieces in the same rich colours and luscious oxides used on the buttons. Rie met the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake in the 1980s, and their close friendship resulted in the 1989 exhibition Issey Miyake meets Lucie Rie at Tokyo's Sogetsu Gallery. In the same year, Miyake used several of her wartime buttons in his collection, and upon her death in 1995, Rie bequeathed her personal collection of buttons to Miyake.
Rie's buttons are housed in some of the United Kingdom's best public collections, including London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Farnham's Crafts Study Centre and Norwich's Sainsbury Centre. But for a chance to see her late ceramic work, Sotheby’s Made in Britain auction includes a wonderful selection, led by her stunning Emerald Green Bowl.
Lead Image: A detail of Dame Lucie Rie's Emerald Green Bowl with Oxide Decoration. Estimate £12,000–18,000.