First Project: Glaze Matching

After recovering from the initial shock I experienced upon seeing John Austin’s collection of Thorley’s pottery, he briefed me on several possible options in terms of approaches I could take.  This, he said, would give me more freedom to explore what interested me, as there is evidently more than enough work than can be completed in one summer, rather than being forced into facets of the project I might find not as desirable.

The project I decided to take on first involves trying to match codes on the bottom of pieces in Austin’s collection to codes located in Thorley’s extensive notes.  I chose this option largely because it allowed me to get very involved with both Austin’s collection and Thorley’s notes that are at Swem.

The process involves examining the bottoms of each piece to see if Thorley left a hand-written code, which Austin suspects corresponds to a glaze formula.  Thorley kept a very detailed log of most everything in his life, and his papers can at times be very overwhelming.  He tried to catalog every piece of business correspondence, personal correspondence, sketch, formula, and much more.  Unfortunately, his actual notes on the paper are not as meticulous, and he neglected to write the code next to many of his recorded formulas.  However, I have been able to gather a very substantial amount of information, including the basis for many of his codes.  The letters in a code (such as 3CT10) I have learned, usually refer to the general type of glaze (in this case, colored transparent).  Also, I have been able to precisely match some of the specific codes, including the series and color numbers, to specific formulas.  This is important for determining ingredients, as well as for associating certain works with specific dates, as many of Thorley’s notes are dated.

I have made substantial progress in this project, but I still have over half of Mr. Austin’s collection to go through.  I hope to make more attributions and continue to gather as much information from Thorley’s notes as possible, as this is an invaluable source.