The Tale of the Nail
Two decades ago a young man came to Penland School to take some classes. He knew Penland would be a good place to learn more about painting and pottery.
After a few pottery classes he fell in love with clay and decided to learn the art of the potter. He was particularly taken with Medieval English pottery. He studied these pots in books and made many attempts at making the somewhat crude looking dishes and jugs. He found that he could use a nail to incise in the pots to get decoration similar to the centuries old pots. He took a string and made a loop and tied his tool of choice to it. He wore it around his neck and was never without the nail he used for making marks.
He went on to make thousands of pots and become a well known potter firing with wood making pots for everyday use. I'm sure he still has the necklace with the nail hanging in his workshop somewhere. Next time I visit I'm going to look for it.
(That is sort of my take on a story I was told about 10 years ago, probably not quite exactly as it was told to me, but close as I can remember.)
The image above shows a 16d nail next to my current tool of choice. It's a steel rod sharped to a point. It's sharpened on 4 sides just like a nail is and gives me several styles of line when I use it. I've begun drawing on bone dry pots. I need a strong tool like this to cut into the slip. A needle too is too flexible and weak. A tiny loop tool gives me too much of a consistent line. The nail like rod is now the tool I prefer.
Yesterday as I was scratching away on the pots I thought of how this line is much like the line of the Medieval sgraffito and how a potter in that day and age would have used a similar tool. This tool can be precise and also crude and rough. I think the lines it makes suit my pots and my personality.
I've got to go now and find myself a piece of string.