Monday, July 26, 2010

The Mudlark: A Broken China Mosaic Bowl

This sweet little orphaned bird was once one of a pair of small salt shakers. 

Now he’s got a brand new home - among some shards of history...

Built upon a vintage wooden bowl, this mosaic nest of sorts tells a colorful story of potteries long closed and abandoned. The majority of the pottery used for this piece was collected by my uncle, hand-picked at low tide from the banks of the Thames River in England between the Globe and the National Theatres. Some of the shards in this piece date as early as the 1700’s.

Like collecting seashells along the shore of the ocean, the banks of the Thames offer colorful shards of broken china and pottery – reminders of the once thriving potters that populated the area. Collecting these shards is known as mudlarking - as beachcombing refers to ocean shores, mudlarking refers to river banks - and it’s history runs deep.

A century or two ago, the term Mudlarks referred the very poor of London who scavenged the riverbanks along the Themes collecting anything they could find that might have some value. Mudlarks were most often children or elderly folk -those without income who needed to scavenge to survive.

They looked for coins, bottles, pieces of pottery or coal – the sorts of things that might have been discarded or fallen off of a ship. They would collect these found objects and then sell or trade them for food.

Nowadays you can still comb the shores for pottery shards, but is said that all that is found on public ground is property of the Queen!

Happy Hunting!
~ Laura