Making Miniature People

Louise Steel

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter Campus, Ceredigion, SA48 7ED; l.steel@uwtsd.ac.uk

5th May 2017

Abstract 

“figurines possess strange attractive powers that seduce & overwhelm archaeologists”

(Bailey 2005: 12)

This paper explores the materiality of clay and how this substance has been used to craft miniature people since the Neolithic in the Near East. The focal point of the presentation is physically engaging with clay and using it to shape the human form. It engages specifically with developments in material culture studies (namely the New Materialities), an approach which forefronts the agency of matter. Through haptic engagement with clay students are encouraged to think about the agency of this material and how its physical properties provoke specific human reactions.

Other questions are addressed through this session:

* Why people feel the need to create representations of the human form?

* Miniaturization: why various cultures of the ancient Near Eastern chose to make images of people in miniature and specifically from clay?

* Making: the physical sensations of working with clay and how replicating embodied practices   in the present allow us to engage with and better understand ancient “makings”

The paper and associated crafting activity aim to help us explore who we are and our sense of self or identity; how ancient figurines represent a very personal and emotive crafting tradition through; and how the final product has agency and excites a response from the viewer.