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In his major new history, Paul Greenhalgh tells the story of ceramics as a story of human civilisation, from the Ancient Greeks to the present day. As a core craft technology, pottery has underpinned domesticity, business, religion, recreation, architecture, and art for millennia. Indeed, the history of ceramics parallels the development of human society.
This fascinating and very human history traces the story of ceramic art and industry from the Ancient Greeks to the Romans and the medieval world; Islamic ceramic cultures and their influence on the Italian Renaissance; Chinese and European porcelain production; modernity and Art Nouveau; the rise of the studio potter, Art Deco, International Style and Mid-Century Modern, and finally, the contemporary explosion of ceramic making and the postmodern potter. Interwoven in this journey through time and place is the story of the pots themselves, the culture of the ceramics, and their character and meaning. Ceramics have had a presence in virtually every country and historical period, and have worked as a commodity servicing every social class. They are omnipresent: a ubiquitous art. Ceramic culture is a clear, unique, definable thing, and has an internal logic that holds it together through millennia. Hence ceramics is the most peculiar and extraordinary of all the arts. At once cheap, expensive, elite, plebeian, high-tech, low-tech, exotic, eccentric, comic, tragic, spiritual, and secular, it has revealed itself to be as fluid as the mud it is made from.
Ceramics are the very stuff of how civilized life was, and is, led. This then is the story of human society's most surprising core causes and effects.
“If you're after some excellent lockdown reading, Paul Greenhalgh's fascinating book could just fit the bill.” – ClayCraft
“This is an extraordinary accomplishment. It animates the history of world ceramics in a manner that has not been achieved before. It is full of remarkable insight and beautiful details and will reach a huge and appreciative audience.” – Edmund de Waal, artist and writer, UK
“Provokes, delights, informs...” – Garth Clark, historian, writer, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the CFile Foundation, USA
“Not for a long time has there been such a comprehensive account of the history of ceramics. In this book Paul Greenhalgh captures the importance of the material to our human experience.” – Dame Professor Magdalene Odundo OBE, Emerita in Ceramics and Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts, UK
“Masterful. Paul Greenhalgh has engaged the epic span of ceramic art history with a maker's hands, shaping it into a magnificent, vibrant form, filled to capacity with the voices of individuals, both unknown and known, who devoted their lives to earth and fire… Greenhalgh's text is a remarkable container of sophisticated insight. It offers a longed-for coherent structure upon which to build an understanding of ceramic art as it has unfolded across the near immeasurable scope of human civilization.” – Wayne Higby, Professor of Ceramic Art, The Wayne Higby Director and Chief Curator, Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Alfred University, USA
“Greenhalgh fills a major gap in the ceramics field where technique most often sets the content. His writing elevates the conversation and takes ceramics beyond its formal history to where it is effectively placed in a cultural context.” – Anna Callouri Holcombe, Professor of Ceramics, University of Florida, USA
“Paul Greenhalgh takes the reader on a multi-faceted voyage exploring the long, complex history of a commonplace material and its intimate connection to human life.” – Helen Walsh, Curator, Centre of Ceramic Art, York Art Gallery, UK
“Greenhalgh takes the reader across the centuries citing links and dialogues between the modern and the ancient... There are very few people qualified to take on a task such as this. Greenhalgh is one of a few and probably the best equipped to do so.” – Ashley Howard, Senior Lecturer in Ceramics, University for the Creative Arts, UK