Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Knowledge, bitter and sweet

What I know about ceramics could be written on the back of a small exhibition label. But I do know that there is something about the solidity and heft and simplicity of a certain type of ceramic that I find immensely, viscerally satisfying. And very, very occasionally I manage to meet a piece of ceramic art that combines these features with managing to fall within my very, very tight budgets.

This happened to me 2 days ago, thanks to a little encouragement from a new friend passing through Amman. She took me to Silsal, a ceramics gallery which makes some very beautiful items, and which despite the 3-and 4-figure price tags of its more public work, does have some affordable versions too. I knew when I looked them up and saw the information on their apparently-famous ‘knowledge plate’ that I might be in trouble, and meeting an example of this lovely thing in the flesh (as it were) only served to confirm this.

The piece I’m talking about is closely inspired, but not a direct copy of, an Abbasid plate currently in the Louvre. The inscription, in lovely long looping script, reads something along the lines of ‘Knowledge, the beginning of it is bitter to taste but the end is sweeter than honey’ (and yes, I can now read it on the original, with a bit of squinting to work out some of the calligraphy). The same sentiment might well be applied to the learning of the Arabic language.

This is a blue-y version of the very simple black-on-white plate I am now the besotted owner of:

And this is the Abbasid original (with a slightly longer text which Silsal seem to have cut for their version):


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This entry was posted on July 25, 2012 by in Art, Middle East and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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