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Nazca double spouts.

Crafts in Culture

This is the third of a three-part series of articles on crafts. Each article describes the cultural context of a craft and illustrates the artifact or the people using it or making it. A lesson plan follows.

The Nazca Indians, who have lived on the plains of Peru for 800 years, are noted for their gigantic earthen designs. They have made these "land drawings" so large that they can be seen in their entirety only from great heights. Often their location on top of a mesa cannot be seen from any land point near enough for the drawing to be discerned. They were first noted in many places when planes flew over them. The Nazca drew monkeys, birds, whales, humans and geographic designs. Why they did such giant land drawings is unknown, although there has been a great deal of speculation on the subject.

The same style of linear figure is found in the forms and decoration of Nazca pottery. The pottery is usually painted in earth colors with decorations incised or in bas-relief. Sometimes the designs are painted with colors. On the pottery, both bold abstractions of realistic shapes and geometric patterns are used in striking contrast.

Typical Nazca pottery was created without the use of a wheel. Coils of clay were laid to form the body of the pot which might have either a realistic or an abstract shape. These coils were then smoothed together to form a watertight container. Faces of the representational forms of humans often grimace, leer or show other great emotion. In this way the artisan was able to create pottery of great character. Even the animals, birds and fish are shown in characterization.

One of the most notable of the abstract forms of Nazca pottery is that of the double-spouted jug. The double spouts are practical. The jug is divided through the inside with a center partition permitting two different liquids to be poured from a single jug. Thus two liquids, such as oil and wine, can be poured. These jugs are often joined between the spouts by a brace or hand grab in the form of a bar to make it easier to pour.
Double-spouted jug

Art concept Formal balance occurs when two sides have equal
 units of the same characteristics.

Discussion When visual units are placed opposite each other
 across a central axis, they achieve balance. If
 the opposing sides are mirror images of each
 other the balance will be an exact and formal

Objective Construct a symmetrical jug and attach two spouts
 equally distanced from the center cross section
 with a brace between them so that the jug achieves
 formal balance.

Materials Ceramic clay (an earth color), smoothing tool
 (rounded and flat), trimming tool (with a sharp
 side for scraping dry or leather-hard clay),
 underglaze paint (earth colors), kiln, brushes
 and sponges.

Preparation Make a drawing of the size and shape the pot
 should be. Prepare clay for modeling.

Process Using the hands and a clay "floured" surface,
 make a base for the jug. Roll out coils about
 1/3" thick and, using water to adhere them,
 begin to form the outside of the jug. When the
 jug reaches the maximum width planned, pat out
 a piece of clay and fit it crosswise inside the
 jug. The partition should reflect the inside
 shape of the jug and extend up to where the top
 will be. Fit the partition in, smoothing the
 inside of the jug and the partition together
 so that they form a solid wall. Add the rest
 of the coils up to the top smoothing them as
 you go. Make two holes for the spouts (the
 fingers may be inserted here for a final
 smoothing inside). The spouts can be patted
 out, rolled around a rolled up paper, sealed
 and attached. Consider adding a small roll
 of clay around the base of the spout and
 smoothing to form a reinforced seal. Then roll,
 seal and fit the brace between the two spouts.
 Leave a hole in the brace to allow air to
 escape while the clay is firing. When the jug
 is thoroughly dry (a week or two), paint designs
 onto it with underglaze following the
 manufacturer's instructions. Let dry and burnish
 with smoothing tool before firing. After the
 bisque fire, a high gloss glaze may be poured
 inside the two sides of the jug. Let stand a
 minute and then glaze fire if the jug is to be
 used to store liquids.

Evaluation The jug, seen in silhouette, is symmetrical
 and the spouts are equally spaced and angled
 from the center.

Dr. Margaret W. Ryan is Associate Professor, Department of Art, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Ryan, Margaret W.
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1990
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