Tuesday 3 June 2014

Greek Pots for Dr Michael Scott

Having made the replicas used by Dr Michael Scott in his brilliant BBC2 TV series; "Who Were the Greeks", see my blog entry "TV Props, Greek Bronzes Made From Clay" , I was delighted when Dr Scott contacted me and commissioned some replicas to use in his teaching at Warwick University. Now I will say at this point, when Michael contacted me I had anticipated that I'd be making some fairly high status pieces but I wasn't quite prepared for the reference material that he eventually sent me. On a trip to the British Museum he'd taken some photographs of some of the most magnificent Greek pots that he could find: the Douris Cooler, the Berlin Krater, the Phrynos Kylix and the Sharpedon Kylix:

I've replicated Greek red and black figure pottery before but these pieces were the creme de la creme, they were high status when they were first created and they're still high status today. why? Well for the complexity of their manufacture, the refinement of their form and by no means least, the skill of the painter who decorated them. The pots shown here are my, or should I say our replicas not the originals. I made the pots, but my wife Lynda Taylor, a professional artist, decorated them, they required the best! 

The precision with which the pots are made, the perfect alignment of the stem of the kylix and the crispness of the foot, shoulder and rim of the krater, tell me not only that they were made by a highly skilled potter, but that the potters' wheel on which they were thrown was very stable indeed. This was no rough stone disk pivoted on a point of rock, it was a precise piece of machinery with smooth running bearings. The same is true of all of these pots and while the potters making cups and bowls for everyday use may well have made use of primitive wheels these craftsmen had access to the very best tools. They have used that technology to push the making process to new heights, creating forms that say "Look what I can do".

More to come later, watch this space.

Visit my website at www.pottedhistory.co.uk

Greek Pottery Workshops at Wolfson College Oxford

Here are some photographs from my recent Greek Pottery Technology workshop at Wolfson College Oxford, in which participants not only learned about the ceramic science behind the creation of Black and Red Figure wares, but also had the opportunity to try their hand at a Greek style momentum wheel and created their own Rhyton.


Visit my website at www.pottedhistory.co.uk

Thursday 6 February 2014

Pots for Stonehenge and Wiltshire

I take delight in every project that I undertake but being asked by English Heritage, to make all the replica pottery fro the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre and by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, to make replicas for the Gold from the time of Stonehenge have been a particular highlights of the past year. In each case making the pots not as they look now, after several millennia in the ground, but as they would have looked when new. The first part of the project was to produce a selection of large Neolithic Grooved Ware vessels, to be used in the prototype Neolithic Houses which English Heritage built at Old Sarum, as a precursor to building a group at Stonehenge. These pots were based on originals excavated at Durrington Walls. 

Grooved Ware pots based on finds from Durrington Walls
Next came a film role, at least for my hands. I was filmed making a replica grooved ware pot, from crushing and preparing the raw clay and grog, through building and decorating the vessel, to firing it on an open hearth and finally removing the finished pot from the fire. This video will be showing on a loop in the visitor centre, alongside one of Phil Harding making a flint axe and Neil Burridge casting bronze.

Grooved Ware pot glowing in an open fire
At this point I was invited to join archaeologist and curator Sarah Lunt at Fort Cumberland and at Salisbury Museum, to look at the originals pots that I would be replicating for the Stonehenge Museum display, and the education rooms. It is a huge privelage to have had the opportunity to see and handle such iconic pots as: The Wilsford collared urn, grape cup and Stonehenge cup, excavated by William Cunnington during his excavation campaign 1802 – 1810, along with beakers, carinalted bowls and the small grooved ware pot from Durrington Walls.

Back in my studio I began replicating these masterpieces of Neolithic and Bronze-Age ceramic art, for both Stonehenge and the Devizes Museum, here are some of the results.

Wilsford Collared Urn and Grape Cup along with "The Ceramic Object"
The beautiful collared urn here from the Wilsford G7 burial is one of the finest examples from the whole of the UK, here's the original . I'm not the first to attempt to replicate it, Josiah Wedgwood had a go, although in terracotta and over industrialised for my liking. The refinement of this pot and the care with which the decoration has been applied make it a real challenge to replicate. To a lesser degree the same is true of the grape cup with over 150 individually applied pellets and between each pair, a hole bored through to the interior, at only 6cm tall, that's a lot of detail packed into a very small pot. The third item here is the "Ceramic Object", found in the fill of Aubrey Hole number 29 and so called because no one knows exactly what it is.  

My replicas on display at Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes
The pots below are in the education rooms at Stonehenge

Early Neolithic Carinated Bowl, Grooved Ware Pot, Wilsford Beaker and Ceramic Object
My final job is to make the pots for the Neolithic houses so watch this space.

Visit my website at www.pottedhistory.co.uk