Friday, September 19, 2014

Fun with Ceramics: an Evening with an Expert- Dr. Suzanne Griset

-Anne C. Morgan, Head Curator

Dr. Suzanne Griset explores the Museum ceramics collection with members
On Saturday we had the pleasure of having Dr. Suzanne Griset join us for a day of fun with ceramics.  Suzanne, the principle investigator and project manager with SWCA, is an expert on the ceramics of Southern California.  She was kind enough to work with us during the day, answering questions we had about clay in general and pieces of our collection in particular.   She also joined us for a Members-only Evening with an Expert and gave a presentation to 23 Museum members who wanted to learn more about our collection.

As we work to prepare our collection of ollas for display in the new permanent exhibit (opening Spring 2015) her insight was incredibly helpful.

We learned some fascinating ceramic facts from Dr. Griset:

This jar bottom became a bowl after breaking
  • Pottery probably came to the San Diego area by about 900 CE (Common Era), and made it to the Imperial Valley by 1000  
  • Handles are not seen on vessels in Southern California before Spanish Contact in 1540
  • Cracks in vessels can be repaired by drilling small holes on either side of the crack and lacing together with yucca fiber or sinew
  • Water jars have a life span of about 2 years where they will keep water cool.  After 2 years salts penetrate the clay and it no longer cools water.  They can be reused as something else, like cooking pots 
  • Stucco on pots lowers the thermal fracturing of clay- which makes it ideal for cooking pots that are in and out of the fire frequently!
  • After 1880 the railroad brought new people to the Southwest.  Tribes began selling pottery to the tourists and copying styles that sold well.  The forms and designs of the Maricopa peoples became particularly popular

Maricopa style ceramic frog

Want to learn more about ceramics?  Look for our Land of Extremes article in tomorrow's Imperial Valley Press!

Dr. Suzanne Griset with a few of the pots you'll see in our permanent exhibit-Spring 2015!

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