Artist and potter tells us about the inspiration and process of creating her birth talismans and how a phone conversation with a close friend led her to give them away.
It’s 23rd March 2020; all UK residents must now stay at home to protect the NHS amid the growing threat of coronavirus. I talk on the phone with a close friend who is pregnant and we wonder what it will be like giving birth during ‘lockdown’. She is anxious and I am longing to go to her.
I am an artist and a potter, and that week I had been collecting wild river clay. Thinking of my pregnant friend and my own experiences of giving birth, I began working with this clay. What emerged was something like a talisman, a birth charm.
Years ago I studied ancient ceramics at the Institute of Archaeology. Clay figurines celebrating childbirth and motherhood are found in many cultures all over the world. In indigenous communities it is not unusual for the potters to be women; kilns are often shaped like wombs, and the firing process is thought to be synonymous with giving birth, making it taboo for men fire pots.
Prehistoric vessels bearing the image of the mother bear, deer and doe-elk are believed to be associated with a birth-giving goddess. I work this imagery into the birth talismans. What better time to invoke an ancient birth-giving goddess than now?
Remembering how connected I was with other mothers and pregnant women during my pregnancies, and hearing from friends how changed the maternity care system has had to become during lockdown, I decide to give away the talismans on Instagram.
Made in celebration of connection, motherhood and making birth rituals in dark times, these clay talismans are for any woman who has given birth during lockdown or has yet to do so.
By Rosie McLachlan