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Nov 18, 2008

Next Meeting Saturday, 6 December

The next meeting of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group will take place on Saturday, 6 December starting at 6 pm at the home of Margaret Goodman, 1200 Key Drive, Alexandria, VA 22302. Our speaker will be Washington potter Ani Kasten who will talk about "Thimi, Nepal: Village Ceramic Traditions in Flux". Thimi, Nepal is one of the ancient pottery-making centers in Nepal, where villagers have been making pottery according to caste traditions for many hundreds of years. Kasten was involved in a project to help revitalize the ceramic industry in Thimi by introducing updated technology and design sensibility to the artisans. At her website,, there is a full article on the project under the chapter heading 'Thimi Project'. Driving directions to our hostess’ home are at the end of this message.

This meeting is a potluck. When you RSVP to David or Hedy at 703-503-3195 or please indicate that dish or drinks you will bring along.

2009 Annual Dues

Remember that 2009 annual dues of $10.00 are now payable. Either hand or mail David cash or a check made out to David Rehfuss, mail address: 4321 Selkirk Drive, Fairfax, VA 22032. Do not make the check out to WOCG or the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group as my bank will not accept checks with that payee. Thanks.

Synopsis of the November 18 session

9th century Iranian bowl from the Freer Gallery collection.

Islamic Art Curator Dr. Massumeh Farhad described developments in Islamic pottery illustrated by the 30-some examples in the Freer’s Islamic galleries. Classic Islamic pottery started in 9th century Iraq coinciding with the arrival of the new, vigorous Abbasid dynasty with its capital at Baghdad. First came a buff-colored earthenware with an opaque white tin-glaze made in large quantities in the port city of Basra. This ware was painted with various metallic oxides including cobalt blue, all acquired in the Middle East. Decorative motives included calligraphic renderings of blessings, humans and animals. These were domestic wares not for the mosque.

Interestingly, tin used in the manufacture of the opaque white glaze came from Southeast Asia. There was no source of tin in the Middle East. By the 9th century there were thousands of Arab and Persian (and other) traders resident in the port city of Guangzhou (Canton). They dealt in all sorts of products including ceramics, silks, tea, and spices along the maritime Silk Road, which extended from China across Southeast Asia to Mesopotamia and Iran.

Luster ware was next to be created. Following the success of their blue-on-white wares, Iraqi potters began to experiment with pigments borrowed from the Islamic glass industry. Luster mixtures of copper and silver oxides were painted onto the previously fired glaze then fixed in a second firing, producing an innovative luster with astonishing iridescent metallic effects. Luster ware technology spread to Egypt, Iran, Islamic Spain and from there to Italy where it evolved into the extravagantly decorated Italian Renaissance Maiolica pottery.

The first Islamic ceramics collected by Mr. Freer were 13th-15th century Raqqa (or Rakka) wares found in Syria, possibly made in Anatolia (Turkey). Freer was attracted to Raqqa because of its rich iridescent surfaces, often the result of chemical transformations from being buried for hundreds of years. The Islamic potter never developed a high-fired ceramic body. The necessary clay -- kaolin -- was not available in the Middle East. Admiration of Chinese ceramics never ceased in the Islamic world; many of their shapes and decorative schemes came straight from the Chinese kiln. Two of the greatest collections of Chinese ceramics outside of China were formed in Iran, at the Ardebil Shrine, and at the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul.

Directions to 1200 Key Drive, Alexandria, VA 22302:

  • From I-395 (Shirley Highway) take the Seminary Road Exit,
  • Turn onto Seminary Rd (VA-420), continue to follow Seminary Rd. east for about 1.6 miles,
  • Turn LEFT onto N. Quaker Lane (VA-402) for a short distance,
  • Turn RIGHT onto Key Drive, follow Key Drive until arrive at address, on the right.

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