Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lids: Examples

Per Wikipeda:

A cover or seal for a container. A lid, also known as a cap, is part of a container, and serves as the cover or seal, usually one that completely closes the object.

Lids have been found on pottery dating back as far as 3100 BC.

There are a variety of lids on clay vessels for a variety of wares. Teapots, cook pots, bowls, cups, boxes and everything in between, can have lids of varying types. Some lids are also made of clay, while others can be made of another material such as wood, fabric, cork, metal, etc. It is whatever covers the mouth of the vessel, sealing it.

One of the best books I refer to is "The Japanese Pottery Book" by Penny Simpson, Lucy Kitto and Kanji Sodeoka, because it has so many wonderful sketches. Two pages it has great examples of lids (cross sections) and then, some drawings of pots that would use lids. I've scanned the images for your own records to see them and inspire you the next time you want to make a lidded container.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pedestal lamps in Saxon-Norman England

Pedestal Lamp
Saxo-Norman AD 850 - 1150

* Common name Early Medieval Oxford ware
* Class Pedestal lamps
* Height left, 56mm right, 145mm
* Identifier PW50
* Production centre a dispersed industry to the north west of Oxford
* Distribution local
* Use for lighting interiors
* Date 11th - 12th century AD
* Published in Jope, Jope & Rigold 1950, Fig 21 nos 3 and 2, 59
* Provenance found in 1894, one near the University church with pottery, skeletons and a Roman coin; the other from properties associated with wealthy merchants.

I'm always looking through websites for new things to make. I came across this "new" simple project off the Ashmolean Museum site. I find it interesting since it looks like a bowl or even an early version of the English beakers that came out much later. The more you look at pottery and really analyze the various forms, to more you can see similarities throughout the centuries. Sometimes you can see the influences between cultures as well (if there was trade between them, that is).

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pot: Butter pot

Definition: A large, cylindrical or slightly bulbous vessel, taller than it is wide, used to store dairy products.

Definition per the Historic Ceramics Glossary online

Its use, to store butter. As far as I've read, butter filled most of the pot then covered with salted water. Probably a cloth was draped across it to keep out bugs, etc (but this is a guess on my part). These pots were taken to market, dairies and so forth, filled and emptied a lot.

There are more modern "butter bells" and "french bells" made in the 19th century and those are sold in gourmet shops, however, there aren't any period references that I have seen yet that show a pot with a lid.

I like this Butter site since it has a lot of various information, but not all of it is 100% accurate. I do like some of the stories on there however. It's fun at least.

pot; butter pot Production date: 1580-1700 Measurements: H 155 mm; D 110 mm
Museum of London collection

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Documentation: 12th-13th Century Iranian Beaker

The Original Piece from “Ceramics from Islamic Lands” by Oliver Watson.

Throughout history, ceramics have been an important part of people’s lives. Clay was used to line water baskets to stop them from leaking, helping women carry water from riverbank to hut. Fired clay was used to serve and cook dinner in, to build homes with, and as jewelry decoration. All cultures and all walks of life used clay, whether it was weapons to protect their homes, the tiles they walked over or even the cups they drank from. Its been used before our time period and still, to this day; we still use this very functional art form.

Clay is a soft, sedimentary from rock (igneous) that had been eroded into a mud-like consistency by nature (weather, wind, rain, etc). Fire solidifies the chemicals of the clay, melding them into one package. Once fired, you’ve basically created your own rock. There are three types of clay bodies: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.

Most potters during our years of study used manual potters wheels to create their wares after digging their own clay from the ground. These wheels varied from “slave” wheels (meaning another potter would help them rotate the wheel) to various types of kick wheels. Clay was found from clay deposits locally to the artisans, developed by hand into a workable material by adding various natural materials to the clay (like sand or ground up bisque). The heavy processing of clay made the clay able to withstand the fiery temperatures of the kilns as well as controlling shrinking and plasticity.

The wheel head placed firmly on a spinning cross section with a flywheel at its base that was kicked in order to make it rotate, creating motion of the actual wheel head. Depending on how fast or how slow the wheel spun, it would vary the effects, textures and size of the piece being made.

Stoneware is fired in a kiln at lower temperatures because of the clay’s melting points. In period, Stoneware was the main clay that was available and the potter’s technology; they only knew how to fire to certain temperatures. Pieces are fired before they fully vitrify (meld together) to allow the clay’s natural pores to stay open. With the addition of sand, this helps the clay body withstand the thermal shock of being put above hot coals (the pores allow it to expand and contract depending on the temperatures being applied to it). Without this, a pot can act like a drinking glass when boiling hot water is poured in and crack. In Period, lead glaze was used.

In our century, I used an electric wheel and an electric kiln. I also bought my clay, instead of digging and processing it myself.

As pictured, this Beaker in Period is:

· A Frit body
· Decoration carved through black slip
· Under a Turquoise Glaze
· Iran
· Found in Syria
· 12-13th Century
· Found in “Ceramics from Islamic Lands” by Oliver Watson page 336

What I did:

· A Stoneware clay body
· Decoration carved through black slip
· Under a Turquoise Glaze
· Simplified decoration and resized for more modern use

A “slip” is thinned potter's clay (usually thinned with water and deflocculants) used for decorating or coating ceramics. Also referred to as an engobe.

A Frit body has a lot of alkali-lime-lead-silica within it, giving it a very glass-like appearance. Frit is a melter in modern times for glass, metal and clay. I used stoneware instead because the stoneware I use is very durable. All the glazes and engobes/slips were tested and used in Period manner, applied and used in a Period way. Only, everything is very food safe.


“Ceramics from Islamic Lands” by Oliver Watson. Thamas & Hudson Inc. 2004. New York.
“The Craft and Art of Clay” by Susan Peterson, Pretence Hall Publishing. 1995. New York.
“Pottery Decoration” by Thomas Shafer, Watson-Guptill Publications Inc. 1976. New York.
"The three books of the potter's art" by Cipriano Piccolpasso. Victoria and Albert Museum. 1934. New York.
“World Ceramics” by Robert Charleston. Hamlyn Publishing Group. 1971. England.
Wikipedia under Clay and Ceramics

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Ceramics and techniques

I've had a number of people come to me recently in regards to seeing some of my documentation. Since I also have a number of students as well who haven't seen a lot of my older work, I figured that my blog needs a jump start anyhow. I will start posting my documentation as well as project notes.

Some of these projects might look familiar, however, I certainly hope the notes aren't boring. I think it's probably a good idea to post these to at least share. I'm quite sure my take on how to do things is different than how other potters do them. To me, everyone has their own point of view and style. As long as there is a final product (and no one gets hurt, both the person and anyone else's pot) to me is key.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep this up. If anyone ever wants to ask me a question, feel free to email me. I usually try to respond fairly quickly.

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