A Celebration of Pan Henry

Pan Henry shop manager, 1970

Tributes to Pan Henry (1919 - 2014)

Pan Henry was a central figure during the first years of the Craft Potters Association (CPA) and the CPA shop, which she ran for thirteen years from 1960.  Pan was involved from the very beginning after her brother Mick Casson put her name forward to be manager. The original shop was in Lowndes Court, just off Carnaby Street.  From first visiting in 1959 it took a year of enthusiasm and hard work, from Pan and the potters, to build the shell into the shop and in May 1960 the Craftsmen Potters' Shop opened with an exhibition of stoneware by Ray Finch. In 1968 the shop changed location and moved to the much larger premises at 7 Marshall Street.
During her thirteen years as manager of the Craftsmen Potters’ Shop Pan was instrumental in supporting and influencing the careers of many of today's well known makers.  Pan's enthusiasm and commitment to the shop and the potters is remembered through the many tributes featured here.
Pan Henry and David Canter in the Craftsmen Potters Shop, 3 Lowndes Court
'Pan Henry - what a lovely and delightful person in all respects. Sincerely loved by all the many potters both young and old, who she represented in the early years of the CPA. I think it was 1959 when I first met her, many moons ago.

Pan was always ready with a smile and a welcome whenever we arrived with our tentative new work, welcomed us with open arms, full of praise, flattered us, boosted  our confidence, sent us on our ways with a smile and thoughts of new ideas. What a delightful lady, sadly missed.
David Eeles.

I knew Pan for at least 55 years, there was nobody quite like Pan. She was so warm,  vivacious, enthusiastic and encouraging and always pleased to see you, and she gave everyone such a great welcome when visiting the shop.

All potters and members of the CPA were extremely lucky to have had her involvement in the early years. Many of us feel that to a large extent we owe the success of the shop in those early days to Pan's charm, energy, enthusiasm and organisational skills front of house. 

My family and I remember her fondly.  God Bless you Pan, Johnny Leach

I met Pan when I first delivered work to the CPA in Marshall Street. Being Mick Casson’s sister and sharing his love of pottery, always made it good to meet her. She was full of enthusiasm about the pots in the Gallery and was always keen to show me the latest arrival of work from other potters.

Eventually Pan opened the lovely Casson Gallery and it soon acquired a real kudos on the London Gallery scene. It was always a warm, friendly occasion delivering new work to Pan at the Casson.

John Pollex

I remember her with great affection. In the early ‘70s she always greeted me with a smile when I delivered a new work to the CPA, which she organised so well. I met her at Hatfield in Art in Clay again this year, with the same smile, even after 40 years had passed.

Thank you Pan, for all the help you gave us all over the years. Yours, Robin 

(Robin Welch)

I met Pan at the very beginning of my career at the Casson Gallery, where she stocked my work. She was always positive, helpful and cheerful and ready to offer advice.

Twice, when I thought I would have to give up and get a proper job, I rang her and asked if she needed more work. She said no, but sensing my disappointment she probed me for my reasons for ringing. When she heard I was at a cliff edge she said "of course I will buy some work" and bought just enough to see me through. I will never forget this kindness. It genuinely saved me from giving up.

She was one of the true trailblazers for the ceramic world we enjoy today and many of us owe her a great debt of gratitude. We will miss her.
Peter Beard

Outside Lowndes Court during a Ray Finch stoneware exhibition, 1960                                                                                     l-r Anita Hoy, Ray Finch, Eileen Lewenstein, Pan Henry

In 1965 I had just started collecting work for the shop I was due to open in Stratford and to say that I was ignorant, when I first walked into the CPA Shop in Lowndes Court, would be putting it mildly, but I was warmly greeted by Pan and I shall always be in her debt.

I had not made an appointment, but Pan was quite prepared to share her experience with me, a complete stranger, to ‘introduce me’ to the potters on her shelves,give me names and addresses and advise me on which books to read.

Pan was glamorous and had enough energy for ten, was obviously very efficient, at the same time being both generous and kind. A year or two after I had opened my shop, she opened the Casson Gallery and it wasn’t until she finally retired that our meetings came to an end.

Pan was fun to be with, was always encouraging and gave sound advice - I never knew how to offer her an adequate ‘thank you’. She was special,
Peter Dingley, Director of the Peter Dingley Gallery, Stratford-upon-Avon

Pan Henry holding an admired stoneware pot (photo - CPA Archive)

I joined the CPA in the 1960s and that was when I met Pan and she was extremely helpful and supportive to a newcomer. Pan’s energy, efficiency and elegance were a huge asset to the Association.

Until recently it was always the highlight of the weekend to see Pan at Art in Clay at Hatfield each year. She seemed so happy to meet up with potters she had known and, of course, talk about her much-loved brother Mick. She was always so smartly turned out, vivacious and determined to defy her age.

She will be greatly missed.
Mary Rich

I worked part time for Pan Henry in the early sixties, in the spanking new gallery/shop which became the headquarters of The Craftsman Potters Association in Marshall Street Soho.

Pan was the doyenne of the CPA, the Queen Bee of studio pottery. She knew her members and their work inside out, and sold each pot with love and enthusiasm.

Those early days of the Association ,were, for an aspiring potter like me, exciting and inspirational, and Pan played a great part in that formation.

Her life revolved around ceramics and family. Her brother, Mick Casson, brought her closer to the practice of making pots, and to the life of a working potter. She loved it all.

I met her again much later, when she was in her eighties, and had retired from running her own successful 'Casson' gallery in Marylebone. She was unchanged, forever youthful, we talked about pots, and then she began enthusing about golf! Ever positive, always full of life.

Pan was a life force ,and is remembered for being a brilliant and vital ambassador for the emerging studio pottery movement. Happily today, the Association is in good hands,not least in thanks to Pans legacy of commitment and energy.

Janice Tchalenko
Pan  playing chess (Photo - CPA Archive)

I was a young Art teacher and a relatively inexperienced potter when I became a Member of the CPA and met Pan, at Lowndes Court in 1961. I came to appreciate her helpful advice during my first London exhibition held there in 1962. It was Pan who set the tone for the gallery. 

Pan is remembered with considerable affection and I had enormous respect for her sensitive understanding and generous encouragement. Pan's recognition of the best in contemporary ceramics was soundly based. She had a sharp, well-tuned eye for quality work with a genuine enthusiasm to present it properly. Her influence contributed much to the successful growth of the CPA. 

Peter Lane   

The re-opening of the shop, 1997.  From Left:Harry Horlock Stringer, Liz Gale, David Leach, Gaynor Linsey, Jack Doherty, Mick Casson, Ray Finch, Pan Casson, Eileen Lewenstein, Jo Bergman, Marta Donaghey, Claire Dixon, Sheila Casson, David Whiting, Ann Townsend.
My friendship with Pan Henry reaches back to a distant past: to Hornsey School of Art in the late nineteen-forties.

We first met when brother, Michael Casson, a fellow student, invited her to various social gatherings, usually instigated by Michael and Ted Dicks, then a painting student but, subsequently, to receive recognition as a composer of popular songs.  It was a memorable time. Brother and elder sister were close and Pan became drawn into the contemporary art world and attendant to the pleasures and anguish of artistic endeavour.  She greatly admired her brother both for his pots and the principles underlying their production.  An influence that remained lifelong, bringing clarity to her aesthetic judgement and a belief in the inestimable value of the small, interactive creative workshop to the cultural well-being of our highly industrialised society.  Above all she treasured the friendship of the individual potters whose work she encouraged, through her early days at an emergent CPA and later the Casson Gallery, where the exhibited work demonstrated an extended vocabulary of expression yet respect for the individual maker remained paramount.

A passionate saleswoman Pan did not allow commercial success to undermine the ethical standards she set herself; no work was to be pre-sold prior to a private view.  Even avid collectors were expected to be patient until the official opening.  Altogether a sense of openness, of integrity, prevailed.

Pan Henry deserved the esteem she enjoyed during a productive life.

Victor Margrie,Director of the Crafts Council 1971-1984
17 December 2014

Pan Henry posing in the first CPA shop in Lowndes Court (photo. CPA Archive)

What good memories I have of such a dear friend.

40 or more years ago, Pan asked me to show my work in her gallery, she helped  and advised me on what to make, she had such a good eye and knowledge of ceramics , and was always available to support and encourage young and very green makers, myself included.

Always glamorous , her make up and clothes impeccable and stylish . And oh such a flirt!
She told me once that she thought of me every morning!! With a huge wink informed me she used my bowl for her cereal.

Most of all a generous spirit within the graceful and elegant body of a professional dancer. Even in her nineties she was so glamorous and full of grace and charm, she made a walking stick look like a fashion accessory . They broke the mould with Pan, she left this world, leaving it a much richer place, especially, the ceramic world.

Rest in peace Pan, 
Your old friend Ian (Gregory)

I couldn't let this moment go by - without recording just how supportive Pan was to a struggling potter up from the depths of rural North Devon in the late 70's.  

I had a box of pots under my arm and a desperate need to pay the bills and feed my family etc.  She was a great help with many wise words of advice. I had just finished at Harrow  ('73 - '75) and to say the least knew 'nothing' about selling.  

To Mick and to Pan I owe the fact that I kept on going and am still doing it 39 years later.  
Thank you Pan  x kind regards  Roger Cockram (Fellow CPA)

When the first CPA shop opened in Lowndes Court it was Pan Henry who would greet you as you entered. Long blonde hair, crisply dressed and made up, she was glam but not intimidating, she was warm welcoming, ready to inform or advise without a hint of hard sell, just enthusing infectiously  about new pots and their makers.

In conversation Pan was confidential, she would seem to glance for eavesdroppers as she spoke, however prosaic the topic. You would feel part of her inner circle, even if you were visiting the shop for the first time. This had a magnetic effect on customers, each one feeling singled out; like her little brother Mick Casson, Pan was fascinated by people, curious about their lives and enthusiasms.

For all her warmth and accessibility she was not uncritical, indeed she could be perceptive and direct. I remember (shortly after she left the Craftsman Potters Shop in the mid 70's and set up her own first gallery nearby in Soho) having a conversation about the work I had just delivered. She said that it was perfectly good functional pottery, but (with an air of disappointment) that she had always thought I was someone who would do something significant. I was shocked, I knew I had been coasting, doing what came easily just to make a living. Quite a jolt - and quite effective!

The Soho gallery was short lived, it was too small and inconspicuous. Her great triumph was the Casson Gallery in the Marylebone Road, using her family name which at the time had become a touchstone to all in the studio pottery world through Mick's high profile. It was a spectacular success, exhibiting the best of British Studio pottery, and drawing a discerning international clientele. Here Pan was truly in her element; in the heart of London, serving the potters she had seen mature and develop, and spotting new talent at a time when pottery was on a roll. She cared for her customers too, cultivating the great and the good, supporting those who were at that time building significant private collections and nurturing the newly smitten who were attracted to Casson Gallery's friendly enthusiasm and the high quality of its stock.

I seem to remember that it was after the death of her husband Paul that Pan closed the gallery. Although this spelt the end of her business life, her passion for pottery never faded. Devoted to her brother Mick, she never missed a private view, and was regularly present at events at Mick and Sheila Casson's pottery at Wobage Farm in Herefordshire. After her dear brother's death she would still be there, as vivacious in her nineties as ever, as conspiratorial and political too.

Not only was Pan Henry a vivid and exotic  presence in the pottery world (with stories of chatting with Fats Waller when she worked in a night club in her youth) she was a charismatic  promoter of studio pottery, widening its audience, raising its profile and helping to substantiate its significance in our artistic culture. 

Walter Keeler
The first manager with the current manager, Pan Henry and Marta Donaghey at Through 50 in 2012.  Celebrating 50 years of the CPA at the opening of the CPA shop's move to 63 Great Russell Street. 

Thank you to Stephen Brayne (Executive Secretary of the CPA from 1975-1983) who brought together all these wonderful tributes.


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