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School of Art

Contact Details

School of Art
Aberystwyth University
Buarth Mawr
SY23 1NG

Tel: +44 (0)1970 622460

Fax: +44 (0)1970 622461


Welsh Folk Craft – Ceramics

The largest section of the Welsh Folk Craft collection was devoted to 110 pieces of slipware pottery - mostly baking dishes from Buckley in Flintshire, but also including examples from Ewenny in Glamorgan, and from Staffordshire, Devon, Lancashire and Northumberland in England. The curators searched in all parts of Wales for pottery to illustrate localised form and decoration as well as regional variation elsewhere in Britain. The first slipware was purchased in 1926 and was subsequently acquired by gift or bought for between 10 and 25 shillings a piece. In January 1932 Richard Pritchard of Anglesey sold 27 dishes from his private collection for which the curators paid a massive £110 in two instalments. In that year Col. Fossett Roberts of Aberystwyth gave two very fine Fremington (North Devon) harvest jugs that were originally made for owners in Aberystwyth Ann Davies, Aberystwyth 1818 and Ann Doughton 1827.

Slip is one of the oldest decorative mediums known to the potter. Slip-decorated earthenware has been produced by many cultures in most parts of the world, each country developing patterns and styles derived from their own culture and ethnic traditions. Dan Jones took a scholarly interest in this area of ceramic manufacture in Wales. He anticipated excavations taking place at the sites of old kilns and waste tips recording local forms and decoration, systematically identifying and documenting early wares and thus adding to the existing body of knowledge in the field.
The long established family-run potteries at Buckley, like those at Ewenny and elsewhere in the north and south of Wales, were set up in areas where both clay and fuel were readily available. Buckley is principally represented by press-moulded oven dishes invariably decorated with a white or yellow slip - trailed, combed, marbled or personalised with inscriptions such as Home His Home be it ever so Homely and Mary purchased in 1931. There are also wheel-thrown domestic vessels such as storage jars, puzzle jugs, tankards and bread pans. Ewenny produced similar wares and also introduced a distinctive ‘sgraffito’ decoration in which the vessel was dipped in the yellow slip, which when leather-hard was incised to reveal the red body beneath. The low fired body was not very durable, the lead sulphide (galena) glaze flaked and eventually these wares could no longer compete with the finer ceramics and enamelled metal utensils available by the end of the 19th century. As a result of industrialisation, mass manufacture, economic competition and the improved transport of goods, country potteries and other small craft industries went into sharp decline.

Simple items made for everyday domestic use, Dan Jones wrote were ‘much more interesting and appealing than the work of the over-trained and often uninspired craftsmen of today’ (Annual Reports, 1926). As such the collection of Welsh craft would, it was hoped, stimulate an arts and crafts renaissance in Wales – the Department of Art and Crafts purchased its first pottery kiln in 1927. The collection of early studio ceramics demonstrated that potters such as Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew intentionally imitated or developed the methods and materials employed by the makers of 18th and 19th-century domestic slipware. ‘The craft of the potter is one that loudly calls for a revival’, wrote the curators, ‘Where suitable clay exists small kilns can easily be built without much cost, and so interest in a local pottery be fostered. It is a craft that readily lends itself to local expression. It can rapidly become “native”. This collection should therefore be very helpful in spreading a knowledge and an interest, and so aid in fostering attempts at local revivals of this fascinating Art.’ (Annual Reports, 1925)