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Pottery Legends and Tales


Pottery has a rich history, which includes a number of legends and tales. Some are very much the stuff of folklore, but many have a touch of plausibility. Here, with no further ado, are a collection of pottery legends for your enjoyment.

The Legend of the First Copper Glazes

Have you ever been to a museum or craft show and marveled at the luscious, rich crimson copper red glazes? Copper red is not easy to produce; it takes just the right amount of reduction at just the right temperature in order to throw the copper in a glaze from blue-green to red.

Copper reds first were discovered in China, during the Song dynasty, but how were the first copper red glazes created?

How German Salt Glazing Began

Salt, when thrown into a white-hot kiln, can produce a lovely, clear glaze. Many times, the glaze is dimpled, resembling the peel of an orange in texture.

We know that potters in the Rhine valley began making salt glazed pottery in the late 14th or early 15th centuries. What is not truly know, however, is how it all began. We do, however, have a legend of how the German potters discovered salt glazing.

An Apocryphal Tale of Learning to Throw

Not all pottery legends concern the past. This one, for example, is set on a present-day college campus.

Learning how to throw on the potter's wheel can be frustrating. It takes time to master the physical skill and fine motor control needed. This apocryphal tale of learning how to throw demonstrates one of the basic foundations all pottery requires.

The First Porcelain Made in Europe

Portrait of Johann Friedrich Bottger.
Drawing © 2008 Beth E Peterson

Europeans loved the beautiful white porcelain pottery that was being imported from China in the 1600s. Porcelain pottery was worth more than gold, and potters across Europe were endeavoring to reproduce the fine white ware. In the end, though, it was an alchemist who figured out the secrets. Find out the true tale of who "broke the code" and made the first porcelain in Europe.

A Magical Mountain of Clay

Upon a certain mountain, a wonderous clay was found. It was unlike many clays, for it shone white in the sun. The emperor himself wanted pots made of this very special clay. All the various peoples wanted these lovely and extraordinary pots, too. The name of the mountain became the name of the clay, but I'll bet you know it better by another name....

Tale of the Dragon Flask

A drawn rendition of a Ming porcelain flask showing a three-toed dragon.
Drawing © 2008 Beth E Peterson
Follow this is fictional tale of the commissioning of a porcelain flask to be used as a diplomatic gift from the Chinese Emperor Yongle in the year 1405 AD. Find out how the ancient potters got their clay, made it ready to use, shaped and decorated it, and packed it for travel along the great Silk Road.
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