Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Antiquing with a Potter Part 1

My small, lovely town of Liberty, North Carolina has an enormous antiques festival twice a year. This was my first time going, and of course, I spent most of my time admiring and fondling pottery (it's a habit). So I thought I would share with you some of my adventures and things that I focus on when I am analyzing a piece of pottery.

                    This fascinating array of objects were nearly all from the               
Westerwald region of Germany, it was such a pretty sight to see!
I have recently received a research grant from the American Ceramic Circle in order to analyze kiln furniture and kiln designs of pre-1850 American stoneware pottery sites. Part of that research will (hopefully and eventually) be comparing intact pieces from known kiln sites to the kiln furniture used at those sites. Something I am always fascinated by is telling how a pot was fired from the marks left by the kiln furniture used, and sometimes by the kiln itself. There was no shortage of pottery to be seen! I have the tendency to be attracted to the somewhat disheveled and "worse for the wear" pieces such as this bottle:

I know, you're probably thinking, "what in the world is so attractive about that?!" Well, there are numerous aspects, really. This likely 19th or early 20th century salt-glazed stoneware bottle had a great handle for starters. Then, it had such great distinctions for how it was fired. Look at how the neck is cocked to one side, and then in the photo below at the narrowing on the sides. This tells me that this piece was single fired, and shows these deformations because of the weight and stress of stacking (no shelves used) and the movement of the clay body as it came to temperature during the firing.
And the top of the bottle also showed some great signs of firing:
This bottle's collar likely covered the rim of the bottle judging from the mark in the left photo, and also touched on the shoulder of the bottle as seen by the marks in the photo on the right
Then there's an occasional really exciting piece, such as the early 19th century Nicholas Fox piece which was pictured in The Potter's Eye (page 93). What I love the most about antique shows, auctions, etc., is that you can HANDLE the objects, and feel the weight of them, the texture, and flip them over. The Fox piece was beautifully photographed in the book, but I thought it would be fun to let you see how it was fired:
UPSIDE DOWN! You can see the wonderful dripping action on the side of the piece, and the pooling of ash on the underside of the handles and rim. Below, you can see how the piece was also likely at the top of the kiln, or between other objects, as it had nothing placed on its base, leaving a beautiful textured surface. You can also see in the photo on the left (below) a likely small chunk of kiln debris which has been there for almost 200 years!


Danderlillie said...

Nicholas Fox is my husband's great-great-great grandfather and we just were at the North Carolina Pottery Center yesterday and saw one of his jugs in their museum. It was beautiful. Thank you for posting the pictures of his work here. Do you happen to know of a biography that has been written about him?
Thanks so much! I am enjoying your blog!

Brenda Hornsby Heindl said...

Sorry for not getting back to you right away! That's very exciting to have such a gifted ancestor! I do not know of a biography on him specifically, but The Potter's Eye by Mark Hewitt and Nancy Sweezy has the piece I showed pictures of and some biographical information. If you ever find something more specific, do let me know! Next time you are in the area, check out Sherry's Restaurant in Ramseur. They have quite a few pieces of Fox's in their little displays throughout the restaurant!