In Michael Cardew's autobiography he mentions throwing some enormous cider
jars. Starting with 50lb of clay he then added coils until the unfired pot
weighed 100lb or more. The resulting jars were 40 to 45 inches tall after
firing but he says that all but one cracked in the kiln and the survivor is
in the museum at Montreal.
I decided to contact the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) to see if they still had the jar, they replied that they did and sent me some images to include in this article. Cardew made the jar at Winchcombe Pottery in the late 1930s and it was included in a 1943 touring exhibition organised by the British Council entitled British Arts and Crafts. Presumably the MMFA purchased it when the exhibition visited Montreal in October of that year. Their record card states that the cider jar is 43" tall and 18" in diameter.
The jar depicts the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. In his biography Cardew states that it is the only pot he ever made on which he tried to draw human figures. The drawings of Adam, Eve and the serpent are accompanied by verses in Cornish, not being a Cornish speaker I contacted Cornwall Council's Cornish language group and they told me that the verses are taken from the ancient Cornish play Origo Mundi, in English, The Origin of the World, which dates back to the 14th century.
The three verses are:
Adam: Prederys peb ay worfen, pettyl allo gorilnna (Let everyone think about his end, how he may finish)
Eve: A vll d.n nfa via bis vent ima na sorren (We would be greater than a god so that we would never be troubled)
The Serpent: Mur a laver, dhys an cas, rag bos dhedha, ioy mar vras, ha my pup ur, ow le sky (I will tell you the reason, because they have such great joy, and I am forever burning)
The images below were provided by the MMFA, who asked me to include the following information:
Acquisition No.: 1945.Dp.9
Michael Cardew, Wimbledon, England, 1901 – Wenford Bridge, Cornwall, England, 1983.
Wine Jar, about 1938, lead-glazed earthenware, slip. Made at Winchcombe Pottery, Gloucestershire, England.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, purchase
Photos : MMFA, Christine Guest
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Michael Cardew - Adam, Eve and the Serpent cider jar, late 1930s
I believe that one of the cider jars that in Cardew's words, (Michael Cardew: A Pioneer Potter, p. 105), came out cracked from the kiln appeared in the Winchcombe Pottery 90th birthday exhibition at the Gloucester Guild shop in Cheltenham in 2016. This jar had a wider form with three additional handles around its waist, the subject was the same as the Montreal example with the three drawings and accompanying text in Cornish.
Winchcombe Pottery - 90th anniversary exhibition, Gloucester Guild, Cheltenham, 2016