Title ID 5971Collection ID844
TitleLustre Ware
Collection[Ledermann] Lederman / Tutt
Genre/TypeAmateurIndependent AmateurNon-fictionActuality/Factual
ThemeRural Life Working Life
KeywordsCelebrations Children Labour Trades Workers
LocalStone Cross Pevensey
RegionalEast Sussex
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionHarry Lederman and Alan Tutt
DirectorHarry Lederman and Alan Tutt
NarratorJonathan Chiswell Jones
ParticipantsJonathan Chiswell Jones
FormatColour Sound
Duration22 min. 20 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Jonathan Chiswell Jones, of JCJ Potters in Stone Cross, East Sussex, demonstrates the ancient art of lustreware pottery in this documentary by amateur film-makers Harry Lederman and Alan Tutt. Chiswell Jones throws, colours and glazes a christening bowl before it is decorated with the silver pigment and fired in the kiln. Produced in 2005, it won two prestigious awards at the British International Amateur Film Festival.


An exterior view of JCJ Potters in Stone Cross near Pevensey, opens the film. Music plays. Jonathan Chiswell Jones provides commentary throughout. 'Modern lustreware is about an extraordinary transformation,' he begins, 'It has been well described as a form of modern alchemy.' He continues; 'We start with something soft and formless. With the wheel we give it shape. And with fire make it hard. Start with one colour and end with another. Conceal the pot with a white crumbly cover, which fire will turn to transparent glass. Finally, we paint with silver and the pot emerges with a golden sheen.' He is seen at the wheel, shaping the soft clay with the strength of this arms, confident and precise.

Jonathan explains that lustreware was first practiced in the tenth century in the Islamic Empire. It moved into Spain with the Moors, and onto Italy and England in the nineteenth century. Working out the process from first principle is attributed by Jonathan to William de Morgan, whose texts helped the potter to use lustre processes at his pottery. Jonathan is making a plate to celebrate a christening. He explains that he makes work to satisfy a customer as well as himself.

The plate is set aside for two to three days until the clay is hard enough to lift without distorting its shape, and yet soft enough to cut with tools. Jonathan proceeds to turn the plate, shaving layers of clay using tools while the plate spins on a wheel, during which time he cuts rings in the plate's base. The plate is then sprayed with pigment on a wheel inside an extraction chamber. He explains that the cobalt oxide with change colour during firing, from brown to blue. Biscuit firing at 220 degrees ensures the plate is vitrified, impervious to water. After a day in the kiln and thirty six hours cooling, Jonathan opens the kiln and removes the plate before passing it through the glaze, glass suspended in water. The glaze will melt during a day of firing at 990 degrees in the electric kiln. The temperature, speed and duration is all controlled electronically. The plate is now ready for the lustre.

Jonathan paints decorative patterns and motifs onto the plate with a mixture of clay, silver salts, water and gum. He works straight onto the glaze without an underdrawing. 'Skill develops in all forms of craft work and the exercise of skill is pleasurable. But it is not the object of the operation only a means. The modern craftsman has to develop skills which come by repetition. But we also engage with the artistic process we call creation,' he says. He removes spots of pigment that have been misplaced with a cotton bud and leaves to dry before scratching through the lustre back to the glaze using a technique called scrafito. Scrafito allows for definition and detail within the brushstrokes, sharpening the image wit fine pointed and flatter broad engraving tools.

Kerry, Jonathan's assistant, applies the lettering. She has learnt this skill with speed, he says. The lustre ware is packed into the kiln, for which more space is left around the objects than normal so the gasses can reach each surface. Five hours of firing is needed. Jonathan and his assistant must extract oxygen from the kiln during a succession of spasms. They must keep the temperature of the kiln hot enough and still extract the oxygen from the pigment so only the silver is left on the surface of the glaze. Text rings show how developed the lustre pigment has become. Jonathan describes the need for a balance of experimentation, refining and improving, as well as totally successful pieces. He thinks of his work as exploration and journeying. The christening plate is looked over once out of the kiln. Further examples of the potter's lustreware is seen, turning on wheels outside.

The film achieved The Guernsey Lily (Highly Commended) and Silver Standard at the British International Amateur Film Festival.