Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cauldrons and skillets

The letter Tet reminds me of my childhood, when my family sent me to Hebrew classes – I never learnt very much, but I still remember some of the letters.  In Hebrew the letters are in their great majority, consonants – the vowels are sort of ‘given’ - with a few exceptions, particularly the letter “I”.  When young children and adult beginners learn to write Hebrew, there is a phonetic system by which the vowels are represented via lines and dots under the consonants – but that is removed as soon as possible, and all ‘normal’ writing is written without the phonetic vowels. And of course Hebrew is written from right to left – not left to right.

ALICIA = אלישיה

Actually, my name – Alicia – in Hebrew, is not that deprived of vowels. Although it starts with A – Aleph – that letter usually stands for an H, rather than for an A.  The last letter is also an H. The two ‘I’s are there in this case, but the last A is not.  However the presence of an H at the end indicates that there is a vowel at the end, rather than a consonant. 

ALICIA = Алисия

I once studied Russian too – a different alphabet again – no problem there of lack of vowels, indeed there are too many of them!  You may notice the A at the end of the word is different from the A at the beginning of my name.  And the grammar is hellish!  Again, I remember some of the letters, and I still can sort of ‘decipher’ the words, but cannot understand the meaning…

Anyway, going back to the shape of the letter Tet, it immediately got me thinking about a current project I have, making quilts for an exhibition next year with the South West Textiles group in the Museum of Somerset, Taunton, UK – quite a prestigious place.  Each artist has to select an object from the museum as a starting point for their work.  

I chose to work with cauldrons and skillets, of which the Museum has a very large collection. Cauldrons are round, with a Tet-like shape, while skillets have long handles. There is an amazing room in the Museum where cauldrons hang from the ceiling – black vessels illuminated by red light.

There used to be many foundries in the area making iron and bronze cooking vessels, church bells, etc, active mostly from the 14th to the 19th centuries.  And notice - cauldrons have three legs, not four.

However, to be able to work with their graphic shapes, I went to their research department for help, and have now acquired a collection of great photographs of cauldrons and skillets.  Plenty of material to work from!

Cauldron of the more usual shape 

Cauldron of an unusual shape, more Tet-like

Long-handled skillet

I don’t know yet how the cauldrons will relate to exploring hidden possibility and potential, but I shall investigate!

(With thanks to Google Translate….)


  1. Fascinating Alicia, especially for an Australian, as our country has no cauldrons, that I know of anyway.

  2. Interesting!! How did people used to cook then, a century or two ago? How do the native Australians cook?

  3. The aboriginal people seem to use hot coals and put whole animals on them for cooking, from what I've seen. The European settlers had iron pots but I've never seen this shape in Australian museums.