Oliver Watson

Ceramics and Light

Pottery, unlike glass, does not immediately suggest itself as a material suited for the exploitation of light — clay being a dense, opaque substance. Nevertheless, over the centuries potters in the Islamic lands have explored ways of “lightening” their products: by seeking ways to provide a white ground for their decoration, by developing the luster technique which in reflection transforms light, and from an early date by exploring ways of introducing translucency in the fabric itself and by manipulating the surface decoratively.

Oliver Watson has spent most of his career in museums: first at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where he eventually headed the Ceramics Department (1979–2005), and after a brief period as Keeper of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum (2005–8), University of Oxford, he was appointed as Director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha State of Qatar (2008–11). He joined the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford, in 2011 as the inaugural I. M. Pei Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture. He has specialized in the history of Islamic pottery.