Vivienne Saunders

Institution: University of Wolverhampton

Course: Design & Applied Art (Ceramics)

Title: Terracotta & Smoke

Description: My abstract ceramic forms were inspired by the decorative plate of the Lur (a horn made of bronze) and the patterns on the forms were developed from burial images and metal implements found within Bronze Age graves. The forms were made using terracotta clay and my processes included pinching and coiling, methods used in the Bronze Age. I have applied images to the forms using paper resist and black decorating slip. The whole form has then been burnished using a smooth stone.

I was also inspired by the gold and bronze arm rings, axes and daggers often found within Bronze Age graves. My twisted rod design and oxidised copper decoration included within the ceramic form were developed from the shapes of these grave items. The holes in the copper plate represent the eight protrusions usually found around the trumpet end of the Lur.

In preparation for firing in an electric kiln, the form was wrapped in newspaper, and placed inside a sealed aluminium foil container called a saggar. The temperature was then raised high enough to burn the newspaper and provide a smoke atmosphere which darkened the abstract form. Polishing with beeswax completed the process.

Inspiration: Gold ornamentsLurs

This Bronze Age project has given me the opportunity to research this fascinating period of history; a time of great change in the development of materials and culture. I have been particularly drawn to the mystery of the Lur, a bronze ceremonial horn, and its purpose within Bronze Age society. Lurs have been discovered in bog and marshland which were considered sacred places; rock carvings depict the Lurs in religious rites and most probably in funeral processions. I have been further inspired by burial images that show the belongings that accompanied the dead and wonder at the life stories these must hold. The handling session of Bronze Age pots at Blythe House and the visit to the British Museum has been invaluable; it has provided me with the stimulation to design, develop and hand build contemporary abstract ceramic forms that reflect the importance of these grave objects and rituals within the Bronze Age society.