Troika was set up in Cornwall in February 1963 and sadly ceased in 1983.
Benny Sirota and Jan Thomspon along with Leslie illsley each put up £1,000 to lease the Wells Pottery at Wheal Dream in St Ives, Cornwall, they were given three months for the company to succeed.
Originally being a Russian word 'Troika' referred to a carriage drawn by three horses, with three partners and just the sound of the word 'Troika' which they felt sounded like a sharp, angular ceramic which they were planning to produce. Which was in contrast to the current trend (at the time) of soft, functional shapes that was all the rage in the UK.
Surprisingly of the three ,only Benny Sirota had previous experience of working in a pottery. Leslie illsley worked as a sculptor. Jan Thomspon was only a sleeping partner and withdrew two years later in 1965.
It was Leslie illsley's White pieces that showed his background as a sculpture,
and these Early White pieces are very sort over and fetch high prices.
Within a year of starting up, pots from Troika were on sale in two London Departmental stores, namely Liberty and Heal's, by 1968 their items were displayed in some top exhibitions in London and New York.
In September 1970 after the local council terminated their lease of the Wheal Dream pottery, Troika Pottery moved to Fradgan Place, Newlyn. Benny Sirota stayed in St Ives to run the shop and only made the occassional visit to the new pottery. Wheal Dream Pottery is now the site of The St Ives Museum
1976 saw the demand dropping for Troika ceramics and the decline of the company began, 1978 Heal's stopped selling craft pottery, along with the recession and the government increasing VAT in 1979 all went to help Troika as a company struggle.
The two remaining founders Benny Sirota and Leslie illsley dissolved their partnership in 1980, Benny kept the shop while Leslie had the pottery.
1983 saw the bank call in the loans and Illsley even had to sell his home. Troika was finally closed in December 1983 by Illsley, the assets being virtually worthless.
Leslie Illsley was diagnosed with cancer and died on 20th March 1989.
Benny Sirota owns an art supply store somewhere in the West Country.
In the 1990s, there was apparently an effort to restart the pottery, headed by Roland Bence, a former decorator. However, the rights to the name are owned by Illsley's widow, Judith, who declined the offer.