medial 3. art biennial [2014]
Bettina Kocak. Germany



1.Celtic vessel, 2012 red clay, shiny engobes Ø30 cm., $770.  2.Celtic "stepped” plate, 2012 red clay, shiny engobes Ø40 cm., $840.  3.Celtic bowl, 2013 red clay, shiny engobes Ø25 cm., $360.  4.Celtic dish, 2013 red clay, shiny engobes Ø25 cm., $280.   5.stepped plate, 2011 ceramic (shiny engobes) diametre 11.5 in. | Ø30 cm, $770.  6.bowl, 2010 ceramic (original firing process - burnt black. Lines are white- inkrusted) diametre 10 in. | Ø25 cm., $650.  7.Dish, 2012 ceramic (shiny engobes) diametre 11 in. | Ø30 cm., $660.  8.vessel, 2012 ceramic (shiny engobes, inside glazed) diametre 16.5 in. | 42 cm., $780.   |   click on thumbnail to enlarge

























I mainly do pre- and early history pottery, focusing on the celtic Hallstatt era (800-450 BCE). Based on excavation reports I create reconstructions, always without a pottery wheel, just like their models. Before setting out to work, I will allow a piece to impress me, in order to, hopefully, understand it in its entirety. Then I strive to reflect the impression it made on me in my piece of pottery. The resulting unique piece has a personality of its own and, just like its model, carries slight intentional irregularities, traces of manual work. Each closer look will reveal a new detail – and will thus bring the piece of pottery to life. Take, for example, a piece of Alb-Hegau ceramics painted in graphite red: it takes days, weeks even of experimenting before I feel I have at least come close to techniques long forgotten. And it is quite wonderful indeed to witness timeless beauty and to be able to revive it through my pottery. Once a piece is completed, after hours, days at times, of work and drying, I feel deeply satisfied at last. Not just because of the beauty in having created, out of muddy sludge, a new receptacle ... Thinking of the fact that excavated sherds often go back 2500 years and that some pieces of my pottery might last another millenium ... I consider myself a true transmitter of ancient European traditions. I recapture forms and techniques to carry them into the future, through my vessels, and I feel part of this transmission process. Presently I concentrate on making special shiny engobes and on their appearance in various furnace atmospheres. I also test natural colours: ochre, manganese spinel or graphite among them.

Celtic Ceramics of the Hallstatt Era (Ha C - Ha D1) - Reconstructions
What does that mean? What should one imagine exactly?
Mostly, the pieces I show here are not domestic pottery found in settlements (villages/towns). They are rather pieces which were discovered in burial mounds - as burial objects. Some of them, a bronze kettle or bronze dishes for instance, might have been in domestic use prior to being buried but graphite-painted pieces of pottery burnt at very low temperatures were probably made for the express purpose of being buried together with a deceased person. As the Celts left no written records, one can only speculate here. It is a matter of fact, however, that ornaments, shapes, designs or numbers of pieces had a very specific significance. The various vessels are not necessarily urns, as they can also be found at inhumation sites. Also, “my“ pottery appears during a relatively small period of about 300 years only. The stepped plate, for example, was neither seen before that time nor afterwards. Hence it is believed that the respective burial rite and belief must have been very unique during those three centuries and that both were later supplanted by others. The specific pottery shapes were no longer desirable as burial objects and thus disappeared.

In order to better place excavated finds in chronological order, archaeologists use literal abbreviations for increments of 100 or 150 years to designate periods of time. Thus a researcher will immediately know which period of time he or she is dealing with. The system is useful and, once understood, quite easy to handle. Accordingly, the following periods designate Celtic eras:
Hallstatt Era: Ha C (750-600 BCE), Ha D1 (600-500 BCE), Ha D2 (500-450 BCE)
La Tène Era: Ha D3/Lt A (450-400 BCE), Lt B (400-250 BCE), Lt C (250-150 BCE)

The pottery presented here mainly refers to the HaC and HaD1 periods. Princely tombs of the Iron Age appear during this epoch and we can actually talk about the first Celts then.
I discovered my preference for Württemberg style ceramics from Reutlingen, Alb-Donau, Zollernalb and Sigmaringen counties. But there are other beautiful pieces, of course, stemming from regions in Frankonia and Bavaria. Well, I am constantly looking for finds which I find new ...

Even though HaC and HaD1 were relatively short periods of time, vessels, bowls, trays and plates of those eras appeared in quite a multifacetted variety of shapes.
To give an overview I selected and presented the most expressive shape varieties of stepped plates or of various types of vessels. (For easier reconstruction plaster models were made of some of the stepped plates. They make work less time consuming.) Because after modeling, the stamping, carving, polishing, and painting of the vessel always take plenty of time ... To give you an example: It takes 14 steps to complete a stamped and carved ornament, painted graphite/red, true to the original. I always apply patterns freehand. Thus each piece becomes unique and has its own character.
These are my main basic shapes of the “stepped“ plate – diametre varies between 20 and 45cm.
Vessel shapes: here the diametre varies between 10 and 45 cm depending on how big the piece should be. For almost every vessel there is also a bowl variety. Collar-rimmed bowls, for instance, appear in graves quite frequently.

Presently I work with the following colour varieties:
-- Red ceramics: Clay burning bright or dark red is painted with black or red engobe or graphite. Here I have developed a nice shiny brick-red engobe – similar to Terra Sigillata. Parts of the carved ornaments are white-washed.
-- "Coloured Clay": Clay burning brown, leather, yellow or anthracite can be painted either with white, black or red engobe or with graphite. White lines can be incrusted. Alb-Hegau Ceramics.
-- Black ceramics: Original findings, burnt black, were always made in a special firing process, excluding oxygen. Unfortunately pieces produced that way are rarely water tight. So I have painted some of my works with jet-black engobe which tends to sinter but which consolidates the piece at 1050° C.
-- High-gloss ceramics: Special engobes – also called ‘high-gloss‘ in archaeologists‘ special texts – create high-quality painted surfaces with fine uniform granulation. Such surfaces are quite smooth and shine almost by themselves – no final polishing required.