Native American Ceramics Reproduction

Mr. Bobby Southerlin, CEO of ACC, Inc., make beautiful reproductions of Native American ceramics.  Here is a step-by-step overview of the processes involved.

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Gathering clay from a riverbank in South Carolina

Step 1: Clay sourcing.  Finding a source of high-quality clay is the first step in making a solid pot.  In this instance, Mr. Southerlin retrieved clay along a river bank in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

 

Step 2: Clay processing.  In order for the pot to be as free of imperfections as possible and to minimize the risk of cracking or breakage, the clay must be cleaned.  First, it is rinsed thoroughly with water.  Any roots or other organic matter is removed.  The clay is then kneaded repeatedly. Kneading serves to remove any air bubbles in the clay as well as mixing it to ensure a homogeneous medium. Finally, a large clay ball is formed, and this is the raw material from which pots can be made.

 

Step 3: Forming the pot.  Native Americans had several different techniques for creating the pots. Mr. Southerlin generally uses the coil technique in his replications. He begins with a solid bottom piece, shaped somewhat like a saucer or small bowl.  Then he rolls out coils, and begins building the pot by placing one coil on top of the other, and smoothing the walls of the pot as he goes.  Depending on the decorative surface treatment Mr. Southerlin chooses, he may begin stamping the bottom before he fully completes the shape of the pot. He continues to add coils (and decorate), until he has a final shape.  At this point, he may add incised lines or other decorations to the vessel.  Any final smoothing of the interior or exterior is done at this stage.

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“Nest” of firewood

 

 

Step 4: Drying.  Pots must be completely dry prior to firing.  Depending on variables such as temperature and humidity, the drying process can take between 1 to 7 days.  The pots shown on this web page were dry for several months prior to firing.

 

 

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Firing toward center of “nest”

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Firing

Step 5 Firing.   Mr. Southerlin has created a basin-shaped fire pit lined with stone in which he fires his pots.  He puts the pots in the center of the pit, and builds a “nest” of wood, placing the denser (slower burning) wood near the center of the pit.  It is important to warm the pots slowly before you blast them with heat, so Mr. Southerlin lights the fire from the outside of the nest.  This allows for a gradual build-up of heat surrounding the pots.  He continues to add coals and wood, as needed, and keeps careful watch on the fire.  Pots must be turned occasionally to ensure even firing.  The entire firing process takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.

 

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Cooling

Step 6:Cooling.  Pots must be cooled slowly and completely or they risk cracking and breaking.  The best way to accomplish this is to leave them in the fire pit.  The cooling process can be helped by pulling coals away from the pots, but otherwise, Mr. Southerlin leaves the pots alone until they are cool to the touch.

 

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Finished products

Step 7: Enjoy!  The pots made by Native Americans had a variety of uses, including storage, serving, portage, and ceremonial functions. Mr. Southerlin’s pots are attractive, and can be used decoratively, but they are also fully functional.   Please contact Mr. Southerlin for available pieces and pricing.