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Collecting Devon Ceramics (S Devon Branch)
Thu. 20 April 2023 at 2:15 pm
£2 – £4
Emeritus Professor John Mather, DA’s current President, will give an illustrated talk about collecting Devon’s ceramics. The talk will discuss the distribution of pottery clays in Devon and the various wares which have been produced from them, by potteries and potters who have made Devon their home. Examples will be shown from the collection amassed by John and his wife Jenny Bennett over the past 25 years.
The cost will be £2 for DA members, £4 for non-members. Pay in cash on the door, or in advance online via TicketSource, here.
Report on the talk
Do you know your earthenware from your stoneware? Or is it porcelain? Different clay is used, depending on the requirements of the finished article, as we learned from our President, John Mather’s talk entitled “Collecting Devon Ceramics”.
To a geologist clay represents “the finest grade of clastic sedimentary material, less than 4 microns in diameter”. Devon is gifted with various types of clay – china clay, ball clay and red clay – and John explained their geological make-up. China clay is a primary clay formed by the in-situ alteration of feldspar in the Dartmoor Granite whereas ball and red clays are secondary clays formed as rocks are weathered and eroded with their constituent minerals deposited in lakes and on flood plains. The ball clay in the Bovey basin was laid down in Tertiary times – about 50 million years ago.
China clay requires expensive refining to achieve the desired whiteness, whereas the ball and red clays require little processing. The famous red clay, found at Fremington in North Devon, is rich in iron and was formed from glacial lake deposits. Porcelain is made up of 55% china clay and requires a very high temperature (1200-1400C) for firing compared to earthenware and stoneware, making porcelain vessels more expensive.
The clay goes through several stages until it is a finished article. From being wet and plastic on the potter’s wheel, it is left to harden and dry out before it is fired to a temperature where it is rigid but still porous. Then it is glazed and fired again.
John showed photographs of local potters’ works – for example, platters made by Clive Boven, sgraffito ware made by Marianne de Trey at Dartington and some of his own stoneware vases!
Chris Reader and John Mather