Monday, April 9, 2012

Seal Blood, Fat, and Thule Pots

Choris or Early Norton Pot
I stayed on a pottery kick over the weekend.  You never know when you might need some Choris/Norton pottery to go with your Thule sherds, so I added some fine linear grooves to the back of the paddle that I used to make the Thule style pots and made some earlier style vessels.  In order to make these vessels look a little more like Choris or early Norton pottery I made the walls thinner with narrower corrugated paddle stamping and tried to shape them more like earlier pottery forms.

Small pot and paddle
These ones have a little more sandy grit temper added and I tossed in some feathers along with grass for the organic temper.  To form the pots, I either made a flat base and then attached a donut of clay to that base to form the walls, or just started pinching out a pot from a ball of clay.  As soon as I could support it on one or two fingers I started paddling it to form the vessel.  I liked the paddle, it seemed to help seal up any tiny cracks that formed at the same time that it thinned and raised the walls.  I had some good tips from Wendy Shirran, the clay studio coordinator at the Craft Council Clay Studio.  She took pity on me when I went to pick up the clay.  Between Wendy's advice and An Experimental Approach to Understanding Thule Pottery Technology I haven't gotten stuck yet.

Smearing on the blood
When the clay was leather hard I added seal blood and grease to the surface as a kind of organic slip.  I have six pots on the go right now and all of them have some seal oil on them and four of them have seal blood.  I smeared the blood on to two of the pots while they were still a little damp and it actually seeped into the clay and disappeared where it was damp.  It was cool and damp when I coated the first pots with blood and it went on fairly smoothly and adhered well.  I added blood to the other two this morning and brought the first two out into the direct sunlight and the blood layer started drying and cracking.  I smeared them with seal fat to try to slow the drying and refix some of the blood.

The inside of this vessel was completely coated in seal blood, but the lower half was still a little damp.  It absorbed the blood overnight, while the top inch or two stayed bright red.

In the direct sunlight the blood starts to craze and crack off.  But that's ok - this crazing pattern shows up on Thule pottery.
I smeared grease and wet blood on top of the cracked layers to try to seal in the pattern and preserve it for the firing.  I'm really hoping that this pattern will survive the firing.  

Starting to look old
The crazing that formed in the dried blood as it cracked looks fantastic.  Everything is bright and fresh, but the pattern and texture over the paddle stamped pottery beneath is turning out to be a perfect match for the archaeologically recovered pots.  I'm really hoping that the crazing pattern is preserved through the firing and I'm optimistic that the blood red will turn to a more rusty brown and black.  We'll see, but right now everything seems to be lining up the way it should.

They certainly smell authentic.

The great pot in the background is coated in seal grease.  I'm not certain how everything will react with the heat of the firing, but I'm hoping that the organic grease layer will darken and burn.  I'm surprised how much grease the clay will soak up.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

1 comment:

  1. It would be neat to see how one of those looked after a raku firing (which certainly wouldn't be authentic, but might be nifty).


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