Collecting Articles and Features

Troika Pottery – History, Designers and Troika Price Guide

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Troika Pottery has become one of the most collected forms of modern British pottery with it’s distinctive colours, incised and geometric designs it has attracted many collectors. Early works from two of the company’s founders Leslie Illsley,  and Benny Sirota are especially collectable with prices for rarer items reaching well into four figures. The third member of Troika was sleeping partner Jan Thompson. Troika Pottery was founded in 1962 and produced pottery until 1983 and was named by the three founders from the Russian тройка, meaning “a set of three”, or triumvirate.

Shirley Wharf for Troika textured cube vase
Shirley Wharf for Troika textured cube vase showing all four incised and geometric sides.

They took over the Powell and Wells Pottery at Wheal Dream, St Ives, Cornwall, where Sirota had previously worked as a decorator and driver. The group wanted to pursue their vision of pottery as art, without regard to function which ran counter to the aims of much of the studio pottery movement at the time, as epitomised by the work of Bernard Leach (see Bernard Leach the Father of British studio pottery). Illsley and Sirota wanted to create distinctive, individualistic wares and they were not afraid to experiment with unconventional production ideas, methods and materials including emulsion paint and melted broken glass.

Fantastic designs began to be produced including Cycladic masks with Aztec-style decoration and the heavily textured monolithic wares that were to become a trademark, the pottery pillar vase, plaques with raised geometric patterns and geometric lamp bases.

troika mask
A classic Troika Mask

The Troika venture rapidly became successful, gaining both critical praise and very high sales through a combination of the summer tourist trade and contracts in 1968 with Heals and Liberty in London. The pottery moved from Wheel Dream for larger premises in Fradgan Place, Newlyn in 1970. In the mid 1970s sales began to go down as trends changed, Benny Sirota left in 1980, and with declining sales, the business closed in 1983.

Newlyn Troika
Newlyn Troika including Wheel Vase and Wheel Vase lamp base

Troika at Auction
Troika Pottery on ebay

Troika Designers and Marks

Troika Pottery marks were handwritten.
Some designers have the same initials such as Avril Bennett and Alison Brigden.
Selected examples below.


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