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Collections in focus for LGBT History Month: Ian Godfrey

Ian Godfrey, ceramicist (1942-1992).
Ian Godfrey, ceramicist (1942-1992).
Ian Godfrey, ceramicist (1942-1992).
Written by
Jacqueline Winston-Silk
Published date
24 February 2020

In celebration of LGBT history month, Curators at the University Archives & Special Collections Centre have been thinking about the objects created by LGBTQ+ artists and practitioners, which can be found within UAL’s collections.

Ceramicist Ian Godfrey (1942-1992) was a student at Camberwell College of Arts from 1957-1962; he first studied painting but soon gravitated towards pottery. UAL holds a selection of Godfrey’s small-scale works, and has recently been given access to a number of surviving artist sketchbooks. The ceramic works are part of the ILEA Collection, you can read more about this collection here.

Made for contemplation rather than use, Godfrey’s ceramics are non-functional and characteristically whimsical. Although rarely marked, his use of perforations, animal motifs and kinetic parts make his work instantly recognisable.

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Ceramic work

Godfrey had a highly individual style and was often inspired by the sculptures he saw in museums. He returned again and again to straight-sided lidded boxes and architectural forms, in which he incorporated working drawers and tiny creatures as adornments.

Although Godfrey’s contribution to ceramics remains largely unrecognised, this is slowly changing. His ceramics are significant because they help to consolidate an increasingly sculptural and progressive approach to clay which emerged in the 1960s (Whitting, 2007). He moved away from wheel-based work in favour of hand-building and the use of a pen knife.


In the mid-1970s Godfrey moved to Denmark where he lived with his partner and continued to work as a potter. Returning to London in the 1980s, he was acknowledged with a major exhibition at Galerie Besson. Sadly, Ian Godfrey passed away prematurely in 1992.

Access to Godfrey’s sketchbooks has shed considerable light on his practice. The sketchbooks elucidate his way of working, his inspiration, his humour and a characteristic interest in animal forms. They reveal museum visits where he made preparatory sketches from museum collections. The pages show elaborate and complex designs for clay, detail his use of glazes, and even record exhibition lists. The sketchbooks also overtly demonstrate his skills as a fine artist – featuring landscapes and intimate portraits in pencil and watercolour.

Ian Godfrey sketchbook, pencil drawing of reclining figure.
Ian Godfrey sketchbook, pencil drawing of reclining figure.

To find out more about Ian Godfrey, contact @ual_archives or email

Copyright of the work remains with the Ian Godfrey estate.