Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talk at Churchill Fellows Day

Sadie showing sherds of North Devon pottery
On Saturday I gave a talk at the South West branch of the Churchill Trust - a Fellows day, attended by previous Churchill Fellows and members of the group.
I was invited to speak, to present information about my experiences on my Fellowship in 2010. It was a nerve-wracking time and I was third on, just before lunch so had to speak when everyone was hungry and following the news that England had lost the World cup semi-final!
The talk was very well received and there was a lot of interest - so much so that all through lunch there was a constant stream of people waiting to talk to me and ask me questions, which was great.
The picture above is of me in full flow, showing the 35 people or so in the audience some examples of sherds of pottery I have found locally since my return. The start of the Green House Ceramics Collection.
I had a good chat with Bill Nicholson who organised the event and who also took a group photo at the end of all the speakers to post onto the Winston Churchill Trust web site - watch this space!
Overall a very good day and it left me inspired to do more talks and to continue collecting sherds, sharing what I can find out about North Devon Pottery and its export and to continue to develop the Arts exchange programme with Manteo NC.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Visiting John Allan in Exeter

I took a selection of items from the ‘GreenHouse Ceramics Collection’, including an assortment of gravel tempered plain ware (a baluster pot, rims and handles, glazed and unglazed) as well as some prized pieces of sgrafitto.

It was such a joy and pleasure to have someone else look at the pieces and offer up some response, explanations and information.

John was particularly interested in the baluster pot sherd. The bottom half of this tall jar, a piece 5 inches tall with a diameter of 4 inches. I talked to him about the pot I saw in Virginia with Karen Shriver at the Flowerdew Hundred collection. That one had been identified as being dated around 1625. John commented that these pots were only made in the 1600’s and not any later, so my sherd is quite a find!

We discussed the sgraffito pieces in the context of the designs that were being produced in the 1600’s and alongside a book that John gave me – a 2005 Devonshire Association publication which included an article part written by John about a site in Bideford that was excavated on the former Stella Maris convent school site. Here 17th and 18th Century pottery was found and photographs and drawings had been produced of the sgrafitto (and plainware) found there, it’s distinctive and common patterns. It was possible to look at these images with my sgrafitto sherds to indentify which patterns and designs featured. These include the geometric, leaves, floral, and spiral patterns. John explained how a compass was used to layout the points for leaves so there was a uniform shape and size all the way around a vessel such as a plate.

At the end of the visit, John was encouraging me to keep adding to the collection – and though I might consider some time to donate some pieces to someone else’s collection - he does not know of another collection from the Instow area, so mine is the first and deserves to be continued for some time yet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dr Klingelhofer comes to visit

Just had a great visit from Dr Eric Klingelhofer, eminent archaeologist and History professor at Mercer Uni, Georgia USA. Eric is also vice-president of the First Colony Foundation who are based in Manteo, North Carolina. Eric was wonderful company whilst he stayed with us in Bideford. I showed him my sherds and we re-named it the Green House Ceramics collection - he was most impressed by the sheer number of pieces found up the river Torridge.
Eric told me that some pieces of pottery have been discovered on Roanoke Island which date back to pre-1600 and grit free (found in the same context in Ireland). They would have been from jars, probably balluster jars, which would have been used for containing preserved food, anything from butter to fish. These jars were probably then re-used as containers in the process of assaying minerals.
The photograph was taken by my husband Dave - Eric is laying flowers at St Mary's Church in Bideford in memory of Rawley, the native American who was brought to the town by Sir Richard Grenville in 1586 following a skirmish on the Island. A member of the Grenville household, Rawley was baptised a Christian and later died and was buried in the Church in 1589, along with one of Richard's daughters Rebecca. In the back ground with Sadie is Andy Powell, Bideford Town Councillor and author of 'Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke'

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Report now finished

Well I haven't written a post in a while, but things have been moving on quietly behind the scenes in the pottery world in Bideford.
I have recently completed and sent off my report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust which makes me a Fellow now and I even have my official yellow membership card. I delivered my presentation to the Friends of the Burton Art Gallery and Museum AGM in April and really enjoyed lunch after, chatting to artist and collector RJ Lloyd who lives in Bideford and was responsible for the ceramics collection that the Burton Gallery now own. A book has been published to accompany the collection and 12 of these are in North Carolina and Virginia, with various folks and collections I got to see during my Fellowship trip.
I am also booked in to deliver a presentation about my Fellowship at a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust function in Exeter, Devon in October.
I have recently given up one of my part-time jobs so that frees up some time to devote to going back on the pottery trail and to setting up some more talks and opportunities to share my findings. I am still searching along the tidal river Torridge near to Bideford for sherds and adding to the collection nicely. In fact I can't go for a walk now without looking at the ground and examining anything that remotely looks like the right colour for pottery!
I am pleased to say that Alison Grant's book 'North Devon Pottery' is back in print and I have just purchased my own copy at long last to enable me to make reference to her findings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Talk at North Devon Arts

I gave my first talk last Wednesday night at North Devon Arts (NDA), at Broomhill Art Hotel near Barnstaple. I have been a member of NDA for a while and it was a really great thing to experience time in the ‘presenter’s seat’ for a change, having gone to many meetings and been an audience member.

I went to great length to prepare a good talk that covered both aspects of my Churchill Fellowship – the export of Pottery and the Manteo twinning connection. I wanted to disseminate what I had learned about the pottery trade and shared examples from all of the collections that I had seen. I also brought along some pieces from my sherd collection and it gave the audience a chance to handle bits of old pot, a bit like I did in America.

I brought some props with me and quoted from some books. My Manteo baseball hat was put on at one stage and the Manteo water bottle and plastic dumpster truck were held aloft!

What was particularly special was that as well as a round of applause at the end, several people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they had enjoyed the talk and enjoyed my enthusiasm. Also 3 lots of people came out especially to hear my talk, who haven’t been to an NDA meeting for some time.

All in all a lovely evening, thank you to NDA for including me in your programme and for the complimentary glass of wine and meal, which were both delicious.

My next talk booked in is on April 16th at the Friends of the Burton AGM.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My North Devon Pottery collection grows a bit, in bits!

My collection of North Devon pottery was added to in January. I already have some complete plainware jugs with slip around the rim, probably 19th century, although this has not been verified.

I now have found some sherds on the coast, a mixture of glazed plainware (different colours but mainly olive green glaze) and a couple of pieces of sgrafitto. Very exciting, and some of it looks like the photos of the finds I was shown in America! It felt really great to be back on home territory and find equally old pieces on the beaches here.

I went to visit Doug Fitch in his studio near Crediton to show him my collection and to talk about my trip to Virginia and North Carolina. Doug was very intrigued by it all and enthusiastically showed me some of his collection – he has quite a collection of North Devon Pottery and is a huge fan and advocate of it. His own work is highly influenced, producing beautiful pots featuring slipware and sgrafitto.

One sherd, a chunky and heavy piece of plainware with a handle was Doug’s favourite and he couldn’t put it down. I was even treated to a demonstration on his wheel of making a pot with a pulled over handle over the rim, to explain how the rim of the pot represented by the sherd was formed. He also said you can tell the maker of a pot by the handle – the size of it is unique and depends on the maker’s hand size.

As always a fascinating visit and a treat. Thank you Doug for being so generous with both information and enthusiasm.

2011 so far...

I have been working on various things so far this year, writing my report for the Winston Churchill Trust, visiting the Museum of North Devon and Barnstaple to talk to curator Ruth Spires about their collection and adding to my own collection.

I spoke to Ruth before Christmas about my fellowship trip and what I discovered in Virginia and North Carolina. Ruth told me that someone studying for a Phd (Alice Forward of Cardiff University) was visiting from Wales in January so I arranged to come back again at the same time so we could exchange information, finds and notes. I actually visited the Museum on February 3rd – when I arrived Alice was in the covered yard at the Museum with David Dawson, who has 40 years experience of identifying pottery. They both had their heads buried in boxes of sherds and it was quite a sight as there are rows and rows of boxes and boxes of finds. Ruth told me that a lot are from an archaeological dig in the 80’s when the new library site in Barnstaple was being developed.

We all went into the main Museum and compared sherds – I shared some recent finds from the North Devon Coast and Alice had some wonderful pieces of sgrafitto ware from the Valley between Swansea and Cardiff. David identified a couple of my sgraffito pieces as being 17th Century.

It was fascinating talking to him as he can identify a pot’s form and size from a relatively small piece.

I will return to the Museum some time soon and take a look at their collection. I will need a few hours to spare as it is so large but it is quite a significant collection of pottery from Barnstaple and Bideford and area.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flowerdew Collection

Driving to see this collection near Charlottesville, VA, was an amazing experience - I had an address and a google map but it was unexpectedly a lovely place to visit, with a gated entrance and a man in charge of visitors who welcomed me and gave me permission to proceed up the private driveway. What a start!

A fascinating trip to view some of this collection, held by University of Virginia, solidifies exactly the direct link between the tobacco and pottery trade between Bideford and the Eastern Seaboard of America.

Flowerdew Hundred dates back to c1620, is on the James River and was in essence a tobacco plantation and factory and saw the “transformation of English Settlers into Americans” (from Commerce and Conflict: The English in Virginia, Flowerdew Hundred Foundation). During a time of peace with the local tribes, there was an opportunity for the English to expand their settlements and for colonists to take over the Indian’s abandoned villages. Flowerdew Hundred was established in this way and was “one of the earliest and most important of the large, privately owned plantations established in Virginia during the tobacco boom years 1617-1625” (from Commerce and Conflict).

It also has some of the richest and best preserved English settlement sites in the US. There are many examples of pottery, mainly plainware in their collection. I visited Karen Shriver, curator of the collection near Charlottesville – Karen introduced me to the collection and then pulled a few pieces for me to see and photograph. These vessels included a lovely ballister pot, c1624-28, most likely used to transport butter; a milk pan base with a green glaze and several smaller gravel tempered sherds, some with a lead glaze c1650 -1775. All these pieces have been identified as originating from North Devon.

Photographs taken by Dave Green, with permission given to use them courtesy of The Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia