I have made many varieties of replica medieval, renaissance and Restoration period pottery for the Office of Public Works and the National Museum. The images below show a small selection of the major types.
Irish Medieval Pottery really starts with the Norman invasion, in the 12th century, though there are examples of early imported "E Ware" beakers. In the medieval era potters were lowly folk, and did not even merit a guild of their own, unlike masons, goldsmiths, weavers and tailors. Potters seem to have been mainly farmers working during the "off season".
Good clay dictated where pots were mostly made, and the best medieval Irish pottery was all imported from France, England, Italy and Spain. Pre-Norman Irish households preferred vessels made of metal, leather, horn and wood. But with the arrival of the Normans, and the establishment of forts and fortified towns, a more stationary way of life evolved.
Pottery imported from England, mainly from Bristol, included the magnificent Puzzle Jug (middle row, left and centre) from Ham Green. French pottery, like the Wine Jugs (top row, left), and the Chafing Dish (bottom row, right) came from Saintonge, where lead glazes, coloured green with copper filings, were used to decorate the fine white clay.
Local Irish wares tended to be made of coarser red clay (bottom row, left). However, there was also a very fine unglazed cooking ceramic, Leinster Ware, which appears from the 12th to the 14th centuries, and which was made using a "hammer and anvil" technique of hand-building, still used in parts of Africa and India today. The clay was beaten out finely between a former, held on the inside of the pot, and a mallet, hitting from the outside. This resulted in pottery with extremely thin walls. The clay contained a high proportion of silica sand and mica (which absorbs thermal shock), and enabled the pottery to be placed directly on the fire for cooking.
Local Irish clay was also used for Floor Tiles decorated in a variety of techniques (centre row, right).
Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 10:12:00