DECORATING YOUR POT

 

smoothing pot

  1. After the vessel walls have been smoothed, you must reference the pottery type you have chosen to duplicate the surface decoration accurately.
  2. Accurate decoration will require the accurate choice and use of tools. Even a plain vessel surface can be plain, plain smoothed, or burnished plain depending on the pottery type chosen.  The higher the gloss, the more smoothing required.
  3. STAMPING    paddle stamping pottery
    1. a.While you might want to make your first attempt at pottery making a plain vessel, your first decorated pot might be cord marked or simple stamped.
    2. b.Making your tools will be covered separately.
    3. c.Most stamps are carved from wood or are fashioned out of a baked clay block.
    4. d.The stamp design is pressed carefully or slapped into the moist clay exterior of the vessel. This paddling process helped to further compress the clay and gave the exterior surface a textured surface that would not slip in the hands when full.
    5. e.Be sure to note the amount of overlapping done by the ancient potters. Some overlapping is purposeful and accurately done while some seems haphazard. Reference the pottery type you have chosen in the Field Guide to Southeastern Indian Pottery (Revised and Expanded) by Lloyd E. Schroder.
  4. 4.INCISING   Incising pot Ocmulgee Fields Incised
    1. Select your incising tool to reproduce sharp, V-shaped lines or U- shaped lines as required by the pottery type you have chosen.
    2. Carefully study the illustrated patterns before you attempt to reproduce them on your vessel.
    3. Most incised patterns are reproduced in sections around the vessel. If this is the case, you will want to mark those sections using tape or some other method so that your incised lines fit accurately into each section.
  5. 5.PUNCTATING   Stallings Punctated Weeden Island Punctated fmnh 9131121 pot43
    1. Select the size and type of tool required for each type of punctation pattern. Some decoration patterns require both hollow and solid core, large and small, sharp and dull pointed punctation. Other punctation is done by repeated punctations with a single instrument.
    2. If punctation requires shell, be sure to have the correct shell on hand. You should visit a local shell shop before attempting shell impressions or punctations.
  6. NODES   Irene Complicated Stamped vessel
    1. Nodes are small round protrusions that are often added to the exterior of the vessel. These are often added to the exterior of the rim or lip.
    2. Most often nodes are lumps of clay that are added to the vessel, but in some cases, such as O’Neal Plain, the nodes are pushed through from the inner wall of the vessel. The deep indentation left in the inner wall is then filled with additional clay and smoothed.
  7. 7.IMPRESSION   Moundville Net Marked Dunlap Fabric Impressed nw ga
    1. As mentioned above, be sure to have the correct shell on hand before attempting shell impressions or scraping.
    2. Fabric Impressed decoration is most often done with a fabric wrapped paddle. The Pee Dee people were one of the few to wrap their vessels in strips of fabric. It is important to have the correct fabric weave before making impressions. One way to achieve this without actually reproducing the weave is to press a sherd of ancient pottery into the face of a clay stamp and letting it harden.
  8. 8.EFFIGIES   Fort Walton effegy jf Ft Walton Incised fmnh 9131200 pot28
    1. Effigies are figurines that are added to the lip or body of the vessel.
    2. The women that made ancient pottery concerned themselves with the middle world and day to day life, thus these are the images that appeared as effigies on their vessels. They consisted of animals that were part of their subsistence or with people that held meaning to them.
    3. You might want to see the articles about effigies in the “Artifact Identification” section of our website before you attempt to add them to your pot.
  9. 9.APPLIQUE STRIPS   Lamar applique Lamar Comp Al Flint R basin3
    1. An appliqué strip is a strip of clay that is added to the exterior of the vessel lip, either to thicken the lip or to add as decoration or both.
    2. The Lamar people of the Late Mississippian period had many different means of decorating this strip of clay including finger pinching or reed punctation. They also added appliqué strips along the bottom of the rim section of their vessels to separate different types of decoration techniques. These techniques were continued along the Georgia coast in Irene vessels and throughout central Georgia by the Creek people making Ocmulgee Fields pottery.
    3. The Cherokee people used the appliqué strip in a different way on their Pisgah pottery by thickening the rim and then adding punctated designs along the rim.
  10. 10.PAINTING     brushcloseup1 Avenue Polychrome Bruce Butts Ms
    1. Each of the decorating techniques has been presented in increasingly difficult levels. Painting, and especially negative painting, is perhaps the most difficult level and probably should not be attempted on a vessel surface without some practice.
    2. Other forms of decoration are done while the clay on the surface of the vessel is still moist, but painting is done after the vessel has been fired.
    3. Remember that the ancient vessels you see have been in an environment that has worn away the layers of paint, perhaps nearly completely removing them. Your paint will be fresh and bright.
    4. Native American painting traditions predate the arrival of European explorers, with different colors holding symbolic meanings. The primary colors used for pottery painting were red, white, and black. The paints were made from natural pigments, including minerals and plant material, mixed with a fish-egg binder.
    5. e.Prepare your paints by mixing finely ground or crushed pigments from plants, minerals and other sources with a beaten egg yolk binder. You can also mix your pigments with melted animal fat, linseed oil or milk as binders. Mix a little water to get the consistency you want for your project. For some pigments, such as dirt or clay, you can use water alone.
    6. f.Red paints come primarily from iron-rich clays or berries. Native Americans also used certain types of beetles to create these paint colors. Naturally formed voids in rocks that filled with iron-rich sediments are often called “paint pots” because the reddish sediments could be mixed with water or other binders to be used for paint. An iron rich sand stone was also often scraped to remove grains for pigment. For deeper colors, you can mash the berries and heat them slightly to release more of the colorful juice.
    7. g.White paint could be mad from limestone, gypsum, chalk, or white kaolin clay and blended with a binder.
    8. h.Black paint could be made from charcoal or soot when combined with a binder. Like other pigment sources, it has to be ground finely to blend smoothly for painting.
    9. i.Once the paint is blended to the right consistency, it needs only to be carefully brushed on to match the ancient patterns.