DATE: June 22 2018 – May 12 2019

TIME: Usual Art Gallery Opening Times

LOCATION: York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York, YO1 7EW



The hand-made buttons that inspired generations of fashion designers and photographers will go on show in a major new exhibition, Lucie Rie: Ceramics and Buttons, at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) at York Art Gallery from June 22.

Dame Lucie Rie (1902-1995) is world renowned for her finely thrown and beautifully decorated Modernist ceramics, but it was her ceramic buttons that caught the attention of the fashion industry after the Second World War.

Following the war, only plain buttons were being manufactured. Spotting a gap in the market, Rie began producing beautiful bespoke ceramic buttons in all shapes, sizes and designs, gaining small batch commissions for couture fashion and large orders from department stores including Liberty and Harrods. At the height of her business, Rie and her team, which included Hans Coper, were producing 6000 buttons a months in her workshop which was nicknamed ‘The Button Factory’.

By 1955 Rie had mainly switched button production for tableware, however, it was a meeting with Japanese designer Issey Miyake that saw their re-emergence in 1984.

Miyake was a great fan of Rie and her buttons, saying, ‘her spirit as an artist is surely revealed in these buttons- they are an art form’. She gifted him with a large collection of her unused buttons, which took centre stage for his Autumn/Winter collection of 1989/90, making coats with big soft collars on which the buttons were the centrepiece.

He also organised an exhibition “Issey Miyake Meets Lucie Rie” in Tokyo and Osaka in the same year; a testament to their working and personal friendship.

Nearly 30 years later and Rie’s work is still inspiring designers today. Jonathan Anderson, creative director of Loewe, was quoted in Vogue as saying: “I think I am obsessed with Lucie Rie. I love the way she collaborated with Miyake, who for me is probably the most important fashion designer of the 20th century.” And describes how two of his projects were directly inspired by Lucie Rie’s pieces.

For the full article in Vogue visit:

Following her death in 1995, Dame Lucie Rie left her button moulds and collection of buttons to Issey Miyake.

The 550 buttons featured in the exhibition are from the collection of Anthony Shaw, which is on loan to the Centre of Ceramic Art. A couturier himself, Anthony was a friend of Lucie’s and made her outfits and curtains for her flat. Lucie would often repay him with gifts of her unused buttons to use in his work. The buttons are shown on some of the luxurious silk fabric collected and used by Anthony in his couture practice in London. Alison Welsh, a fashion designer who is also Head of Fashion at Manchester Metropolitan University, has helped display the buttons and fabric and has made two outfits for display in the exhibition, which feature buttons from Anthony’s collection and are inspired by Lucie’s utilitarian, Modernist style of dressing.

Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics, at York Museums Trust, said: “Lucie Rie is rightly regarded as one of the most influential potters to have practiced in Britain. Her simple Modernist style was in sharp contrast to the sentimental idea of pottery being a rural craft in England during the 50s and 60s. Today her influence shows no signs of diminishing and her studio ceramics are highly sought after by collectors all over the world…”

The exhibition will be shown in CoCA One and is included in the admission price to York Art Gallery.