Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not a potter...really

The school year is finally off and running... so I was able to get working on my loom weights. Research tells me that loom weights were made in a variety of ways from a variety of different materials. Everything from clay to soap stone. A large majority of weights were made of clay, so that's what I have decided to use for my own. I am going to make 50 8oz weights...or so. The process of firing the weights will decrease their weight, but they are all going to start out at roughly 8oz. I based this amount on various recovered period weights and the weights being used by weavers today. The firing process should be interesting since I'll be doing it in my backyard, but for now, I have decided to see how much weight is lost through air drying.

This is a photo of the twenty-five pound block of clay that has a similar texture to clay found in the British Isles.

I used a cord and started cutting up the big block into lots of little blocks.

The lone block below weighs 9oz and is serving as my test weight.
I formed the clay block into a donut shape. There were many different shapes, from donuts to pyramids to triangles, but the donut shape is pretty common for loom weights and is easy for me to form. The one triangle weight I saw was a pretty smart idea really. If the hole in one corner broke, the weaver could just use another corner. This was not a common weight type though, so I'm going to stick with my donuts
In larger communities, there is speculation that potters probably made the weights and exchanged them with the weavers, but in smaller communities the weavers likely made their own weights.
So now I will wait and see how much is lost in the drying process. This should give me a good idea of how much will be lost in the firing process. I'll need to make 49 more donuts in the next few days...
I am focusing on making functional weights and not stressing about exactly copying extant examples.


Kristen said...

Love the clay donuts.

I saw some being used by another weaver and they had more of an oval shap with the hole nearer to one end of the oval. This seemed like it might cause one very weak end of the weight that is more likely to break.

Have you found evidence of one shape being used more than another? Especially within a certain culture or time period?

Grainne said...

I picked the donuts because they are the style that was most prevalent, but the style you mentioned has also been found pretty often. You nailed the weakness on the head. I mentioned the triangle shaped one that had a hole in each point and these are just a simplified version of the one you saw.
The shapes seem to be pretty standard across the various cultures that I have looked into. The material used to make them is what varies(e.g.Scanidnavian cultures used more soap stone versus Anglo-Saxon using more clay.)

Grainne said...

Upon further refelection.
I will say that the material used determines some of the shape. Since materials depended on surroundings then I guess that would technically make it so it would differ from culture to culture. The name of the style of weight that I picked was "Angl-Saxon bun style weight". I picked this because I wanted to make them out of clay and it was an easy shape to copy. I could go into a lot more detail about shape being influenced by material which therefore cause one to think that shapes were culturally based...but I don't need to do that here. So technically the answer to your question is yes and no. There seems to be very little change in the weights over the time period that I have studied.