Saturday, 21 December 2013

Mid winter mudlarking

Almost our shortest day, the sun didn’t rise until after 8am. Son out the door delighted it’s the last day of term and off I waddle in wellie boots with mudlarking rucksack, to lower the tone of the train bearing city workers.

What a glorious day, the reflective light was almost blinding on the foreshore.  

Bumped into Jason and linked up with London Mudlarker. A lovely lead cloth seal, my find of the day,  softened the blow of losing my first ever jetton a few weeks ago. It had slipped through a hole in my bag. That will teach me. The small and metal require  a different storage strategy, the casual bung them in a plastic bag will no longer do.

Fortunately the jetton hadn’t washed away and was found a week later by one of the Thames Discovery crew. So you can fully commiserate with my loss, you can see it in all its glory via  this link.

So, the lead cloth seal. It’s big and complete with lots of clues. A crown on the front, with something else beneath perhaps a shield/coat of arms.  

Mudlarking Find: Cloth Seal possibly from late 15th Century
On the reverse is a small rose and what looks like lettering an ‘A’, ‘H’ – can’t tell. 

Then on the band is a little star or sun (top left hand side). 

I've found a similar one on the portable antiquities scheme site here. It could date from as far back as 1474. The time of all that Renaissance art in Florence. 

Annunciation Leonardo da Vinci 1473-1475

In England the war of the roses was in full swing and and Edward IV was on the throne

Edward IV (Wiki) 
and was the decade when William Caxton established his printing press in London. There were 3 million people in England. 

Earlier I’d found one of those cute tiny money box tops dating from Shakespeare’s time. 

Mudlarking Find: Money box top from 1580 - 1620

They are associated with theatres, many were found when the Rose theatre was excavated in Southwark London.   Entrance fees would be collected in the box. The coins could only be extracted by breaking the pottery money box. It is thought these small globular vessels gave their name to the 'box office'. 
16th or 17th Century Surrey Border ware Money Box (Museum of London) 

It was the also a day of delft. An unusual piece with vivid polychrome on both sides, I suspect this might be Italian Fience (tin glaze) rather than English delft. 

Followed by a plate shard with  crude chequered pattern

And part of a delft picture tile.

And then I came across a little fella

Finally went off to collect more pipes, white china and shell edged pearlware for the mosaic. I hope to spend a few days over the holiday period ensconced in that shed, a hectic period of work having enforced a fortnight’s break.

Met up with Jason again, he had kindly pocketed this hand painted shard knowing I’m a sucker for those smashed bits of pottery.

I also snuffled up a few pieces of a mudlarker’s caste offs, the thin delicate handpainted neck of Chinese export porcelain my favourite.

Then off for a post mudlarking coffee and cake with London Mudlaker, passing the guy who has spent the last year decorating chewing gum with enamels all the way along the Millennium bridge.

As we gazed at St Pauls and watched a traditional  tug boat  pull it’s load of  yellow metal crates up the river, we eulogised about London. We’re both so pleased that this  mudlarking passion pulls us down to London’s  belly so regularly.

I decided to weave  through the back streets and alleys to Moorgate. Slanted winter light misted side streets . Every few minutes I came across another slender white church,  slices of old London preserved between rising walls of ultra modern office blocks. It was busy with city workers on their way to Christmas lunches.  Restaurants were full of large sedate groups, a few brave enough to wear their paper crowns in primary colours. Tables were laid with Christmas crackers and big wine glasses ready to welcome the next party. Enormous baubled Christmas trees stood behind the sheets of curved class which show off those minimalist cavernous company entrances. They almost softened them. Christmas really is the only festival London fully celebrates. Up to now I hadn’t felt the slightest bit Christmassy, but something stirred in me as I wandered through those narrow streets with all the Christmas glitter. Decided to come back one evening to really soak up the romance of  London at Christmas. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Mudlarking Mosaic - a quarter of the way through.

There are around 90 sections in this mosaic and I'm about a quarter of the way through. Fortunately it continues to be a pleasure and I become so absorbed I enter into what the psychologists call 'flow', the road to a happiness.

Beginning with another of my favourites, Chinese export porcelain. So as not to feel too much of a vandal I tried to keep snipping to a minimum so it was a a jigsaw puzzle task. The first are my larger pieces.

The second much smaller ones. 

This stuff was imported to Europe from around 1550 and declined in popularity from the late 18th century when Staffordshire ceramics became de rigueur. A longer post can be found here. The first handle less tea bowls were made of Chinese export porcelain and captured in several eighteenth century family portraits. Did they end up in the Thames?
An English Family at Tea 1725 (Joseph Van Aken)
Chinese export porcelain also features in those lovely dutch still lives.

Still Life With Turkey Pie by Pieter Claesz 1625(Rijksmuseum) 
Chunky shards with the seaweed patterns of Mochaware produced from 1792 - 1850 are squashed into the next section. A previous post on Mochaware can be found here.

A popular ceramic for jugs, bowls, chamber pots and salts. 

Mochaware Mustard Pot 1800s (ebay) 
The first pottery I spotted along the Thames was Staffordshire Combed Slipware. I assumed it was Victorian and amazed when I found out it could originate from 1690 - this was the pottery that started my fascination with the Thames and the secrets it holds. 

Utilitarian it was primarily used in baking dishes, although I've also included a marble ware piece, probably from a cup. 

Staffordshire Combed Slipware Baking Dish 1790-1800 (John Howard) 
Another ceramic from Georgian England, banded or annular ware from 1770s - 1840 covered in more detail here.

The  relief mouldings lift this section of creamware. First produced in 1750 and remaining popular until 1840 it was a cheaper substitute for Chinese export porcelain. 

Tucked in the centre are a couple of floret and leaf terminals which may well have decorated the base of jug handles such as the one below. 
Creamware Water Jug 18th Century (John Howard) 
No mudlarking mosaic would be complete without the ubiquitous clay pipe>

And finally a few shots of what at the moment is the tour de force, remembering virtually none of this is my own design, just a pure copy of someone else's masterpiece.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Another early mudlark

Here's a few finds from my last mudlark. It was good to meet two other early mudlarkers Teri and Jason. This little transfer picture from the bottom of a  bowl was my first find. I believe brown was used in transfer ware from 1809.

Mudlarking Find: Transfer ware bowl bottom.
A bit battered and worn, but you can still make out the birds with open wings which decorate either side of this clay pipe from the nineteenth century. Apparently this design is called the spread eagle, although presumably referencing the stance rather than the species as the neck, beak and legs seem far too long for an eagle. 

By the mid nineteenth century there was a least one maker of iron tobacco pipe moulds in London, so the same designs were produced by different pipe makers across the county. This one was a popular 'type' and produced in many forms especially in Sussex.

The spine is perhaps the best preserved, the wing tips and tail feathers meeting the splayed run of leaves. 
Mudlarking Find: Spread Eagle Clay Pipe 19th C. 
There is a very distinctive pipe makers mark on the spur, which I haven't been able to match with a specific producer. 
Clay Pipe Star Makers Mark 19th C. 
A rather lovely hand painted tree, probably late 18th Century. 

This little object (around 2cm square) appears to be a small mould, not quite sure whether it is clay or stone. What was it for I wonder?

Mudlarking Find: Small mould?

I don't usually put up pictures off all the ceramic shards I squirrel away, but thought I would this week

Mudlarking Finds: Worcester Porcelain Dr Wall period 1751-1783
and the rest of them from left to right 
Bartmann Beard  and then a bit of Bartmann face German salt glazed stoneware 1550- 1700, black transferware
Delftware, Imari Porcelain from 1650, Westerwald Stoneware Lion probably around 1675.
Delfware probably from a drug jar 1600-1700, hand painted pratt ware colours, Westerwald 1675 and two other hand painted shards. 

and  find of the day, which was Jason's not mine, large (around 15cm in length) carved stone with what seems to be the remains of render or plaster. Is it medieval? One for the Museum of London to look at. 

Mudlarking find: Medieval carved stone? 

The reverse
Lastly my favourite, balanced on the tip of my finger, a very small  mudlarking china man 
Mudlarking Find: Mudlarking China Man

Friday, 8 November 2013

Mudlarking Mosaic - progress

Every spare hour I've had I've skipped out into our shed, flicked on the fairy lights and CD player and lost track of time pondering, snipping and shuffling ceramic. Pleasure is deepened when the rain hits the corrugated iron roof and the wind gusts outside. 

And here are the first results.  

I started off with the relief moulded surrounds of Staffordshire white salt glazed stoneware plates, first produced in block moulds in 1740. They were the first home made refined tableware which didn't chip (unlike delftware). Expensive but I assume cheaper than the imported Chinese porcelain and very fashionable in their day.  Standards patterns were used to decorate the edges,  'barley' or 'basket' and the 'dot, diaper and basket' all of which are in the section below, the 'feather' design I've used elsewhere. By 1750 white salt glazed stoneware  caused the demise of the delftware industry, but by 1760 it was itself superceded by creamware and pearlware. 

Mudlarking Mosaic White Salt Glazed Stoneware from Staffordshire 1740 onwards
Dot, Diaper and basket English Saltglazed Plate C 1760 (Spode 
Staffordshire Salt Glazed Soup Tureen C 1760 (live auctioneers) 
The age of this stuff is brought home when you realise the people eating off these plates wore wigs, corsets, lace caps and big satin dresses. 

A British Family Served with Tea 1745 artist unknown (b-womeninamericanhistory)

and that they were used in a London which was far smaller 

John_Rocque's_Map_of_London 1746 (Wiki)

In keeping with mosaic design I'm plagiarising, on the right I laid out a more textured section using the bottoms  of bowls and plates, a mixture of white salt glazed stoneware, porcelain and creamware. My first veer away from the mosaic I'm following is the central section which is comprised of one of my favourites, debased scratched blue stoneware produced from 1765-95. Inky cobalt dissolves across the edges of the incised abstract leaves and flowers. Again very fashionable but it seems only for a short period. The bottom shard on the left has just a weenie bit of a medallion, a little secret tucked away in the corner of a rectangle. 

Mudlarking Mosaic from L to R Mocha ware, debased scratched blue and plate bottoms

Then onto modifying my original wave of blue shell  edged pearlware, easy to find along the foreshore as it was produced in volume from 1780 -1840. It was relatively cheap and consequently owned by most reasonably comfortable households across England and the States. The name derives from the scallop like edge mouldings which in earlier versions were carefully painted with blue in downward brushstrokes, in later cheaper versions pottery workers cut corners and just painted a stripe of blue along the edge. 

Mudlarking Mosaic Shell Edged Pearlware 1780-1840

Blue Edged Pearlware Dish Joshua Health circ 1790 (Martyn Edgell) 

Unfortunately I haven't enough of the white and blue slip bands which sometimes decorated mocha ware jugs, what a shame -  I'll have to keep mudlarking. Mocha ware is less old dating from between 1792-1850, taking us into Victorian London.

Mudlarking Mosaic Mocha Ware Bands

By 1850 London had expanded hugely

London in the 1850s (Wiki) 
and fashions were rather more relaxed and comfortable although still look so different from our times - it seems strange they would be in possession of a 1950s looking jug. 

An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago circa 1846 William Frith (V&A)  

Family Portrait in a Conservatory
H.R. Miller, 1850 (V&A) 

and then on to the a far more trickier section of bowl bottoms, sitting above the 1950s shed carpet.