John Reeve was born in Barrie, Ontario in 1929 and graduated from the Vancouver School of Art in 1956. He studied in England under Colin Pearson and Harry Davis in 1957-58, followed by three years' apprenticeship with Bernard Leach whose shop, Leach Pottery, Reeve managed from 1973 to 1974.
His teaching career took him outside of Canada. Reeve was visiting professor of ceramics a the University of Minnesota in 1966, and for the following five years he taught at the West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, England. In Canada he instructed at the Vancouver School of Art as visiting artist. Between 1977 and 1979 he filled the Chairman position in the ceramic department at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Reeve was greatly inspired by the early craftsmen's attitude towards their work. They had no pretence of being artists; their prices derived from the knowledge of having done their work well. Of his own work, Reeve said: "It is not viewed in a purely aesthetic way, like when we go to the Art Gallery on a Thursday evening in order to look at art, but really enters into the ceremonies of people's lives. That's Important." (The Craftsman's Way)