Troika was founded in 1963 in Cornwall by sculptor Leslie Illsley, potter Benny Sirota and architect Jan Thompson. The name ‘Troika’ was chosen to reflect the team of three founders; the company’s designs were avant garde, with strong, structural, heavily textured pieces rather than the plain and functional designs of the period. Many of the products were produced from moulds then hand-painted to give an individual feel. Early works were smooth and glazed, but later the company produced mainly textured pieces which became their signature style. Influential stores Heals and Liberty were early stockists; however Troika suffered from the wave of cheap imports that swept into the UK in the 1970s and early 80s, and the company finally closed down in 1983.
The distinctive designs and decoration of Troika pottery are still of interest to collectors, with early pieces from the original St Ives factory (work moved to Newlyn in 1970) commanding a premium. Troika’s 50th anniversary in 2013 sparked the publication of books and several new exhibitions, and interest is particularly strong amongst collectors in the south west. As with any type of pottery, condition is an important factor in determining value for Troika work and the most sought after pieces are those with no damage or chips. Strong colours and designs hold their value best, as do rarer examples such as whiteware and blackware, Celtic crosses, Aztec-style masks, wheel vases and tin mine lampbases.
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