Friday, 18 January 2008

I make tableware on a pottery wheel; I have a small shared studio space in Plymouth. For me there is a huge history behind these everyday objects that I make. I have a lifelong association with them at the very least and they hold a special place in my life. I have used them on a daily basis everyday of my life and as a child played with plastic or miniature ceramic equivalents. However, they also hold a place in the material cultural history of western societies. They tie us to the past whether we are aware of it or not. It is well documented how the teapot was introduced but not the cup/mug, the individual handled ceramic vessel, its origins are less clear, and its introduction does not seem to be a watershed like the teapot. What is an intriguing thought is that there was a time when the mug/cup didn’t exist. It is hard tio imagine a world without them. It must have been very different from our own. Indeed, the Medieval Pottery Research Group(1998) says that “vessels which were designed specifically for drinking are rare before the later medieval period”. Much of the evidence for its introduction is archaeological.

The mug/cup as an everyday object has been made, bought, used and discarded or in some cases collected and curated now for nearly six hundred years- how has this happened? Is there any other object that this has happened to? The book, specifically the English bible, undoubtedly;;, the clay pipe, however, became obsolete. These sorts of questions will need further exploration.

There is a well documented transition from the medieval to the post medieval period. Indeed Barker,(Accessed on line 30-12-07) attests to a transitional phase defined by transitional groups of pottery. The Post Medieval period, 1450-1700, according to Cumberpatch,(2003), refers more or less to a period which follows the medieval and is largely defined by the material culture of this context. From these contexts come large amounts of ceramic material which are distinctive from the medieval ceramics. They consist of assemblages which have a specific character, are described as transitional groups containing cups platter, jugs, pancheons, dripping pans, as seen in FIG 1. The medieval forms had largely been replaced by vessels with specific functions some of which are still readily recognisable in the contemporary period.

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