Born in Hong Kong where he remained until the age of 10, Leach began his artistic training studying drawing at the Slade in London. In 1909 he travelled to Japan to work as an etcher, however an invite to a Raku party in 1911 introduced him to the art of ceramics craft, and he was inspired to pursue a career as a potter. Leach became a pupil to Kenzan VI, who eventually named Leach and a fellow pupil, Tomimoto Kenkichi, as successors to the name Kenzan.
His involvement with the Japanese Mingei movement, alongside Tomimoto, Yanagi Soetsu and Hamada Shoji, was a central influence to Leach and his work where he was fundamentally concerned with introducing the Japanese ideals regarding ceramics to the West and assimilating these with British ceramics tradition.
In 1920 Leach returned to England with Hamada where they established the Leach Pottery at St Ives and built the first oriental climbing kiln in Europe. Leach returned to Japan many times where his work achieved much greater critical success than he enjoyed in England during the 1920s and 1930s, however in the post war period his pots together with his teachings of pottery and his writings established the influence of his philosophy that has been so enduring. Leach’s drawings, paintings, ceramics and writings appear in public collections worldwide.