Natural Histories: Cecil Baugh, Egyptian Blue (1992)

Cecil Baugh - Egyptian Blue (1992), Earthenware, Collection: NGJ (Gift of Sonia Jones)

Cecil Baugh – Egyptian Blue (1992), Earthenware, Collection: NGJ (Gift of Sonia Jones)

The work of Cecil Baugh, Jamaica’s master potter, holds an important place in the history of Jamaican art. Though there is a long tradition of pottery in Jamaica dating back to the Taino, Baugh was the first to systematically explore pottery as fine art; researching and utilising local clays and forms extensively and developing a number of glazes such as Egyptian Blue shown here. As a young man, Baugh’s work consisted largely of traditional Jamaican pottery- yabbas and monkey jars- used for domestic purposes. He soon began to experiment with developing his own style. In his  book, Baugh: Jamaica’s Master Potter (1986) co-written with Laura Tanna, he writes:

I thought of glazes but the transparent lead glaze was the only one available. So I started off to experiment. None of the other traditional potters were making coloured glazes but I could see the imported pots were coloured and I thought, ‘Well I’m using clay. Why can’t my pots be coloured also?’ I’d never done science in school so I had to learn by trial and error. […] Then by accident one night I discovered the Egyptian Blue. […] So I found the original method that potters in Egypt had developed, without my ever reading a book about it.

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