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Pottery tool
Unknown, Roman
c. 1000
 
For around twenty thousand years, man has been extracting clay from the earth and used it to create forms, for both practical and decorative use. Each and every one of these objects has a story to tell, recorded in the surfaces of the material, be it the maker’s handprints or the processes by which it was formed and fired.

This carved stone artifact represents part of the journey a Roman vessel took in its manufacture some 1000 years ago. Bought from an authorised antique dealer in a backstreet of Rome, it caught the eye amongst bulging shelves of more typical collectables offered for purchase. 

Its intriguing furrowed design—carved by hand—suggested some form of ornamental piece, whereas its role was actually to impart ornamentation into terracotta vessels themselves. As ably and enthusiastically demonstrated by the vendor, a wooden stick was placed through the central hole and the tool slowly but firmly rotated horizontally around the rim of a pot to hand (which would have been newly thrown and wet), resulting in seven evenly aligned indents in the pot’s surface. We would imagine no two applications were ever the same; the evenness (or unevenness) of these parallel lines permanently records the steadiness of the individual potter’s hand, making every vessel truly unique.

Watching the animated hands of this shop owner demonstrate this marvellous device, he opened our minds. And closed the sale.
 
15 February 2019
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Pottery tool.
Pottery tool, detail.
Pottery tool, detail.
Pottery tool.
© Carter Studio 2019