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Edgar Skinner

(1850-1925) – Allotment organiser

Edgar Skinner, bank manager turned artist, retired to St Ives in 1910 with his wife Edith. In 1917 he organised the artists’ allotments as part of the war effort. The Skinners famously orchestrated Bernard Leach’s first introduction to St Ives where he went on to found the Leach Pottery in 1920.

Credit: Leach Pottery, St Ives; Edgar, his wife and maid, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand

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Edgar Skinner, bank manager turned watercolour artist, retired to St Ives with his wife Edith in 1910, joining St Ives Arts Club and working from a studio in his home at Salubrious House.  During the First World War he was recruited as Borough Accountant and took charge of organising the artists’ allotments in 1917 as part of the war effort.

The Skinners had numerous cultural connections and friendships with artists including New Zealand born Frances Hodgkins, whose celebrated oil painting The Edwardians was painted during a visit to St Ives in 1918 and features Edgar and Edith Skinner with their maid.

Famously it was Edgar and Edith Skinner who orchestrated Bernard Leach’s first ‘chance or fate’ introduction to St Ives resulting in the founding of the Leach Pottery.  Knowing that their friend, Frances Horne, was keen to attract a potter to join the St Ives Guild of Handicrafts, the Skinners recommended Leach who had already established a reputation for himself as a potter and artist in Japan.  In 1920 Leach arrived with his young family and his Japanese colleague, Shoji Hamada, and work began to build a pottery on a strip of land acquired with a small allowance from Mrs Horne.  Skinner’s financial skills were much needed and he became the Pottery’s secretary in 1922. It was on his suggestion that Leach started the practice of recruiting paying students to provide free labour and to subsidise the business through its financial difficulties.  When Skinner died in 1925 Leach commemorated him with a tile panel installed on his grave at Barnoon bearing the words ‘He went through life with outstretched hand of help’.

Credit: Leach Pottery, St Ives and 'The Edwardians' by Frances Hodgkins, uckland Art Gallery, New Zealand