I find it very interesting how certain visual textures and patterns can reoccur, and compel our personal awareness of the world around us. Layering, veining, and grain, all seem be major players in the composition of the natural world, and for sure in my appreciation of it. I believe many others gravite towards such surfaces because of their active and visually rich contrasts, and potential for decorative use. We, or many of us, let our minds guide our eyes into realizing fantasy images found in these whirling lines and shadows.
Over the years Samantha and I have even been moved to adopt pets that have the rich contrasting coats called brindle. That we might pick a pet based on its coat color seems to have interesting implications, but that would be a topic for someone else's blog. Suffice it to say that brindled,
veining, and wood grain like effects are compelling. Below, these flints or cherts, are shards or flakes left behind from the labor of crafting some tool, projectile point, or blade. If I am lucky, I may find an actual point, or at least part of such a tool made from this material.
It seems that weaponry may have made a major contribution to the use of grain pattern as a decorative effect. At first it may have been just the natural by product of forging metals together that had different compositions to provide enough stock metal for a particular object. When grinding through these layers to achieve a shape or blade, the metals are different enough for a contrasting grain effect to be revealed. This can also play a major structural role for metal, and blade smithing in particular.
A close -up of knife blade: "Art and Design in Modern Custom Folding Knives", author: David Darom, artist: Van Barnett, page 65As a rule, the harder the metal, the better the edge holding quality, but it will at the same time, likely be more brittle. By layering with a softer, but more resilient metal, a composite material is achieved having the positive qualities of both metals. This is probably how Damascus steel blades evolved and flourished in the past, and currently have had a dramatic resurgence as an art form. Contemporary knife makers have made many amazing innovations, achieved through the use of modern metallurgy techniques and technologies. There is a whole lexicon of Damascus terminology, describing the different patterns and effects that are currently achievable, as well as the historical ones.
A close -up of knife blade: "Art and Design in Modern Custom Fixed Bladed Knives", author: David Darom, artist: Jerry Fisk, page 125
A close -up of knife blade: "Art and Design in Modern Custom Folding Knives", author: David Darom, artist: Van Barnett, page 68
A close -up of knife handle : "Art and Design in Modern Custom Folding Knives", author David Darom, Artist: Glen Waters, page 228In clay, the great mimic material, I would be surprised if the use of layered and contrasting colored clays wasn't an attempt to exploit the decorative effects that had already been achieved in metals. Unfortunately, for pottery, there doesn't seem to be any inherent structural benefit to layering different clays that I am aware of. In reality, it actually poses some seriously important technical hurdles to compensate for. For one thing, the shrinkage rates must be relatively close, or cracking can occur at the seams of the differing clays. The clays must also mature at a similar temperature range, or serious warping and or bloating can occur. So far, the oldest examples of marbled layers of colored clay used decoratively, that I have come across, are from the Tang Dynasty of China, but I have read of Roman pottery from 1st century AD using the technique.
"A Journey into China's Antiquity- volume three- Sui Dynasty--Northern and Southern Song Dynasties", Porcelain Pillow, Tang Dynasty, page 101.
"The Museum of East Asian Art: Bath England Inaugural Exhibition Volume 1 Chinese Ceramics", Offering Tray, Tang Dynasty, 684- 756 AD , page 63
"The Museum of East Asian Art: Bath England Inaugural Exhibition Volume 1 Chinese Ceramics", Green marbled-ware Tripod Jar and Cover, 684- 756 AD, page 62
"The Museum of East Asian Art: Bath England Inaugural Exhibition Volume 1 Chinese Ceramics", Marbled Ware Cup, 9th century, page 74
"Oriental Ceramics the Worlds Great Collections: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm", Tang Dynasty, 7th - 8th century AD, plate no. 25I am guessing that the above examples from the Tang Dynasty were all made by press molding, which maintains the pattern developed in slabs of clay. The mug below was thrown from a ball of mixed clay and the act of throwing the pot swirls and distorts the pattern as the piece is pulled up.
A variation of such patterning is known regionally as swirl ware. A wonderful example of this is over at Sawdust and Dirt.