Sunday, 30 October 2011

The plain of jars, Laos

The plain of jars, is a megalithic archaeological site in Laos. Scattered across the landscape are dozens of what are thought to be funerary jars fashioned from solid blocks of sandstone. They date from the iron age, perhaps 500 BC to 200 AD. It is thought that the lids were often made of perishable material as relatively few have been found.

Image linked from: )

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The art of Michał Puszczyński

I am fascinated by the sculptural work of Polish artist, Michał Puszczyński. His work is deeply connected to nature and the cycles of birth, growth, procreation and death. Recent installations involve the use of raw clay, water and time-lapse photography to record processes of erosion and decay:

His ceramic sculptures are usually fired in traditional wood-fired kilns such as the Korean Tongama. More of his incredible work can be seen here:

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lidded vessels

Just lately, I've been trying to find a way to make lidded vessels in one piece, so that the lid can be cut out from the solid form, rather than made separately. Ideally I would like the freedom to carve the form, before I fashion the lid. The problem being that, if the form is solid, it's very difficult to gauge the thickness of the clay whilst carving.

The pieces shown below were made using two different methods. A couple were thrown on the wheel as cylinders and then turned over and the base added as a disc of clay. I have to wait and see whether the joins will split in the biscuit firing..I hope not, as it was added when the clay was fresh off the wheel and soaking wet, but you never know. Clay has a way of punishing any slight weaknesses or stresses left in the vessel's structure..and the higher you fire, the wider any cracks become!

The piece back right and the two very small ones were thrown as solid forms, then allowed to dry to leather hard before carving and creating the lid.

I like the larger cylindrical form with the square lid was inspired by images of Pyxides (boxes) made by the Grotta-Pelos culture (c. 3200 to 2800 BC) in the Cyclades.

Early, cycladic cylindrical pyxis with lid

Early cycladic, cylindrical pyxis

Images borrowed from:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Ancient pottery can teach us a thing or two

I love looking at ancient pottery. At first glance, many of the pieces may appear quite primitive and crude, but I find great beauty in their simple and functional designs. No doubt these are pots which were produced under difficult circumstances, using less than ideal materials, and yet they were often elaborately decorated..the potters took time and care to make their work attractive as well as useful. The fact that many of these pieces have survived for thousands of years, buried in the earth, is testament to the skill and determination of the craftspeople who created them.

One design I'm very drawn to is the bronze-age beaker vessel:

Bronze age beaker
 Image borrowed from:

This form is incredibly beautiful, yet highly functional too. The flared rim created an angled lip which is comfortable to drink from and easy to grip with one hand. The rounded base would have been pleasant to hold in both hands as well as being suited to uneven, earth floors; when half full of liquid, it would be quite difficult to knock over.

The colours of these ancient works of art are also wonderful. There are the burnt hues created when the iron-rich clay was fired, probably in an open bonfire, the chips and scratches from everyday use..and then the earthy patina acquired from being in the ground for many hundreds of years.