Wednesday 14 January 2009

Conversations With Pots

When I handle an ancient pot it’s a little like shaking hands with the original potter; a handshake across thousands of years. I can feel the impressions made by their thumbs, the pressure of their fingers pushing the wet clay into the palm of the hand to swell out the belly of the pot, the sweep of a tool to decorate the surface. All of these movements are like frozen, or possibly more correctly, fired moments in time, preserved and waiting for me to decode. When I come to emulate their actions and re-create one of these prehistoric masterpieces, I get to know the potter a little better. A conversation takes place … “Oh I see why you did that” ….”What did you use to make that mark?”.........”Now that’s clever, decorating it like that”. The conversation may seem a little one sided but the answers come back to me from the clay. Above all the act of making a piece gives me a deep sense of respect for a fellow craftsperson.

Learning how the pots were made, how they were fired and how they were used, also tells me a little about the way these people live. People very much like us; some with time to lavish on the careful decoration of a prized possession; some making a utilitarian vessel which will fill the needs of the next few days while in a seasonal hunting camp; some making a final gift for a loved one to take into the “After Life”. I am moved by the simple rustic beauty of these pieces, but they connect me with the ancient inhabitants of this valley and these hills in a way that transcends mere aesthetics.

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