James Hart trained at the Bath Academy of Arts in Corsham and by the early 60’s was teaching art and ceramics at Beyton Modern School in Suffolk. Sometime in 1964 a colleague took in a model house made in the 1920’s by ‘Goss’ and challenged Mr. Hart that he couldn’t make one like it. He made a model, then a mould, and made 50 of them. They were well received and most of them were bought by fellow teachers.
By 1965 Mr. Hart was living in a cottage called “Mudlen End” when he gave up teaching and became a full time potter, ( By this time he had 3 children so this would have been a giant leap of faith, and a very big decision to make.) Although he did run art evening classes in Bury St. Edmunds and at Beyton School.
He put the remaining of the 50 houses that he had made in his showroom, ( the caravan shown below), and these were eagerly bought by a group of American visitors. More visitors arrived asking if he had any more and that prompted Mr. Hart to begin to produce some along with his other work. It seemed, as is quoted “As good a reason as any to make them.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
This is a photo of James Hart in his workshop at Mudlen End early -mid 70’s. It is a little cramped, to say the least. The plaster moulds are layed out to dry and cottages are in boxes. There were 3 operating kilns in this little shed ! The soldering iron hanging on the side of the kiln was part of his ‘kiln switching on ‘ device.(I shall explain later).
There is a sheep model on the shelving at the back(with a black head) and on the extreme right of the picture , a church.
The workshop was so small this shot could only have been taken by the photographer leaning through the window from the outside !
In the early days Mr.Hart used to sell his wares from a fairground caravan which was sited by the road to attract attention.He made mugs and bowls as well as Shire Horses,pew groups and candleholders,and of course cottages.
Shire Horses became a staple of Mr.Harts early work and he produced them in many styles but all in the same standing stance.
On the 27th of December,1967 Mr.Hart appeared on the popular BBC children’s show ‘Vision On’. The theme of that show was animals and Mr.Hart was shown modeling a shire horse.
The model below was auctioned on-line and looks to be a very early piece.