Sometimes you need a daydreaming kind of book, something escapist to take you to a romanticized place where the garden never looks weedy and there’s always fresh baked bread on the table. Jasper Conran’s Country is just such a book. Every page has at least one of Andrew Montgomery’s wistful photos of rural England. Just flipping through and looking at these photos is enough to transport you. The text feels like an extra bonus.
There are hollyhocks by cottage doors, cows in the meadows, rushing streams, fishermen’s ancient shacks, glorious roses, shabby chic interiors and a baby lamb in a kitchen. This is not a book about ceramics but you can’t have a book about the English countryside without pottery.
We see a two page spread of an auricula theatre with three dozen lovely English flower pots each planted with a single auricula. Conran writes, “I was intrigued by an auricula threatre. Auriculas were the height of fashion in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when they first began to arrive in Britain from Continental Europe and enthusiasts, often in stately homes, used these tiered ‘theatres’ to display their prized plants to their friends.”
There are flowerpots in the gardens. There are rustic tile floors. I especially liked the large cream and brown slip-trailed oval dish set off by itself on a dark wooden table but wondered at the painting of two shoes on a pillow that hung on the wall behind it. Fine export porcelain from China, blue and white and polychrome, graces the grander rooms.
Four pages are devoted to Tim Hurn the Dorset potter who works in a pretty brick dairy shed that he converted to a studio. Hurn must like the photo in the book of him stacking his anagama because he has it on his homepage. I like it too, and the photo of his unfired bowls and jugs ready for the flame. And I wish my workshop were as pretty as his, with a vegetable patch in front, and fields and hills all around. That is exactly the reason to peruse a book like this, to fantasize and imagine.