To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.
Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.
Potteries Museum & Art Gallery: Ozzy
So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
Whooo am I? I’m Ozzy, the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s famous slipware owl. I was made in Staffordshire around in the late 17th century, about 350 years ago – just as you were becoming extinct. Unfortunately I can’t tell you who made me – it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten and sadly he didn’t leave his signature or maker’s mark on me so no one knows now. I might look like an owl but I’ll let you into a secret – I’m actually a jug. Look round the back and you’ll see my handle. My head lifts off – but very carefully if you please – and then it becomes the cup for you to drink out of. Mind you, it’s been a long time since anyone had a drink out of me!
What is it that makes you so special?
I’m one of only a very few owl jugs made of slip-decorated earthenware to survive from the 17th century. I’m made of local red clay and my surface has been decorated by swirling together three colours of clay to give the effect of feathers. I was then glazed and fired. It took a really experienced and skilled workman to make me and I was expensive when I was made – that’s why I’ve survived. I wasn’t used every day like common pieces of pottery. I was cherished and only used for special occasions. For most of my life I’ve been on display – as I am today.
Who looks after you in this place?
So many people look after me. The curators put me on display and wrote a nice little label to tell everyone about me. The security staff patrol the galleries and make sure I’m safe and the cleaning staff make sure any finger marks are cleaned off my case every day. And of course my public visit me. They come from all over the world – I’m a celebrity you know.
Do you remember life before the museum?
Well, it’s been a long life and some of it’s a bit vague now, but I’ll never forget how I came back to Stoke in 1990. I’d been living on a mantelpiece a long way from here for quite a while when my owner put me in a box a carried me off to the Antiques Roadshow. It was all dark until a charming gentleman called Henry Sandon lifted me out. He was so excited to see me that everyone crowded around and suddenly I was being filmed for TV! The next thing I knew was that I was in a London auction house. I was a bit worried as I didn’t know where I would end up, but this museum bought me (with help from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund and The Friends of the Potteries Museums) and I’ve been here ever since.
What does the future hold for you?
Life as a celebrity is very busy. Mr Sandon comes regularly to see me – he always says I’m his favourite find from the Antiques Roadshow. Lots of other TV companies have filmed me and I’ve been on the radio too. I’m the best-known piece of pottery in the Museum – and they’ve got over 40,000 pieces so it’s quite a responsibility. I have my own case at the start of the ceramics gallery and when the curators do tours they always start with me so I get to see lots and lots of visitors. People always want to hear about my life and about the pottery industry here and how I came back to Stoke. Some of them take me home as well – I’m a postcard in the shop.
I wish I could remember who made me – he’d be so pleased to think of how my career’s turned out…