Getting ready to pot some pots

Thanks to the phenomenal Graham Taylor for great day spent at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre with some lovely people earlier this month!

I had a great time discussing prehistoric pottery, practicing pinching out round-bottomed bowls, trying to make Beaker shapes, and thinking about clay sources on and around Wiltshire’s chalk uplands.  Up here further north in the county, where there is more variety of clay, I can’t wait to go gathering.

It’s huge fun taking a bucket of clay, processing it, testing its qualities and working out what it’s good for.  I did this for three clays from Exeter and one from Charmouth a few years ago.  They were all different and really good clays, but the most awesome was the one from the coast at Charmouth.  It was dark green-grey, because it was full of organic material. Here’s a photo showing an un-fired test tile, a piece from a tile fired to 900C, and the remains of a tile fired to 1280C.

cropped Clay D comparison

At that higher temperature the Charmouth clay melted all over the stoneware waster that supported the test tile in the kiln! What a fabulous, green, glassy slip.  The clay was full of lime as well as organics, shown when I tested an un-fired tablet that bubbled up in an acid test in the lab’s fume cabinet.

So I’ve been making some tools that should help me to make and decorate prehistoric pots.  I’ll need to collect a few more bits and pieces together, but here’s the first batch.

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EDIT: I fired the little carinated bowl that I potted with Graham but regret to report that it didn’t do too well. It’s cracked, because of temperature fluctuations during the firing that stimulated stresses and strains in the clay body (causing the cracks to grow). And it’s underfired, because the temperature wasn’t hot enough for long enough.

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