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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Donald Potter (1902–2004)

Sculptor, born at Newington, Kent. In c.1915, his family moved to Chingford, Essex. Here he joined the local scout troop and in 1919 obtained employment as a trainer at Gilwell Park, Essex, the international centre for training scoutmasters. Baden-Powell noticed Potter’s self-taught woodcarving skills and persuaded him to carve, among other things, the totem poles for the 1929 world jamboree. Potter left Gilwell in 1930 and, wanting to learn stone carving, approached Eric Gill. Gill took Potter on as an assistant and after six months accepted him as a collaborator, allocating to him many of his wood carving commissions. Potter’s experiences with Gill at Piggotts are contained in My Time with Eric Gill (1980). Potter left Piggotts in 1937 and by 1940 was art master and artist-in-residence at Bryanston School, Dorset. An inspirational teacher, his pupils included several leading designers, potters, sculptors, painters and architects of the next generation. Potter retired from teaching in 1984 and in 1997 the Don Potter Art School was inaugurated at Bryanston. In 2002, a centenary retrospective exhibition of his work was held at Dorset County Museum and on 7 June 2004, he died, aged 102. Potter’s works include a granite statue of Lord Baden-Powell, 1960, formerly outside Baden-Powell House, Queen’s Gate, Kensington, since 2021, Gilwell Park; and several commissions from the architect Richard Twentyman for sculptures at St. Martin’s, Parkfields, Wolverhampton, All Saints, Darlaston, Staffordshire, and Bushbury Crematorium, Wolverhampton. Potter also executed the Brownsea Island commemorative stone (marking the site of Baden-Powell’s first scout camp in 1907); a crucifix in walnut for the Rutland Chantry, St George’s Chapel, Windsor; and a 22-ft high Tree of Life for the grounds of Bryanston School.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 484–86; F. MacCarthy, 8 June 2004 (obit.), The Guardian; A. Shrimpton, ‘Potter, Donald Steele [Don] (1902–2004)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2009.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022

Potter, Donald

Donald Potter at the opening of the Don Potter Art School, Bryanston School, Dorset, October 1997 (photo: Jpbowen, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)