Monday, November 26, 2012

Ancient Symbolism

Egyptian potters created ceramic vessels for many purposes from the everyday to symbolic of their beliefs. An unusual piece in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum's collection is this footed bowl which is believed to be from the Predynastic Period.  At first glance it may appear to be a bit of folly, however, it has much more symbolism than you may think.

A small polished red ware bowl has feet supporting it. You will notice that the bowl tips forward as if to spill it's contents. The clay is from the Nile River and is a smooth bowl with slip and a polished surface that gives a soft sheen to the surface. It is believed that the vessel symbolizes a three-dimensional hieroglyph for the word w'b, which means pure or clean. he bowl of the vessel tips forward as if to spill it's contents so that water that has been purified could be spilled onto the ground. 

Bowls like this have been excavated from ancient cemeteries and it is believed to be an offering of clear water for the dead.  

--Debra Wallace

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thanksgiving Container


I'm sitting here drinking hot chocolate. The trees are gorgeous yellow. and orange. So, it must be fall, right? Actually I think this is what is called Indian Summer. Anyway I was thinking about Thanksgiving and trying to think of a vessel which is a symbol of the Thanksgiving holiday. Besides the gravy boat all I could come up with is the cornucopia.

We probably all made paper cornucopias in grade school but the horn shaped container is much more ancient then that. According to Greek mythology, Baby Zeus was being suckled by the goat Amalthaea. Now Zeus got to rough-housing and broke off one of Amalthaea's horns. Did Zeus get sent to time-out? Nooo, it turns out the horn dispensed endless supplies of food, drink and riches. It was a horn of plenty.

Over time the horn shape signified prosperity. In the U.S. the cornucopia became a symbol of the Thanksgiving holiday a day of feasting. Traditionally, cornucopias were made of wicker and filled with fruit and flowers.

Speaking of food here is a link to a recipe for Roasted Vegetable Cornucopias

And here are two other artistic interpretations of cornucopias.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Picasso's Plates and Vessels

It was in 1946 that the 63 year old Pablo Picasso began working with clay. He formed a relationship with the Modoure pottery in Vallauris in the south of France. There his ceramics were produced in editions much like limited edition prints. 

Picasso considered his plates and vessels a form of canvas, a sculpture and a painting in one. At first he decorated clay pieces formed by the Modoure potters but later he designed his own forms. 

One of his favorite forms was the female figure. Influenced by Mediterranean mythological and classical themes he became famous for zoomorphic pots of owls, fish, birds, and bulls. To learn more and see examples of Picasso's ceramics follow this link to

--Lynn Conaway

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Zealand creation story inspires lighted vessels

David Trubridge is an industrial designer in New Zealand. 

During Milan Design Week in 2008, Trubridge displayed this lighting installation he called "The Three Baskets of Knowledge." The foundation of the installation were three baskets shaped like hammocks, each made of a different material. The play of light through them created an illusion of transparency.

Like many artists, Trubridge had a narrative in mind for his design. He used a mythological story from the New Zealand Maori about the demigod Tane. Tane was sent into the heavens to receive knowledge mankind needed to live on Earth. After receiving this knowledge in three kete (a Maori word for basket), Tane returned to the earth and created mankind.

The three baskets, as interpreted by Trubridge, included:

Kete Aronui, made of bamboo, relates to the body. It contains knowledge of the earth and the natural world, which is for all.

Kete Tuauri, made of aluminum,  relates to the mind. It contains rational knowledge, which we keep for ourselves.

Kete Tuaate, made of plastic, relates to the spirit. It contains knowledge of the spiritual world, which we give out for others.

--Carole Gary Staples