Echoes: reverberations across millennia By Ann Bates

Echoes: reverberations across millennia By Ann Bates

I have been working with clay for over 25 years, hand building coiled or slab vessels. Twenty years ago, when my partner John unexpectedly died, working with clay helped me through bereavement and inadvertently changed the focus of my work.

My interest in archaeology, particularly standing stones with their carved decoration and symbols, led me to research Neolithic and Bronze Age burial practices. I was intrigued by ceramic cinerary urns made by our ancestors to contain cremated remains. I began to design and make funerary urns, not copies, but contemporary interpretations with great respect for the past.

My inspiration for the decoration comes from the study of patterns and symbols used at that time. The designs on the entrance stone at Newgrange, the Neolithic passage grave in Ireland, captivate me, particularly the spiral, the natural form of growth and symbol of everlasting life, which I use as my maker’s mark.

Newgrange was built to align with the sunrise at the winter solstice when sunlight floods the passage and illuminates the interior, a suggestion of conception and subsequent re-birth, an echo of the past reverberating even now.

The Long Barrow in Wiltshire is similarly aligned. This contemporary, spiritual monument, completed in 2014, was constructed in a similar way to Newgrange, albeit using modern day equipment.  Inside, branching from either side of a central passageway, are chambers with niches for the placement of funerary urns containing cremated remains.

I hope that “Echoes: reverberations across millennia” encourages a greater awareness about ancient practices of honouring the dead which can still be relevant and, perhaps, offer a more meaningful way to remember and celebrate the life of a loved one.


Find out about or visit the forthcoming exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art gallery opening on 23 July from 2-4 pm.  Briefly the exhibition aims to show, through design, concept and materials,  a connection between Neolithic and modern-day practices of honouring the dead. The exhibition will continue until 8 October.

Ann Bates Ceramics

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