Tag Archives: pottery

Mark Twain quotes about ceramics

Mr. Clemens and kis kitten

Mark Twain and his kitten. The New York Times photo archive. By Underwood & Underwood via Wikimedia

  • I am content to be a bric-a-bracker and a Ceramiker.

  • The very “marks” on the bottom of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into a gibbering ecstasy.

— Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, Chapter XX


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English Romantic poet John Keats: “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Note: Part of the earliest known manuscript can be viewed here. It is a transcription by George Keats; the first draft was lost. For an explanation of the poem or background about it, click here. To see a photo of the actual Sosibios Vase, about which the poem is written, click here. For more information about the poet,  John Keats, click here.

A Drawing Keats rendered of an engraving of the Sosibios Vase, circa 1819,Louvre Museum. By litmuse via Wikimedia Commons

A Drawing Keats rendered of an engraving of the Sosibios Vase, circa 1819, Louvre. By litmuse via Wikimedia Commons

John Keats, painted by William Hilton (died 1839). See source website for additional information. This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. All images in this batch have been confirmed as author died before 1939 according to the official death date listed by the NPG. Via Wikimedia Commons

John Keats, painted by William Hilton. National Portrait Gallery, London. By Dcoetzee via Wikimedia Commons

Ode on a Grecian Urn, by John Keats


Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunt about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these?  What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit?  What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels?  What wild ecstasy?


Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.


Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.


O Attic shape!  Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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Cooking in Clay: Gratin dishes

“There are as many ‘authentic’ versions of gratin dauphinois as there are of bouillabaisse.”
— Julia Child

Überbackenes Kassler

An au gratined Kassler. By kaʁstn Disk/Cat via Wikimedia Commons

I have four gratin dishes, two different sets and I find them useful because of their size. Shallow and elongated, they allow food to cook and brown evenly. Usually, cheese or bread crumbs and butter are part of traditional recipes and the dish is placed under a broiler in the final stages of cooking. While they all have the same oval shape, gratin dishes come in different sizes and are made of different clays, some heavier, some lighter. This set of Rachael Ray dishes have a light, modern look and I can imagine how pretty they’d look with fresh sliced tomatoes peeking through the browned bread crumbs and cheese. Gratin cookware can be fancy, delicate, or designed for heavy use. It also tends toward cheerful colors and the most gloomy day can be pepped up by using them. Besides, what’s more homey and inviting than the crackle and pop, the mouth-watering aroma, and the rustic appeal of a dish cooked au gratin?

Barking Spider Pottery’s Rust Au Gratin Dishes

The stoneware dishes at the right, made by Barking Spider Pottery in North Carolina, are quite lovely and look like they would hold heat well and be a long-lasting addition to your kitchen. I wouldn’t mind having a set of these myself!  Many companies carry mass-produced gratin dishes, including Le Creuset and French Home. As far as recipes, here are 19 from Emeril’s site, which are bound to please! What follows is a YouTube video of Jacques Pépin demonstrating how to make Gratin of Tomato and Bread. Julia Child was prone to teasing Pépin and would often irk him on camera. That won’t happen in this video, as the master chef will be making the dish with his daughter, the lovely Claudine Pépin.


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Stonehenge, Winter Solstice and the pottery of its neolithic peoples

Magical Stonehenge - geograph.org.uk - 1628518

Magical Stonehenge Photograph taken at 15.51, during sunset. 19th December 2009; as close to the winter solstice as possible during a sunset, according to the weather forecast. Peter Trimming via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Winter Solstice! By now, no area of the world is left untouched by this change of season in the northern hemisphere. Happy Summer Solstice to friends south of the equator! Today, we’re going to concentrate on the North, specifically Salisbury plain in Great Britain and that great monument which is forever tied to primitive astronomy, Stonehenge. The Stone and Bronze Ages peoples who populated the area lived from 3,700 BCE to 1600 BCE.

English Heritage, an excellent site, addresses material artifacts left behind by the monument’s builders, including tools and pottery, some shown in museums at Devizes and Salisbury. The site states

the archaeology of the Stonehenge landscape shows that people in the 4th to 2nd millennia BC had wide regional and international contacts. Similar Neolithic monument complexes in other parts of Britain…display the same types of ceremonial enclosures, burial monuments and stone settings and similar material culture….

Pottery that has been found at the Stonehenge site is of two types. One, known as Grooved Ware,  “was used by the builders of the first phase of Stonehenge,” according to Wikipedia. This type of pottery was embellished by incised lines. (Click here to see a photo of Grooved Ware. Note: this is an example found in Scotland.) The Archaeology website states that, nearby, Peterborough-type pottery was also found. Grooved Ware and Peterborough-type styles are vastly different, with latter type decorated making indentations with cord. (Click here to see Peterborough pottery holdings at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.) Rodney Castleden talks about these two types of pottery in Stonehenge People: An Exploration of Life in Neolithic Britain 4700-2000 BC. He suggests that two completely different sets of people created these styles, stating that it “could be explained by itinerant potters trained in different traditions starting out from different centers but with overlapping circuits.” He continues, saying that the alternative would be trade of a finished product. Castleden discusses the pottery of the area and time, saying

much of the pottery was plain but serviceable. Its form was well-suited to the ‘ground-level’ life style of the Stonehenge people, as the rounded base could easily be nested between tus-socks of grass or in little hollows in the earth, and the unglazed, matt surface was easy to hold securely. Towards the end of the., A taste for ornament of a particularly earthy and plastic type developed, but in general the pottery remained fairly plain and functional. People evidently preferred it that way. This is in distinct contrast to the people of central Europe who produced very refined pottery in a wide variety of beautiful and exotic forms, often richly decorated in colored patterns. The British were less concerned with the aesthetic value of their pottery, even though some of it does have a kind of earthy sensuality; their thoughts were elsewhere. The extraordinary wealth the ceremonial monuments in Britain finds no parallel in central Europe. I think we can indulge a certain casualness, a surgeon haste, in the Stonehenge people’s pottery when we realized that they were massively preoccupied with greater projects by far.

Today is the Winter Solstice and for eons, people have been gathering at Stonehenge for the solstice. According to a BBC story posted yesterday, “the exact time of the solstice this year – when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun – is at 11:11 GMT.” People started arriving in the morning for the annual event. While neo-Pagans and Druids hold services at Stonehenge for the solstice, it is not known whether the original Druids were ever there at all. What is known is that the Romans are responsible for the damage caused to the monument, according to Castleden. Druids opposed the Roman Empire’s takeover of Britain and while Romans were usually tolerant of religions, they deemed the Druids seditious and wiped them out, burning their sacred groves, killing the priests, and damaging the monuments. Castleden suggests that the Romans, who had destroyed a Druidical monument in Romania, assumed that Stonehenge was a Druid site and damaged it. We can’t know for certain. All we know is what has been left behind, of which pottery plays a big part.


Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice in the mid-1980s,
22 December,1985. By Mark Grant via Wikimedia Commons

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