Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forcing Age

Yesterday was the warmest day yet of this year. It felt like early summer here in Cornwallville. Bulbs were emerging, and the pond was alive again with sounds of frogs.
Stephen began painting the house, as I was cutting out new perennial beds. I wanted to get down to the barn and begin the power-washing task, but it was just to nice out to be indoors anywhere, even if it meant working on the pottery.

Today was a completely different story; rain moved in last night, and by morning, clouds were covering the sky and fog was lingering around the grounds. We knew that this cooler, wet weather was coming and had planned on a day of work inside; but I still had to get outside to do something constructive for the pottery.

With coffee in hand, I walked down to the barn and slid open the door slowly. I looked around at the pots and dusty timbers looking for a small little project, to no avail. As I was about to close the door and head back inside. I noticed in the corner, a box of my old earthenware (terra cotta) pots, piled high.

I made them a year ago when I ran out of porcelain and had nothing left but a box of old moldy red clay. I made the planters over several days, dreaming of little seedlings and succulents growing inside them. After the bisque firing, I shoved them in a box and under a shelf and forgot about them.
A year later, here they were in Cornwallville, piled high in the corner. I crouched down quickly for a closer examination. Looking at a few I was struck by how bland their surface was to me. I enjoyed my throw lines; and loved the red hue, but something was missing.

Then the thought came to me; may be I can prematurely age them?
I have done it before on commercial terra cotta pots by simply rubbing them with soil and stacking them with moss in between, then placing them in the shade with amazing results. Another easy method that has worked for me is to take a lime/water mixture; equal parts and brush or sponge the solution on the pots for a beautiful white washed patina.
I have never had any luck using yogurt or buttermilk washes. Some gardeners swear by it, so I think I might still have to give that process one more try later in the spring.

Would these processes work on my pots? I thought I'd give it a go. So, I gathered a dozen of my little pots in a wooden crate and headed into the misty spring woods. Where they would live for several months to a year.

I knew that our small spring creek was there with a good amount of moss growing about. I gazed around to find a suitable home for the premature aging process to begin, and found a great little spot between some fallen branches and a wild rose bush.

Next was to prepare the planters. I brought the pots down to the creek and dipped them in to the cool water to give them a good soaking. This would help the soil and moss better adhere to their surface.

After several minutes of soaking, I took them one by one and rubbed the clay soil from the creek bank all over the inside and outside of the planters. I stacked them back in the crate, and headed back to what would be their home for several months.

The final step was to take some moss from the forest floor and begin to rub it all over the pots. When that was complete, I placed the pots in all directions on the moss bed to keep the patterns random. I thought the pots at even this stage, had more character than before.

I then took branches from the surrounding area and began making a crude teepee over them, for as I know when summer comes the ferns and undergrowth will completely cover their location. I thought this would be an easy, natural way to find them later in the season, to check on their condition.

This was a quick little project, and I have no clue as to what the results will be. The feeling reminds me of loading a glaze kiln and waiting for the opening. Some of the pots will blow your mind and others will be a big disappointment. Time will only tell in this case if I will have gems or coal.
I urge anyone with a little outdoor space to try one of these methods on their pots. All you need is some terra cotta pots, moss, soil and a shady moist place. Its fun, easy and the element of surprise will please you.
I will go back to the little moss patch in several months, and let you know how they are turning out. Hopefully there will be moss or some sort of aging beginning to take hold. If nothing at all, I would be more than pleased with just a little blush of green.


  1. talk about synchronicity: the city AND the country!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. I have wanted to own aged terra cotta pots for ever but didn't want to wait for the process. Much appreciated.