Don Potter

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Donald Steele Potter
Don Potter - October 1997.jpg
Don Potter at the opening of the Don Potter Art School, Bryanston School, October 1997 (aged 95)
Born(1902-04-21)21 April 1902
Died7 June 2004(2004-06-07) (aged 102)
EducationStudied under Eric Gill
Known forSculpture, pottery
Notable work
Sculpture of Robert Baden-Powell (1960)
Spouse(s)Mary Potter
Patron(s) Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell; Bryanston School

Donald Steele Potter (21 April 1902 – 7 June 2004) was an English sculptor, wood carver, potter and teacher. [1] [2] [3]


Don Potter was born in Newington, near Sittingbourne, Kent, the son of a school teacher, and attended a private school. [4] He joined the Wolf Cubs at the age of eight and became a keen participant in the scouting movement.


Potter developed as a woodcarver, producing totem poles, gates and gateways. By the time Potter reached the age of twenty, the head of the Scouts, Baden-Powell himself, realized he was an expert craftsman. Potter camped at Baden-Powell's house at Pax Hill near Bentley, Hampshire and undertook carving commissions for him. He used very old local fallen oaks, said to be 1,200 years old. For the 1929 World Jamboree, Potter designed totem poles for the British Dominions of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and New Zealand. A granite statue of Baden-Powell by Potter in 1960 is now located in front of Baden-Powell House in London. [5]

As well as wood carving, Potter started to work in stone as well and met Jacob Epstein (who had studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris). In 1931, he approached Eric Gill and asked to study under him. Gill was an engraver, designer of typefaces and sculptor, with carvings in Westminster Cathedral. Initially, Potter was on a six-month trial, but he remained as Gill's pupil for six years. He worked with Gill on sculptures at the Midland Hotel, Morecambe. While with Gill, he undertook wood carving, including the panels for the doors for the Rare Books Room of 1934 [6] [7] in the Radcliffe Science Library (Oxford University), [8] the crucifixion for the altar of the St Peter the Apostle church (Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk), and a crucifix in the woods at Pigotts where Gill was based near High Wycombe. [3]

In addition to being a sculptor, Potter spent his later career as a teacher at Bryanston School in Dorset (1940–1984), responsible for both sculpture and pottery. [9] During World War II, Sir Terence Conran was inspired by him as one of his pupils. Potter continued to undertake commissions during his time as a teacher, including some for the School. For instance, examples of stone carvings undertaken by him in 1991 can be seen at a local church in the village of Durweston.

The porch of Our Lady of Grace and St Teresa of Avila RC Church in Chingford has oak panels depicting animals and fish that Potter carved in 1956. [10] [11]

The Don Potter Art School at Bryanston School, opened during October 1997 in his presence, is named after him.

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  1. Light, Vivienne (2002). Don Potter: an inspiring century (Limited edition (#847 of 1000) ed.). Brook, New Forest, Hampshire: Canterton Books. p. 218p. ISBN   0-9541627-1-4.
  2. Davies, Peter (8 June 2004). "Obituary: Don Potter". The Independent . UK. Retrieved 30 August 2006.
  3. 1 2 MacCarthy, Fiona (8 June 2004). "Obituary: Donald Potter". The Guardian . UK. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  4. Shrimpton, Alan. "Potter, Donald Steele [Don] (1902–2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94212.
  5. Wood, Edward (April 1971). The story of B.-P.'s House. The Scout Association.
  6. "Gill Doors". Radcliffe Science Library . Oxford, UK: Bodleian Library . Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  7. "The Radcliffe Science Library". What's On?. Oxford, UK: Bodleian Library . Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  8. "Radcliffe Science Library: Door". Inside Oxford Libraries. WordPress. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  9. Holdsworth, Angela, ed. (2005). Bryanston reflections. Third Millennium Publishing. pp. 35, 58, 104, 109–111, 114, 147, 184, 199. ISBN   1-903942-38-1.
  10. Rigal, Lawrence. "Exploring East London" . Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  11. "Listed buildings". London Borough of Waltham Forest. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.