RECYCLING BROKEN POTS –

Here are some examples of the pieces I have been working on. These are all broken pots rebuilt using clay and glaze. The Robin Levine teapot is one of two that met with disaster around the house.

From an archaeological point of view, broken pottery is an essential source of cultural information. Archaeologists will spend considerable time dissecting and analysing it. Reconstruction happens on paper as part of classification and recording. We do not tend to think of broken ceramics in terms of recycling, unless it is as hardcore or to put paintbrushes in. There is though a tradition of repair both for reuse and where they object has acquired a value that overrides function. Rivetted plates, filled and gilded tea-bowls, glued together ancient vessels are all linked by their importance as collectors’ pieces, heirlooms and historical evidence of our own past.

In the modern western sense, we tend to think of recycling as something we have just discovered. Rubbish of course and many people in the past and the present have been/are extremely good at it. There is a great book called Rubbish: The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy based on the archaeological exploration of modern American waste disposal.

Starting from a much loved teapot whose spout was banged against a tap, I have been toying with reassembly techniques which would return broken pieces to a function. Not necessarily the original one; recycling does not require that.

The larger of the two Robin Levine Thomas/Rosenthal teapots rebuilt and glazed together with two Victorian tureens.

There are more things to do with this. The colour for one thing. It needs its status back as well as its function.

I love the pomposity of the larger tureen. It dates from the 1860s and would apparently have been one of a pair in a grand service – with a big lid and its own ceramic ladle. A choice of two soups set at each end of the table. Chipped and handleless it was in half a dozen sherds when I got it, having been used as a garden planter and burst by frost. Refiring has made the transfer printed decoration run slightly.

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