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Pottery: (Roman) Coarse Ware

Ratna Drost (NL)

The Romans had and used different types of pottery. Normally, Roman pottery falls into three categories: Amphorae, pottery used for transportation and storage, usually undecorated; Coarse ware, used for everyday necessities and extremely common; Fine ware, a combination of functional and decorative requirements. Therefore it might be painted or glazed. In Archeon, we have all three types and its possible to make all three of them yourself. It all depends on your preferred type of clay, your skills of decorating and the availability of pigments and glaze. The instructions given, are for coarse ware using the potter’s wheel.

Requirements: 
Clay (home-made or bought)
Potter’s wheel (a reconstructed or modern one)
Water
Decoration equipment (knives, pins, terracotta moulds)
Oven

Instruction for a Roman coarse ware pot:
1. Place your lump of clay on the plateau of your potter’s wheel. Make sure your hands and clay are slippery enough. Use water for this.
2. Spin the heavy fly-wheel, using your feet. It may take some practice to keep the wheel going at a constant speed. The wheel needs to spin quite fast, to enable you to work the clay properly.
3. ‘pull’ the clay upwards, by pressing your thumbs into the centre of the clay. Keep your other fingers together on the exterior side of the clay. Slowly and carefully move your hands upwards, shaping the lump into an object. You can also shape by using one hand, using the other to support the shape of the object. In between shaping, make sure you’re hands and clay stay slippery enough.
4. When ready, carefully remove the moist pot by cutting it loose. You can use a metal wire, or a knife for this.
5. Let the pot dry for a while. If you want to add a handle, this is the best time to do so. Shape the handle with your hands and attach it to the moist pot using water and clay. Do not press to hard.
6. Feel free to decorate your pot. Keep in mind that coarse ware does not come glazed or painted. You can scratch geometrical patterns into the clay though, using a stick, knife, etc. Make sure you decorate before the clay dries out completely. It’s best to decorate right after you’ve finished your pot.
7. When satisfied with the result, you can bake your pot in a kiln. It’s best off course to do so in a Roman kiln, but you can also use a modern one. They practically work the same. Read the instructions for using your modern kiln carefully. When using a Roman kiln, make sure is adequately made. It will take some practice to use it properly and successfully considering the different stages of sintering and baking.

Sources: 

Images

Kiln
Roman buff pottery flagon, 1st-2nd century A...
Examples of stamped decoration on the...
Archeon's Roman potter at work 1
Archeon's Roman potter at work 2
Archeon's Roman potter at work 3
Archeon's Roman potter at work 4
Archeon's Roman potter at work 5
Archeon's Roman potter at work 6
Archeon's Roman potter at work 7