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Ceramics News Briefs International

Princess Mariam Orbeliani

Georgian Princess Mariam Orbeliani (1899–1947) reading the newspaper "Iveria"

I want to give you a quick little update about the blog before I move on to other news. First things first: I have figured out how to change fonts within a blog post! It might not sound like much, technologically, but it has affects the overall design and feel of the blog, in addition to readability. Next…while I have yet to learn how to change fonts en masse on the CSS style sheet, knowing how to change them within a post gives me wider latitude, as I can use more of my design skills. I’m using ‘Georgia’ for this post. That font is part of my original WordPress ‘2010’ theme but it got lost somewhere along the way. I like it because it’s very rounded and has serifs, which makes it easier to read. I have also installed Google Analytics, another coup, though I have yet to learn how to actually use it. Plus, I now have code that will enable me to centre Flickr slide shows, but till I figure out where to place the code, they will remain flush left if they are small to medium size. (Large ones fill the dimensions of the main column, so that’s fine.) Also figured out hyperlinking of text with code, too. Slow and easy wins the race and that’s the JSCW news…

INDIA: Forgotten beauty: Death of the potters’ era, The Express Tribune – A simply beautiful feature story about a former pottery and locale in India, the Peshawar pottery. Its owner, Abdul Rauf Seemab “also had hookahs in his shop that he brought from somewhere else…but the prized pottery he made himself.” Not a whiff of the area’s former grandeur remains, but Shah Wali Qatal was once a place of “prominent personalities.”

ENGLAND: New Spode History Centre to open in Stoke on Trent for Spring 2012, Culture 24 – The Spode Museum Trust plans to open a visitor centre at Stoke-on-Trent’s former Spode factory site, thereby preserving its ceramic heritage. “With the factory’s closure in 2008 a vast archive of documents and a collection of ceramics dating back to the 18th century – one of the largest and most important in the world – were moved into storage elsewhere.”  The trust will open a two-year exhibition beginning in the spring of 2012, the first step.  The new centre will focus on the Spode factory, Industrial Revolution working conditions, how the factory affected the community, and the artisans working there.

CANADA: Feats of clayThe Sun – “Many people don’t have the space to do ceramics in their homes,” said Lenny Larson, one of the owners of Ceramic Services in Ontario. “And there aren’t many places that sell ceramic supplies. People come here from all over to get what they need.”  Lenny Larson and Ken Wagner started the Ceramic Services company 18 years ago. They began by building kilns for industry and institutions, in addition to home studios. Last year, they began renting out studio space for a monthly fee. What will that buy you? The use of wheels, kilns, racks and tables…. They also have a monthly raku firing.

ENGLAND: Ancient cooking pots reveal culinary cues, European Commission CORDIS – Scientists from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany have tested ancient ceramic vessels from northern Europe and the Baltic areas. They are trying to tell whether “residues originated from land, sea or freshwater organisms. The researchers assessed the ceramic pots from 15 sites dating to around 4 000 BC, a period in which the region’s domesticated animals and plants began to emerge.” Led by the universities of York and Bradford in the UK, the team’s findings show that “humans had no qualms about using the advent of farming and domestication to their advantage vis-a-vis fish and other marine resources.”

CZECH REPUBLIC: Slavonice: a South Bohemian renaissance town off the beaten track, Radio Czech – And now for a delightful bit of armchair traveling! Picture a town with white walls and red tile roofs full of history and art…You are in southern Bohemia, along the Austrian border. Think of an artist’s colony complete with a famous destination, the Maříž ceramics workshop. “Maříž ceramics are generally very colourful, there are lots of animals painted on our goods,” says Marta Tůmová. After you visit it, you can take in the galleries, some with Chagalls….

ENGLAND: Flow Blue: A celebrated ceramic, Cincinnati – It is amazing how time changes the worth of something. The type of pottery reported on in this story was mentioned in an earlier blog post, The mystery of Blue Willow Pattern china, in which author Jonathan Gash was quoted as saying “the lowest quality has the familiar misty blue outline.” The article I’m writing the newsbrief for doesn’t make transferware out to be anything it isn’t, except here and there. For example, it states, “The quality was high, the cost was low, and the resulting pieces were sturdier than similar imported goods from China.” This is stretching it a bit…


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Ceramic News Briefs International

New Orleans Breakfast sandwich

Germany: Missing link in Roman conquest of Germany a ‘sensational find,The Local – There has been a major archaeological find about ancient Romans in present-day Germany. Pottery shards are an important component of the find, which focuses on a chain of Roman camps. This most recent find shows that Roman soldiers “used the camp from 11 to 7 B.C. as a base to control the river crossing – which makes the find one of the most important logistical landmarks of the Roman conquerors.”

United States: Science on the SPOT: The Science of Salt Glaze Pottery, Quest – A North Carolina family has been involved with pottery for six generations. This article focuses upon Ben Owen III who makes salt glazed pottery. A companion article, which can be found here, reports on minerals for salt glazing, focusing on glaze chemistry.
England: Ceramics companies take centre stage at major US launch, This Is Staffordshire – City Council leaders from Stoke-on-Trent are launching a National Geographic Museum exhibition on the Staffordshire Hoard. A display of British ceramics will be shown to dignitaries and businessmen. Stoke-on-Trent is enjoying a renaissance and the U.S. launch focuses on promoting the British ceramics industry and informing people about the technological advances in the industry, in addition to supply and demand, and labor.

United States: Surmet Strengthens Fabrication Capability for Transparent Ceramic Armor and IR optics Products, PR Web – As you know, I report on high-tech ceramics occasionally and have come across an intriguing article about an amazing material. It is called transparent ceramic armor and is made of magnesia Spinel. The article reports on a “… wide variety of shapes and sizes ranging in complexity from Transparent Ceramic Armor windows, through prisms, lenses, hemispherical and hyper-hemispherical domes and windows for sensors, lasers and reconnaissance. Surmet’s fabrication capability extends beyond optical ceramics to materials such as Sapphire, Silicon, and Germanium, etc. ”

England: Prince Charles at Victorian Middleport Pottery Site, BBC – Middleport Pottery, the last working Victorian pottery, has received funding from Prince Charles that will allow it to remain open. “Burleigh blue and white floral china has been made there since 1888.” For related articles and a video, click here and here.  Another related story reports on Prince Charles’ objection to the demolition of homes that were built for the potteries workers. For more on that, click here. Thank goodness for Prince Charles and his charities!

United States: The Scrolls as a Start, Not an End, New York Times – Ceramic artifacts are part of an exhibition called “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times” that will run through April 15 at Discovery Times Square in New York City (discoverytsx.com). Click on the story link to watch a fascinating slide show that accompanies the article. This is an excellent feature story about the exhibition and is well worth the time it takes to read.

United States: Muralist seeks funds to install art installation, Berkeleyside – A mural is languishing in storage because there is no money to install it at a senior living facility in California. The artist is now pursuing other forms of revenue. “After years of frustration, Alicia turned to the web-based funding platform Kickstarter to raise the $5,000 needed to install the 10 monumental ceramic panels of her work. At time of writing, 17 backers had donated $521. If the $5,000 isn’t raised by November 20, the project will fail.” Click through to this story link to see a video about the artist and her project.

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Civilization in an earthenware firepot

Vanuatuans making fire. Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Evidence of cooked food is found from 1.9 million years ago, although fire was probably not used in a controlled fashion until 400,000 years ago,” according to the Wikipedia entry on fire. The ability to create fire, then use it for lighting, heating, and cooking was one of the most momentous steps in the evolution of humankind. At first, the use of fire centred on the firepit. If any of you have done any snow camping, you know the wonder of sitting in front of the fire you’ve made, getting warm, cooking food, then drying out your socks and mittens on sticks nearby. At some point, the need arose to carry fire from one place to the next, though.  “Eventually, humans began to use earthenware vessels, or fire pots, in which slow-burning fires could by kept alight indefinitely by adding small quantities of fuel as needed,” according to Wikipedia. In a series of actions that would inspire passion in Jungians, it appears that fire pots “developed independently and at different times in many locations.” I can envision ancient Mongolians moving across the Steppes, their small Steppe FIRE 01ponies burdened by blanket-covered earthenware bowls carrying coals. An amazing find in present-day Chile gives us a glimpse into the lives of nomads. Hunters living in the Patagonia region used caves for dwellings. At Fell’s Cave, evidence was found of the earliest human habitation in South America, according to the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Debris from hunters from 10,000 BCE shows evidence of firepots. “Sealed by hundreds of pounds of debris from the fall of the shelter overhang, the hunter’s refuse included firepots with the broken bones of native horse, sloth, and guanaco, as well as stone and bone tools.” For more information and to see a photo of the cave, click here. I had also imagined British Isle Celts carrying a firepot into a sacred grove or dwelling for spiritual purposes. Firepots were a significant part of religious activity with many humans around the globe. The Celts originated in present-day Eastern Europe and while I was researching this story, I came across information that warmed me. It’s strange knowing I have Celtic blood from my Irish ancestors but that I might also from my ancestors in the Balkans. A site called Balkancelts has an excellent article called “Zoomorphic ‘Cult’ Fire-pots,” which concentrates on firepots found in present-day Bulgaria. Click on the above link to see a photos of the artifacts and a map of where they were found. I love the organic shape of the lids and the shape of an animal heads, clearly recognizable. I’ve read that the firepots of stationary peoples were better made than those of nomads, who didn’t have the luxury of time and place. Zooming forward in history, firepots came to be used to warm people while they toiled, slept and moved about in colder climes. While not a firepot, per se, the evolution of the Chinese bed is related. The Chinese first built fires on the clay floors of their simple dwellings. When it was warm enough, they swept it away, put bedding on the warm floor and slept. Eventually, they devised and built the k’angs, a form of radiant heat which is still in use today. It consists of a brick platform atop which lay the bedding and under whichHindu funeral burns a fire. It is more than just a bed, though. It is often  the central living area. The fire burns throughout the day and low tables are placed on them for dining. Most cultures seem to have used some form of firepot, at some point. This painting, circa 1820, depicts a Hindu funeral in India. The man dressed in white at the front of the procession is carrying a firepot to light the pyre. My last example of a firepot show a little pot seated on the floor by a lacemaker’s work station. Ashes in the pot would have helped keep the worker warm. Also shown is a flash stool and a pillow horse. Lacemaking was a painstaking task done in conditions that were often brutal. BLW Flash stool and pillow horseWhile this photo shows a relatively decent setting, the person who used these tools and materials was probably lucky to have a firepot. To this day, firepots filled with embers are carried to warm people in the northernmost Indian state, Kashmir. The vessel is called a kanger; kangri can be carried because they are nested in wicker. This, in turn is kept inside a wool Kashmiri cloak called a phiren. Kangri have been used for centuries. An article in India’s Sunday Tribune reports that “those visiting Kashmir for the first time during the winter season are surprised to find people carrying fire in their hands or in their laps but every Kashmiri knows how to handle the apparatus with care.” Kangri pots are handed over to wicker makers after they’ve fashioned the pots and the result is very Kashmiri Kangerdecorative. It does have its dangers, though, as Wikipedia reports: “Regular use of the kanger can cause skin cancer.This effect was first studied by W. J. Elmslie in 1866 and was thought to be caused by burns, but it is now thought to be the result of a carcinogenic distillation product of woodcoal.” Down through the centuries, I’m sure this was probably the case with many who inhaled the particulates from a firepot over time. What this points to, though, is the enormous period of time firepots have been made and used. Pinch pots, coil, thrown, I think it is a rare thing to find something used by people this ancient that is still used today. The firepot. A simple device that changed the world. “To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world.”  ~ Charles Dudley Warner

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Ceramics Newsbriefs international

India: Potters burn the midnight oil for Diwali, Times of India – If you have ever seen a Hindu temple all lit up with tiny clay lamps called diyas, you would agree that it is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. This article is about the potters in Doora village who make such lamps. “Potters bring clay from the banks of lakes situated in and around the village and make diyas using rotating wheels, while women do the finishing work on the diyas.”

England:  Celebrating ceramics in the city:  the British ceramics  biennial returns to Stoke-on-Trent 2011, Art Daily – The biennial is well underway. Earlier we gave a preview of the show and there is still plenty of time to see it, as it runs until November 13. The British Ceramic Biennial is a huge undertaking and gallery spaces include the Original Spode Factory site and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

United States: Made on Cape Cod: Jobi Pottery, Barnstable-Hyannis Patch –   A sweet story about a cottage industry in new England… Even better because they have been making pottery for 50 years. Their wares are slip cast and the molds they use are from mid-century. The pottery changed hands, purchased by the then curator of the local historical society. “She knew she ‘could revive it because [she] really loved all the old 1950s shapes and designs.’”

Singapore: ‘Hidden dragons’ in Jurong to get heritage marker, Straits Times – This story caught my eye; I knew it was about pottery but didn’t know what that had to do with dragons.  As it turns out, the story is about dragon kilns from the 1940s and 50s which have gained heritage status. The rare wood-fired kilns  are in a secluded forest… Sounds magical!

Canada: Pottery mural fires up public interest, Vernon Morning Star –  A mural called “Allure of the Clay” was unveiled Friday in downtown Vernon. The work depicts Axel Ebring, who had a studio on present-day Pottery Road in the 1930s. “The Swedish immigrant, who died in 1954, was a traditionalist. He always used a foot-powered potter’s wheel and he never used a thermometer for his wood-fired kiln.”

United States: Archaeologists near old St. Vincent Hospital unearth cobbled path dating to 1600s, The Santa Fe New Mexican –  This story has many intriguing elements, but for our purposes, this road they have unearthed is the big draw. Pueblo Indian pottery was found among the cobbles from villages that quit producing in the 1700s. Other pottery that was discontinued in the 1600s was also found.  In addition, an “heirloom piece” of Chinese pottery was found in the garbage pit. “It may have been made a century before Santa Fe was founded, then was acquired in the Philippines, taken by Spanish galleon to Mexico and hauled by wagon up the Camino Real to Santa Fe.”


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