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

Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

Plot and pottery (6): throwing, slip-coating and decorating pottery

In The Natural History of Stafford-shire (1686), Plot describes (p. 123) the manufacture of slipwares:

'When the Potter has wrought the clay either into hollow or flat ware, they are set abroad to dry in fair weather, but by the fire in foule, turning them as they see occasion, which they call whaving: when they are dry they stouk them, i.e. put Ears and Handles to such Vessels as require them: These also being dry, they then Slip or paint them with their severall sorts of Slip, according as they designe their work, when the first Slip is dry, laying on the others at their leasure, the Orange Slip makeing the ground, and the white and red, the paint; which two colours they break with a wire brush, much after the manner they doe when they marble paper, and then cloud them with a pensil when they are pretty dry.' (Plot 1686 p 122).

Plot's explanation is brief but explicit. The hollow wares would include cups, posset pots and porringers, all drinking vessels, some for communal drinking, some finer examples for celebration or display only. The flat wares were dishes or plates for serving food or for display. Flat wares could be thrown or press-moulded, the latter would have a 'pie-crust' rim-edge decoration. It is sometimes possible to see that this was impressed using a cockle shell.

Slip decoration was a highly developed skill. Once the 'ground' or undercoat slip was dry, the slip decoration was executed (here Plot describes slipcombing); the combing had to take place speedily before the newly applied slip dried into the 'ground', and became unworkable.

Hollow wares with trailed and slip decoration

Hollow wares with trailed and slip decoration

Press-moulded flat ware with 'pie-crust' rim edges,trailed and slip combing decorationan initial 'M' moulded in relief

Press-moulded flat ware with 'pie-crust' rim edges,trailed and slip combing decoration
and an initial 'M' moulded in relief

Preparation of clay for potting

Plot and Pottery

Glazing the vessels

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