22/10/2014 Ceramics & Glass
Troika was established in 1962 by a group of three enthusiasts and friends - Leslie Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Sirota. Indeed 'Troika' means 'a set of three', derived from the Russian тройка (a carriage drawn by three horses). While they did not have formal pottery training, they knew they wanted to produce something different, something against the grain of what 'art' was in St Ives at that time.
For these founders of Troika, pottery was about art rather than function. It is an art form in and for itself. The functionality of the piece was not at the forefront of their minds, even though this was the trend in artistic spheres of the period in England.
The pottery quickly became very popular and in demand among individuals and corporate ventures (including Libertys in London). Vases, lamp bases, tiles and plaques were made in large numbers and in the rough textured, earthy tones much-admired today.
When it came to the textured pieces, such as the striking selection of lamp bases in The British & Continental Ceramics Auction on Tuesday 4th November, almost all were made in moulds, often in a standard type of mould, though the designers could make modifications and colour combinations as they desired.
In the 1990s and 2000s the interest in Troika resulted in high auction prices and 'retail' prices. Troika is a collectable and admired pottery. Lot 182 in Tuesday's auction (4th November), estimated at £200-300, is a lovely example and epitomises the recognisable shapes (here in double!), as well as the muted, earthy palette and elegance typical of this British icon and giant of pottery.