A selection of ceramics through the ages (5 second delay) Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
PotWeb: Ceramics online
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People and their collections

Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

Plot and pottery (5): preparation of the clay for potting

In The Natural History of Stafford-shire (1686) Plot describes (p. 123) how potting clays in Burslem (Stoke-on-Trent), Staffordshire were cleaned and prepared for throwing on the wheel:

'neither of which clays or Slips must have any gravel or Sand in them; upon this account, before it be brought to the wheel they prepare the clay by steeping it in water in a square pit, till it be of a due consistence; then they bring it to their beating board, where with a long Spatula they beat it till it be well mix't; then being first made into great squarish rolls, it is brought to the wageing board, where it is slit into flat thin pieces with a Wire, and the least stones or gravel pick't out of it; This being done, they wage it, i.e. knead or mould it like bread, and make it into round balls proportionable to their work, and then 'tis brought to the wheel, and formed as the Workman sees good.'

Many of the pottery wasters found during archaeological excavations in Burslem show that this process was often less than meticulous. Small pebbles may protrude from the pot wall, and twigs, or other organic matter may be accidently incorporated into the throwing clay.

Close-up of a North Staffordshire press-moulded plate from Oxford

Close-up of a  North Staffordshire press-moulded plate from Oxford, showing a blow-out
occasioned by a fragment, possibly of coal, within the clay body

The making of slip

Plot and Pottery

Slip-coating and decorating pottery

Robert Plot: case study
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last updated: jcm/16-dec-2005