Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Decorative Arts, History

Making Ends Meet Tudor Style – Pottery and Tiles

Tudor pottery on display at Tudor House and Garden Museum, Southampton, Hampshire.

Recently, the brilliant Tudor Revels organised an enjoyable workshop on Tudor pottery and tiles as part of their ‘Making Ends Meet Tudor Style’ series. The workshop took place at The Hawthorns Centre on Southampton Common and was run by talented husband and wife team, Eric and Val Freeman, from New Forest Pottery Time.  I have had a go at pottery before but confess to not being very good at it, I don’t have the magic touch when it comes to clay. Several years ago I made a bowl at St. Fagans Museum in Wales. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either.

Reproduction Tudor pottery for the kitchen, owned by historical interpreter, Emma Shelley.
Reproduction Tudor pottery belonging to Emma Shelley.

I was thrilled to have another opportunity to ‘throw a pot’ as well as a chance to create a couple of ‘scratch design’ tiles. Eric was very patient and clearly explained to me the basic technique behind throwing a successful pot.  My first attempt went well, followed by a couple of disasters where impatience to finish a Tudor-style drinking vessel, resulted in my clay having to be put in the recycling box! Finally, after a break of several hours in which I made a couple of scratch design tiles, I returned to the wheel. This time I successfully managed to produce my drinking goblet. At the end of the workshop, Eric and Val took our creative offerings away to be twice fired in their kiln. When I collected the items last week, I had such a nice surprise, all my pieces had turned out surprisingly well. Traditional Tudor Green slip had been added to my pot and goblet, creating a striking overall result.

My pottery adventure begins….
My finished drinking goblet.

My Tudor goblet with green slip added, twice fired in kiln and glazed.

My glazed and fired pot.

Eric and Val displayed a selection of pottery and tiles inspired by Tudor designs, a number of items Eric had created himself.  Alongside, were images of original Tudor wares and text panels outlining the history of Tudor pottery and tiles.  Explanations also included information on techniques used by Tudor potters.  Below are a few fascinating facts on Tudor pottery gleamed from Eric and Val’s mini-exhibition:

  1. clay that was rich in sand and grit made very rough and sturdy ware, such as cooking pots. These pots could withstand high temperatures on an open fire;
  2. early decoration consisted of liquid clay (slip) in different colours, applied to the pot by brush or pouring over part of the pot with a simple design scratched through the slip;
  3. later in the Tudor period ground lead ore (galena) was added to slip which melted at firing temperature. This type of slip produced a rich green colour known as Tudor Green.
  4. when two different colours of slip are poured over a pot and shaken vigorously while still wet, a marbled pattern is created and this is known as ‘joggling‘;
  5. pots were wood-fired in simple kilns, made out of bricks fashioned from the same clay as the pots. The process of firing twice didn’t become common practice until the end of the seventeenth century;
  6. the legacy of medieval and Tudor pottery is very highly regarded within the history of ceramics.
  • For further information about Eric and Val’s pottery business, New Forest Pottery Time, CLICK HERE;
  • For further information on The Hawthorns Centre, CLICK HERE.
  • For further information on Tudor Revels’ events, CLICK HERE. For those of you who are more technologically minded, do try the new interactive version of their events Brochure, CLICK HERE;
    A blank canvas to create my scratch design tile.
    Tools used to create scratch design on tile.
    Tudor tile that was the source of inspiration for my rose design.

    Slip colours used for decorating pottery or tiles.

    A slip dispenser.
    You can also use a paintbrush to add slip.
    Scratch design complete, slip is then added.
    Applying slip to my tile.
    My tile after having been glazed and fired.
    The tile top-left provided inspiration for my lion.

    Applying design detail using different colours of slip. Each layer of slip must dry before adding another.

    My tiles prior to being glazed and fired.
    My finished tile, fired and glazed.

    Early Tudor, earthenware, ‘encaustic’ tile on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Design has been made using in-laid coloured clays. It is possible the tile was made in a kiln from the Mendip region or by travelling craftsmen. The tile is from Acton Court.


Social historian, based in the UK.

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