Born in 1926 in Hove in Sussex, Ian Auld was part of the post-war generation of studio ceramists that came to prominence in the 1960s. Originally Auld had been a painter and print maker, studying at Brighton College of Art and then later at the Slade School of Fine Art. He first encountered ceramics in 1951 by meeting William Newland on a teacher training course.
In 1954 Auld travelled around the Middle East. He went to Bagdad, Iraq, where he set up a kiln and pottery department in an Art school there. He also travelled extensively around Africa, in the 1970s becoming a research fellow in the department of African studies at Ife University, Nigeria. This time had a profound influence over his work, as well as the work of his partner and fellow ceramist Gillian Lowndes.
When he returned to England in 1974 Auld became head of ceramics at Camberwell School of Art, where he worked alongside Hans Coper, and taught students such as Jim Malone, Julian Stair and Sara Radstone.