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Giroussens is a small village on the north bank of the river l'Agoût. (see map in new window)
It was an important regional pottery center during the modern historical period, i.e. from the first half of the 16th-century until the early 19th-century. Pottery workshops were located both in the village itself, and in nearby hamlets. The heads of each pottery producing household was also officially registered and paid thier taxes as farmers. Analysis of 18th-century probate inventories have shown workshops were often located on the first floor of their homes, next to a small shop where they could sell their wares (Pourraz 1999). The whole family and their apprentices would often live on the first floor.
Historians believe that Giroussens' potters used many local materials: weathered clay from their own fields, fuel from the nearby royal forest, and sandy soil from the riverbanks. Collecting wood from the forest would be normally forbidden, but this right was exceptionally granted to them by the royal administration. Metallic oxides, crushed with portable mills to prepare the colors used for painted decoration, lead, and slip material were all imported materials.
Giroussens produced a wide range of utility wares, in a yellowish red sandy fabric, with very frequent mica and quartz inclusions. Among them can be found the typical Toulousain round-bottom cooking pots or "oules". Giroussens potters are recognized, though, for their painted tablewares. The process for decorating them is the same as the one used for most Saintonge wares: the inside of the pieces were coated with a liquid slip, and the wares were fired a first time. Decorations were then painted on the biscuit coated with a white layer, and lead glaze was applied. The ceramics were then fired a second time. Most of the painting was done in green and in brown/purple, obtained from manganese oxide. Yellow is common on wares preserved in local museums, but is rare on ceramics exported to North America. This color is rather characteristic, since no other pottery center in the Toulousain area seem to have used it. On the other hand, blue, frequent on Cox wares, is only seen on the most elaborate (which may be the earliest) Giroussens wares.
Museum plates and dishes are decorated with geometric forms (e.g. diamond shapes), flowers (commonly tulips), various greens and floral motifs (e.g. palm leaves), birds, small animals, or imaginary creatures. Human figures are rare. A rare example is a large dish showing blue paintings of a group of hunters, who are smoking, riding horses, and accompanied by dogs.
The decoration of the tablewares found on North American sites is drawn in a more crude and standardized manner. Green circles run around the lip, rim and bowl. The center pattern is often a green spiral, surrounded by two green rinds and brown dots, intertwined "s" or wavy motifs at the center. Similar patterns sometimes decorate the rim. They are most often found in 18th-century contexts.
|© 2006 Myriam Arcangeli|