CSAD Ceramics staff member Duncan Ayscough has been selected to exhibit at the prestigious National Eisteddfod Art & Crafts Exhibition this year to be held in the town of Bodedern, Anglesey. The works selected are from a body of work exhibited earlier this year at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff. The work explores the relationship of entomology and artefact through the study of Roman mortariam bowls.
Mortarium bowls were amongst the first wheel thrown pots made in Britain. Roman sites of production dating from the 1st century have been found throughout England and Wales.
Duncan writes: “These simple forms made from local clays intrigue me and I find myself consistently drawn to them in museum collections such as Caerleon Legionary Museum. I value their simple yet brutal aesthetic, sweeping curves and powerfully defined rims. The works produced for this exhibition reference both the pots themselves and their classification by archeologists of the 19th and 20th centuries, in terms of regional variation, chronological order and technological innovation.
We are defined by our language and the words we have form our identity and understanding of our place in the universe. The word ‘mortarium’ has the same Latin root as the words morbid and mortality meaning, ‘to rub away’. We are surrounded by the evidence of entropy in all facets of the human and natural world. From the granite rocks formed from slowly cooling molten magma wearing to clay in river beds over billions of years, through to the short span of life shared by us as mortal beings. The entire universe is in a constant flux of making and unmaking.
All works are produced on the potters wheel, a process that I have been exploring for some 35 years. I find captivating both the fluid manipulation of soft ‘plastic’ clay in the process of throwing and the techniques of turning to define form as the clay hardens. Once the clay is dry, the surface is coated with multiple layers of fine clay slip called ‘terra sigillatta’. This technique was developed in Greek and Roman cultures and predates the use of glaze on ceramics. After firing in an electric kiln to 1000 degrees centigrade, all works are exposed to a surface carbonisation process which traps carbon into the ceramic surface. Spiral crazing evident in the surface of the pots is a manifestation of the tension within the clay particles as it is made on the potters wheel.”