The albarello or drug jar was one of the constant forms in Middle Eastern and European pottery from about the 10th to the 18th centuries. It’s associated with tin-glazed earthenware, a type of pottery covered in a shiny white glaze that lends itself to – in fact cries out for – coloured decoration. The albarellos of Spain made during Muslim rule and the Italian maiolica albarellos are exuberantly painted with a variety of motifs, from severely geometric to portraits. Occasionally there are flights of fancy, as in these two albarellos (above left) made in Deruta, central Italy, in about 1500, with their winged handles. They’re in the Wallace Collection in London.
This sort of flattened handle had been seen in the pottery of southern Europe for a long time, most dramatically in the huge gazelle vase in the Alhambra. My recent work (below) has been inspired by these drug jars. My jars and vessels have similar flattened handles, a similarly limited palette and a similar mixture of painting and sgraffito. The Deruta jars are painted in three colours: cobalt blue, antimony yellow and manganese purple; in my series I use blue, yellow and black. The broken wing of the gazelle vase suggested the asymmetric treatment of the handles.
Although my initial inspiration was from these Italian pots, there are other influences too: 1950s textiles and abstract expressionist painting – which in the 1950s was diffusing into the applied arts.
These pieces will all be on show in The Found Gallery in Dunbar from the beginning of September.