My interest in old pots started when I read about Bernard Leach and his ‘Song standard’ – i.e. his view that the pots from China in the Song dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) were so good that they set the standard for other potters to aim for. I wanted to see a Song dynasty pot; to hold it, examine it closely and learn from it to improve my own pots, so I started going to pottery auctions. At these auctions I saw pots from all eras and all parts of the world. I found that holding these pots was not just informative but also evocative – I felt in some way in close contact with the people who made and used them. Seeing the pots made me want to understand more about them and the people who made them and I started reading about the history of pottery. Inevitably, I started to bid for some of those that I particularly liked and weren’t too expensive. So started an enthusiasm that has now been going since 2010.
Each pot has its own story waiting to be discovered. The people who made and used it may have belonged to a culture very different from our own. Understanding the uses of the pot and the techniques the potters used to make the pot helps to bring these people to life. The pottery techniques and style fit into a wider sweep of potting history which is a bigger story. The survival of an old pot to the present day is an adventure in itself.
I started writing these occasional notes about old pots in my collection during the coronavirus lockdown in April 2020, for an ad-hoc newsletter that had been created to maintain contact within West Forest Potters. They were written with an audience of potters and pottery enthusiasts in mind. Although the newsletter is no longer issued I plan to write more pieces like these occasionally. If you would like to receive them when they are written please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org