Clay: A Human History

by Jennifer Lucy Allan


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    This book is published on 25th July and can be pre-ordered now.

    Clay contains infinite possibilities in its transmutations, evidenced on the shelves of our homes, our galleries and museums. Every time we make something with clay, we engage with the timelines that are in the material itself, whether it was dug from a clifftop, riverbed or pit. In firing what we make, we bestow the material with function, meaning, or feeling, and anchor its form in a human present…Objects made from clay contain marks of our existence that collectively tell the story of human history more completely than any other material. There is a reason there are so many pots in museums: because fired clay is one of the most effective keepers of stories we have

    This book is a love letter to clay, the material that is at the beginning, middle and end of all of our lives; that contains within it the eternal, the elemental, and the everyday. People have been taking handfuls of earth and forming them into their own image since human history began. Human forms are found everywhere there was a ceramic tradition, and there is a ceramic tradition everywhere there was human activity. The clay these figures are made from was formed in deep geological time. It is the material that God, cast as the potter, uses to form Adam in Genesis.

    Tomb paintings in Egypt show the god Khum at a potter’s wheel, throwing a human. Humans first recorded our own history on clay tablets, the shape of the characters influenced by the clay itself. The first love poem was inscribed in a clay tablet, from a Sumerian bride to her king more than 4000 years ago.

    Born out of a desire to know and understand the mysteries of this material, the spiritual and practical applications of clay in both its micro and macro histories, Clay: A Human History is a book of wonder and insight, a hybrid of archaeology, history and lived experience as an amateur potter.

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