April 28, 2013

Learning from the Yoruba

Someday I’ll make a vessel like that, I said to myself when I saw in the Charolotte Museum these beautiful Yoruba pots embellished with rope designs. They were pit-fired black ware and burnished to a smooth finish. I liked the way the forms were encircled by a ropes, most likely fashioned in a sprig mold.

So some time later, I took various pieces of twine, rope, metal and bamboo and made plaster casts of them. The casts sat in my basement unused for about three years. But this month, for my pit firing, I finally set myself the task of making a flask form encircled with a rope design.

When I got to the application of the terra sigillata, I decided to leave the brush strokes instead of smoothing them out. This created a mottled effect upon burnishing - almost as if the color on the vessel were drawn on by a color pencil. The smoke firing made a nice design, I think.

The flask, like the rest of the vessels in the pit firing, is a functioning ocarina. With only six holes it plays a limited scale but has a very nice mellow tone.

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