Written by John Edgeler, curator of the Winchcombe Archive Collection Trust in Gloucestershire (home to one of the largest collections of early studio slipwares made by potter Michael Cardew), A Harvest of Jugs contains over 150 coloured illustrations charting 300 years of production, from one of the earliest surviving examples in the 1660s to their influence on 20th century studio pottery design.
Traditional harvest jugs – used to carry ale or cider at harvest time – were crafted from red earthenware and decorated with white slip and a honey-coloured glaze. The decorative designs were created by scratching (called sgraffito) through the layer of slip before the jug dried.
These designs, often to do with harvest time and sometimes featuring poems and drinking rhymes, reflected the rural communities they were crafted in and Edgeler’s book examines some stand-out examples including the decoration on a jug in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (illustrated on the book’s front cover).
“These pots were not made in a vacuum, they reflected contemporary taste,” Edgeler tells ATG. As well as valuable social records, he also sees harvest jugs as an important part of the folk art tradition: “What is so special about the untutored decoration of the country potters is that it has that folk art naïve freshness which is so special.”
Edgeler plans to follow up the book with a harvest jug ‘bible’ in due course.
A Harvest of Jugs has limited print run of 100 copies and is available to buy for £25.