Director of world-renowned Rye pottery business dies

Tarquin Cole SUS-190514-090829001
Tarquin Cole SUS-190514-090829001

A long-serving director of a famous pottery business has died.

Tarquin Cole, Rye Pottery’s longest-serving post-war, passed away on May 2 after a short illness.

His family said the ceramic designer was at the heart of the firm for almost 60 years.

The son of renowned sculptor and potter Walter Cole MBE, Tarquin first joined his father’s company as sales director in the 1950s.

At the age of 85 Tarquin was still providing design input to the town’s long-established pottery firm, now run by two of his children, until the very end.

As co-director alongside his wife Biddy from 1978, Tarquin played a key role in keeping the family firm’s manufacturing and skills base in Sussex at a time when many British ceramics companies replaced artisans with machines or moved production to countries with cheaper labour costs.

His family said his legacy ensured Rye has maintained its heritage as a centre of pottery manufacturing first established in the medieval period. The tableware on which the pottery had built its reputation was complemented by Tarquin’s idea for a range of unique ceramic figurines and collectables that financially saved the company and have subsequently garnered a worldwide following.

Tarquin also expanded Rye Pottery’s business by setting up a subsidiary, Rye Tiles, in 1974.

Over his career Tarquin won two Design Council Awards and both his ceramic and tile designs are held in permanent collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Among the many customers he attracted to the business were Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and the Beatle’s producer Sir George Martin, as well as commercial contracts including the Ritz, Liberty’s, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Underground, Harrods and Christian Dior.

Tarquin was also heavily involved with art organisations, both nationally and locally. As the South East representative for both the Craft Council and the Arts Council, as well as chairman of Rye Art Gallery Easton Rooms, he championed regional talent helping foster Rye’s reputation for the creative arts.

A former British naval officer who trained at the Royal College of Art, Tarquin is survived by his wife Biddy, daughter Tabby and son Josh.

His memorial service will be held at St Mary’s Rye from 2.30pm on May 24.

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