Sunday, 29 January 2012

Of menhirs and megaliths

I've been slightly obsessed with standing stones, stone circles and pre-historic burial sites for a few years now. But until I visited Carnac in France last spring,  I never realised just how many menhirs still exist, spread across Western Europe..and just how many thousands more there would have been originally, before many (or most?) of them were destroyed or recycled as building materials.

The Carnac alignments

The Carnac alignments

These mysterious, ancient relics have been the inspiration for some of my recent ceramic work where I'm carving the clay walls to create a more rock-like surface. I also wanted to create vessels which are similar in form to standing stones, but their shapes generally don't lend themselves easily to functional pieces, especially ones thrown on the wheel. In the end, I opted to make some lidded containers which are thrown as closed forms and then altered and carved at the leather-hard stage. The container below is the prototype in its raw clay state:

Lidded container, approx 5.5 inches tall

Lidded container, unfired

On this piece the lid was cut at an angle so it will sit in place without adding an inner rim. The problem with this approach is that the cut needs to be made at a fairly steep angle so it will sit snugly in place, but too steep and the rim of the lower section becomes extremely sharp and delicate. Even if you manage not to accidentally chip it during the making process, it wouldn't be very robust over it's lifetime. So I reckon cutting at 90 degrees and adding an inner rim is probably the best way forward.


  1. Now I understand!

    I share your fascination for megaliths, etc. Their antiquity and mass are incredible. Last summer I visited my brother in rural Aragon and we had a chance to see a series of nearly-hidden dolmens in an ancient oak forest.

  2. Thanks, Sam. That sounds wonderful! I would really like to visit more ancient megaliths in future and photogragh them from all angles. It was very frustrating at Carnac as you weren't allowed to walk amongst the stones and touch them.