Reginald Fairfax Wells
Active: 1899 - 1933
Country of birth: Brazil
Country of death: Great Britain
Sculptor, studio potter, aircraft manufacturer, architect
British subject born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He studied sculpture at the South Kensington School of Art (Royal College of Art) in the 1890s and studio pottery at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. Around 1900 Wells moved to Wrotham in Kent, where there had been potteries since the seventeenth century. At the age of twenty-three he set up his own art pottery at nearby Coldrum. Around 1909 he moved Coldrum Pottery to Chelsea, and continued there until the outbreak of the First World War.
Wells is considered one of the first true studio potters working on an entirely independent basis. His interests lay in English slipwares and Chinese stonewares anticipating the concerns of later studio potters, such as Bernard Leach and William Staite Murray. During the First World War Wells set up the Wells Aviation Company. After the war he moved to the Kings Road, renaming the company the London Pottery Company, and changing the mark from COLDRUM to SOON. In 1925 he moved to Storrington in Sussex, retaining the SOON ware brand, and continued there until his death in 1951. There are many examples of his pottery in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
During the 1920s and 1930s he turned his hand to architecture, developing up to two hundred 'Wells cottages' in the Kent and Sussex area which are distinctive in their use of local materials and building techniques. Archival material relating to Wells is located at Storrington Museum, The Old School, School Lane, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4LL. [See http://www.storringtonmuseum.org/artifacts.html accessed 26 January 2010] There was a special exhibition of his work entitled 'Reginald Fairfax Wells: sculptor, potter, designer: an exhibition' at Luton Museum and Art Gallery, 1998.
Dates are usually the year a work was exhibited so may differ from date of production.
New entries have been made each time a work was exhibited. Click here for more information.
Exhibitions, Meetings, Awards and other Events
Exhibited at Fourth Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1904
'Man and Child'
Exhibited at Fifth Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1905
Exhibited at Sixth Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1906
'Peasant Woman and Child'
Exhibited at Seventh Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1907
Exhibited at Ninth Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1909
Exhibited at Eleventh Annual Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1911
Exhibited at Tenth Annual Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1910
Exhibited at Twelfth Annual Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (London), 1912
'Case of Pottery'
Exhibited at The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts (Summer Exhibition), 1768-
1899 (Circa) - 1933
Exhibited 8 times, usually one work each year (except 1909 when showed 3 pieces).
Exhibited at The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibition, 1826-
Exhibited at the annual exhibition 1 time: 1912 (3 works)
Institutional and Business Connections
Invited to join Royal Society of British Sculptors
2 March 1905 - 3 April 1905
Amongst the suggested second wave of those invited to join 'without further nomination' [2 March 1905, Royal Society of British Sculptors, Minutes of Council Meetings, Vol.I]: but name removed from list following further discussion at next meeting [3 April 1905, Royal Society of British Sculptors, Minutes of Council Meetings, Vol.I]
Member of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers
1908 - 1925
Descriptions of Practice
Occupation given in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911
'Sculptor, Bronze Founder, Art Pottery Manufacturer' and 'Teacher of Bronze Foundry' an employer not working from home [N.B. The layout of the page and quantity of information means the details of what he was teaching are ambiguous. He may have been teaching art pottery as well as bronze foundry work.]
Catalogue of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters & Gravers' Exhibition, Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, 1905
Cat. Nos. 326, 328, 343, pp. 47, 49, 61
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911
RG14PN402 RG78PN13 RD4 SD2 ED6 SN241
Royal Society of British Sculptors. Minutes of Council Meetings No. 1, 1905-1913
19 May 1913
2 March 1905; 3 April 1905.
The crafts in Britain in the 20th century
several references, see especially p. 31 and p. 467 note 10
The Times Digital Archive 1785-1985
The Times, Jul 18, 1951; pg. 8; Issue 52056; col D Mr. R. F. Wells Category: Obituaries Full Text: Copyright 1951, The Times (accessed 28 January 2010)
V&A Search the collections
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/name/wells-reginald/5426/ (accessed 6 September 2010)
Citing this record
'Reginald Fairfax Wells', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib2_1203552906, accessed 10 Oct 2015]