Saturday 19 September 2015

It's been a busy time just recently, to start with I've moved premises, I'm still in Rothbury, Northumberland, and only a few hundred metres away from my old workshop, but with much more space. In addition I now have an assistant, my daughter Sarah Lord, who will not only be expanding the range of replica pottery that we can offer but be bringing her expertise as a costume maker to the business.  Sarah holds a degree in performance costume design from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and worked for several years as a costume maker with Scottish Opera. She also has a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), and has worked as a Key Stage 3 & 4 (KS 3 & 4) Design Technology Teacher, so is perfectly equipped to deliver school workshops.

Sarah has also been working on our range of retail goods for museum shops, in particular small Neolithic and Bronze Age pots for the Stonehenge Gift Shop.

In the meantime I've been all over the country from Caithness to Wiltshire, from Glasgow to Lincoln delivering workshops and demonstrating, as well as running workshops right here in Rothbury.

I've also been entering the world of Academia by uploading my CBA paper "Mud and Fire" to and having had the honour of being asked by Dr Neil Wilkin to co-present a paper at the European Association of Archaeologists conference in Glasgow.

And last but by no means least, I've been inundated with requests for replicas which I'm now working on, sorry if you've been waiting for yours, it will be with you soon.

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Saturday 18 July 2015

Bronze Age Pottery Workshop


Contact me if you'd be interested in attending one of my Two Day Neolithic or Bronze Age Pottery Workshops at Potted History - Rothbury, Northumberland

This workshop will equip participants to; prospect for natural clay and prepare it for pot making; make their own prehistoric tool kit; make and decorate replicas of prehistoric pots and fire them in an authentic manner. 

No previous pottery or archaeological experience is needed.All materials and equipment will be provided, although wearing old clothes and/or bringing along an apron would probably be a good idea. All pots and tools that you make during the workshop are yours to keep. Information sheets will be provided to help you continue potting once you return home.

The following timetable is a framework and may be varied according to the interests 
and or ability of the group.

Day 1: 
10-00  We will start off by Looking at the Pots:Using replicas and some original potsherds we will look at making methods, clay bodies, raw materials, tools used, firing methods, potential uses, methods of deposition, preservation vs. decomposition, etc. We will look at the types and sources of raw materials and their storage. How to find and prepare you materials.

11-00: Tools of the Trade: All participants will make their own Bronze-Age Pottery Tool-kit including; combs, scrapers, cord, modelling tools etc., using materials such as: Birch bark, Bone, Antler, Slate, Shell, Wood, Flint etc. The tools will be based on marks found on the pots and archaeological finds.

12-00: Introduction to Basic Making Methods: including; thumb pot, coil etc

13-00: . Lunch (not included but Rothbury offers numerous options, from bakers & deli sandwiches to hotel lunches)

14-00: Making & Decorating: Beakers, food vessels, etc. With lots information, hints, tips, help where needed and encouragement, all participants will have the opportunity to make at least two pots.

16-00 Finish

Day 2:
10-00: Making & Decorating; A chance to make larger pots or hone skills learned on day one.

12-00: Open Firing:  The pots will be fired in an open or “bonfire” firing, this is a slow process and will involve quite a lot of sitting around the fire. Firing is a slow process which cannot be rushed, so there will be the opportunity to make more pots, discuss the work that we have done during the workshop and stare distantly into the hot coals of the fire. I would suggest a “bring and cook” barbecue lunch may well add to the “Hunter-Gatherer” atmosphere and could help with a theory of mine thatmost Bronze-Age pots would have been made around the domestic hearth.

16-00 Finish
Bronze-Age Firing is an outdoor activity therefore it would not be possible in heavy rain or high wind, in these circumstances, the workshop will continue with an additional indoor making session and full instructions for firing will be given.Price: £90 per person If you require any further information on the course please do not hesitate to contact me:

Accommodation and travel are not included but list of local accommodation providers
can be found here Do 
be aware that not all of these are in Rothbury village so do check before you book.
Rothbury is situated on the edge of the Northumberland National Park and you may 
want to bring along your walking boots and stay in the area for a few days, to take in 
the magnificent landscape and visit some of the many historic and Prehistoric sites in
the area. The area is accessible by public transport, but having your own wheels will 
allow you to get to many of the less accessible beauty spots. You may like to take 
advantage of the local bus company offers some 
great routes around the area. If you feel like putting your boots on and getting out 
into the hills, maybe visiting an ancient hill fort, rock carving site or stone circle, then 
Patrick Norriss be just the man to guide 

People attending this workshop may also find the following of interest:
Roman Wheel Made Pottery
Roman Mould Made Pottery
Making Roman Samian Ware
Building Roman Kilns
Build Your Own Roman Potter’s Wheel

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Wednesday 20 May 2015

Neolithic Carinated Bowl: complex simplicity

At first glance a Neolithic carinated bowl, the earliest type of pottery in Britain, looks like a very simple pot. Certainly they were hand formed often from very coarse natural clay, to function as humble cooking pots. In fact when making an average sized bowl, up to about 20cm in diameter, its form flows almost naturally from the process itself. The curve of the bowl nestles nicely in the hand, the concave form of the upper body conforms to the curve of the thumb, while the fingers stretch down inside to push out the carnation.  All well and good, but when one comes to make a bowl as big as the one I made for Stonehenge, it's a different matter.  For a start there's the weight; at over thirty centimetres in diameter it requires nearly five kilos of coarse clay in its construction. This makes it virtually impossible to hold the soft vessel in one hand.  If I start building on a base (flat stone, grass mat whatever is handy) this gives it a flat base, which can only be expanded out once the clay has stiffened.  Alternatively working into the base of an old broken pot does allow one to make a round bottomed piece but only to a predetermined form and, as clay shrinks on drying it will easily release from its "mould" but will also be considerably smaller than the former.  Once the pot becomes firm enough to support itself it can be picked up and worked on but this brings with it its own problems, the stiffened clay becomes brittle, the least deformation of the rim and the pot will crack, a flaw which, in the firing, could result in total failure.  One possible solution to this is to add organic fibrous material which will act as reinforcement in the unfired pot and one of the most suitable sources of this is animal dung. Finally, once the pot has reached a leather hard stage, the entire inner and outer surfaces need to me slip coated by rubbing with a wet hand and finally burnished all over, again without putting undue stress on the rim.

Firing small pots in an open fire is a relatively simple matter provided a strict set of rules are adhered to, a large pot on the other hand is quite a different matter. That pot needs to be absolutely dry before it comes anywhere near to a flame. In a Neolithic hut it would undoubtedly have spent several days on the outer edges of the hearth, occasionally being turned to present a new face to the warmth of the fire.  Only once the potter was certain that all moisture had left the clay would the firing process begin: The pot would be moved a little closer to the fire, inverted, and with its rim supported on three stones a few embers from the fire would have been pushed underneath its dome, their rising smoke and heat filling the vessel. Replenishing and increasing this small glowing fire over the next couple of hours the potter would have carefully and steadily raised the temperature until, at around about 400 degrees C the organic matter in the clay would have begun to burn, turning the outer surface of the pot dark brown or black.  This would also be an indication that it was ready to move to the next stage of firing, surrounding the pot with embers and eventually immersing the pot into the fire, bringing up its temperature until at seven or eight hundred degrees, in the darkness of the hut interior it could be seen to glow deep red. The firing complete, the fire would have been allowed to burn down and go out and the pot would have been cooled while protecting it from sudden cold draughts that might cause it to crack.

Simple as that!

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Monday 5 January 2015

Childlike Exuberance

One of the best things about running historical pottery workshops in schools, is seeing the uninhibited exuberance of the children's work. Unlike many adults, they are not afraid to express themselves in paint or clay and as a result the pots and sculptures they produce have a vitality, often lacking in the more carefully considered work of their seniors. When I return the fired pots to the schools, the children are amazed and delighted to see how the fire has changed and preserved their artwork. 

For more information about my pottery workshops for schools and museums see my earlier post HERE.

Egyptian Canopic Jars by Blackhill School Children
Egyptian Canopic Jars by Blackhill School Children 
Egyptian Shabti Figures by Blyth School Children
Roman Head Pots by Keilder School Children

Mediaeval Green Men by Bedlington School Children

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