UCA remembers former
Crafts Study Centre Director

UCA is saddened to announce the passing of its former Crafts Study Centre director, Professor Simon Olding.

22 Nov 2022

Simon, who only retired last month, had been Director of the Crafts Study Centre (CSC) for 20 years.

He was a primary lead in UCA’s crafts research community, overseeing the acquisition of some very significant objects and archives and curating many internal and external exhibitions, most notably Things of Beauty Growing at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Yale Center for British Art, USA. This ground-breaking presentation of British studio ceramics opened the subject to new audiences and received rave reviews.

Simon recently edited the publication Bernard Leach: Discovered Archives, contributing chapters on the meanings of Leach’s personal collection of ceramics and the CSC’s recently acquired archive containing drawings, etchings and paintings donated by Leach to his friend Alan Bell, previously unseen in public.

As well as his research, Simon taught BA and MA students and supervised many PhD students, passing on his skill and learning to the next generation of craft researchers.

He began his professional career doing voluntary work in the Exeter Museum, where he researched modern craft and ceramics before heading to Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge for his undergraduate degree in English literature and on to the University of Edinburgh for his PhD. Since then, he spent his career either working directly with art museums or associated organisations — he was Director of Policy and Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund, and, before that, Head of Arts and Museums at Bournemouth Borough Council, before joining the CSC in 2002. 

Having been ill since early Summer, Simon was able to make a final visit to the CSC earlier this month when colleagues presented him with gifts, a memory book and messages from the many people who had contributed to a fund to support Coombe Bisset Down nature reserve in Wiltshire. This was a place Simon loved and the fund recognises his years of service to UCA and the crafts community.