An image of a white stoneware water jug standing on top of a white plinth. The jug has a spout which is facing to the left, and a handle on its right hand side. I has a waist that tapers in at its middle, and a small foot that flares out at its base.
White Water Jug, 2023

Bodily language is often used in reference to ceramic objects – full, rounded bellies; narrow waists; long, elegant necks; tall foot rings – and jugs are forms that I think really suit these descriptions. They often appear quite bird–like, with pinched spouts akin to beaks, handles maybe reminiscent of wings. But there’s also a similarity in the body – particularly when they sit lighter on their feet – with the rounded forms like that of a little song bird, chest puffed out from an intake of breath, very subtly leaning back in anticipation of expelling its song. This little jug dated to 13th–14th century Orvieto is a lovely example.

The two different forms I’ve been developing – one with a handle and one without – are thrown on the potter’s wheel, then subsequently painted in layers of coloured clay slip, before being finished with ornamental slip-beading that takes influence from decorative street furniture and architectural details.

Jugs have an animated quality that is more apparent, I think, than in other pieces of tableware which tend more towards stillness. They’re objects that I really clearly imagine in use and in motion, and find especially engaging because of this. I think about how their weight would change as they are filled with and subsequently emptied of liquid, how my grasp on the handle would adapt in response, how I might wrap my other hand around the body to give extra support. Are they most satisfying to hold when full or empty, or somewhere between? How much do you have to tilt them to get a smooth stream of liquid?

I find them exciting objects to make because of all these considerations – there’s so much to try and get right. A lot of this is speculative since you can’t know the weight of the object plus water until the final firing is complete, but this just adds to the sense of anticipation of its use! I think the handled jugs in particular are getting towards this impression of animation – their narrow base growing up into a wider mid–section has the quality of an inhale, as though their shape has been defined by rising air.

My research has led me to images of late Medieval London baluster jugs, and I can see resemblances between these and my own work which I’d like to develop further – tall and slim with an ovoid body that seems to lift upwards as if mid-stretch, a gently flaring foot. The very slight lean is contributing a lot to their charm too. This tilting aspect (seen in a forwards motion on this jug from late 13th – early 14th century London) makes it seem as though it is fresh off the wheel, just released from the potters hands. It’s like it’s in the process of steadying itself, gently wavering as it comes to its centre.


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