I’ve been making sprigs with the evening class I teach at Parade Mews Pottery. I went through my oddments and old 1980’s jewellery for objects that might make a good mould, of around the right size.This little pig, bought in a museum shop, is about 3cm long and worth a try. It’s a reproduction of a 1st Century AD celtic amulet.
A boar sprig is also used here on a Roman tile found in Holt, Clwyd, and now in the British Museum. It’s dated to around 200AD. Photo courtesy of CC BY-SA 3.0, Creative Commons. The 20th Legion – LEGXX – got around: they killed the druids in Anglesey, Silures in Usk, Boadicea, plus were stationed on Hadrian’s Wall. So the boar sprig suddenly has quite a back story…
The sprig mould is made by pressing the boar into a flat piece of stoneware clay, which is then biscuit fired to 1000C. At this temperature it is hard but still porous, so it’s easy to wipe some clay over it (here porcelain), to make the sprig. The sprue (the thin bits around the figure) help stick it onto a pot, so are left on, although here I’ve just glazed it, sprue and all, as an example.
Sprigs were also used in medieval pottery. There aren’t many images of them online, despite many modern copies of medieval sprigged jugs, and I was wondering if they were a bit of a myth. I finally found a couple in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. But these too carry a freight of resonance, like the boar.
The full citation shows that the left mug was donated by TE Lawrence, another of my favourite Thomases, born just up the road from the LegXX boar in Tremadog. Found in the Cornmarket, in Oxford, I guess when he was 17 or 18. He says in a letter to Graves
“At school, never played games. Spare time spent books: and studying mediaeval art, especially sculpture. Later collected mediaeval pottery. At 18, specialised mediaeval military architecture: visited every XIIth Cent, castle England and France.”
I reckon you could create a history of the world in 100 sprigs, let alone 100 objects…