Yes you are correct! It is the wrong time of year for Wassailing! and as a Scot we wouldn’t call a new years tradition Wassailing….. I guess ‘first footing’ would be the equivalent… you go off around everyone’s houses bringing ale for everyone to drink and sing away the night!… I have been looking into the tradition somewhat because a couple of weeks ago I was able to go on a day’s ceramic course, we made a little pot-(I say pot but that could be debated, it’s not actually a pot) We made a thing!-it was taught by ceramicist Margaret Brompton. The title of the workshop was called Clay Creatures and was based around her work, which in turn was based around Wassailing bowls- ceramic pots although traditionally they seem to be made from wood, -as the song says:
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink unto thee.
… maybe (I don’t know) sometime in the 18th century this turned to ceramic. (more about songs later.) Wassailing Bowls are highly decorated with lovely wee animals and with many handles for passing around to a different friend for drinking, and many seem to have some basic patterns drawn onto them also. Margaret’s work can be seen in this link-they also have some of her wee pots at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen for sale- this is where the workshop took place. As you can also see from the link she posted on her blog about a couple of examples of Welsh Wassailing bowls which are in the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagans, near Cardiff.
I really wanted to see these for myself, so the boyo and I went off up to St Fagans for the day, I’d not been for years so it was quite interesting! We managed to track down the brown pot on show in one of the displays-one of the houses. St Fagans is quite extraordinary, it’s full of buildings which have been moved from different parts of Wales to the grounds of the museum-the museum is basically the historic buildings- when you think about that it’s quite extraordinary. it’s definitely worth a trip and a walk about to the see the wonders of Wales! There are some amazing buildings and they are putting in a few more currently!
..but a few days later I decided also to have a wee wonder into Swansea Museum as I remembered that they had a large collection of Swansea pottery and porcelain-Yes that’s right!! Historically Swansea made lots of pottery and porcelain-it seems so very odd that now then it’s quite difficult to learn the process in the city today!! (Unless you are able to be a full time student-which I am not ) The Glynn Vivian Art gallery is full of Swansea pottery, even the Waterfront Museum here has some, Cardiff museum has some! It’s everywhere!
but also in Swansea Museum were two Wassailing Bowls, with animals similar to the ones in St Fagans!
It was fab and a nice surprise to see them! I wasn’t expecting to have any in Swansea!
All of the Wassailing bowls it seems I have seen in Wales have been made at Ewenny pottery many, many years ago.
In popular culture, as a teenager of the 90’s it was Blur who first introduced me to the Wassailing song, it was released as a hard to get 7″ they’d given out at gigs, but it did form part of their film Starshaped-which all fans (Ok maybe just us) had to watch over and over in fact we use to watch that very section over and over and laugh hysterically!
There is also a Wassailing song closer to home -for me currently- The Gower Wassail and folky (revival) of the year-well maybe last year, Shirley Collins, whom we saw at Green Man Festival last year- did a version on her 1969 album Anthems in Eden.
I can’t find a link too that tune now unfortunately, but it was interesting to listen to!
Anyway back to the pots, i’d been wanting to do ceramics for years, but things always got in the way or I could never find a suitable class to do when I was free, so I was overjoyed to do this one with Margaret, and to be able to have a go with ceramics again-I hadn’t worked with properly clay since high school, where we did it once!-I still have the pot I made then! I might share a pic of it in the next post-it also has an animal for the basis! (Even then circa 1993/4ish?) I think most people assume I did a foundation art course, this was not true, I did a Photography foundation course, I concentrated too early and learn’t nowt about anything else-I do know quite a lot about the history of photography but nothing else!!! I fully expected to do a photography degree, but found out about printmaking in my local library-Dunfermline at the time and decided that looked good! I diverged and managed to scramble my way onto an art degree with my photographic portfolio and a few sketchbooks full of collages! So thus I didn’t play with arty things, until I got to uni, but we had limited departments to a certain extent, and I pretty much lived in the dark room and the print room and didn’t really learn about anything else!
Bizarrely even Grayson Perry came in to uni to give us a talk, he was fab, he spoke about his life, about Claire and his pots! This was before he was Turner prize nominated..actually he won it didn’t he?.. but it didn’t make much sense to me because we couldn’t try any ceramic stuff, we didn’t have any facilities…annoying to say the least! That would have been in 2nd year so probably 2001.
I go to pick up my wee wassailing inspired pot tomorrow, so I shall share the photos and process asap!