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Manila Clams In Black Burnished Ware 

Research project, Edible Works, Dialectic performance, replica Iron Age Ceramics. 

Manila Clams in black Burnished Ware is exactly that, Manila Clams, cooked and served in Black Burnished Ware. It would appear to be just a simple dish, a meal, at best a plain supper served in a nice bowl. But what Manila Clams in Black Burnished Ware does is bring together two things that are intrinsically connected, two things that sing with poetry and history. Sharing both a geographical location and simultaneously exploring stories of the migration of knowledge, materials, processes and species. It speaks of capitalism, industry and of chance. The relationship between contents and vessel, both in terms of the objects and materials themselves but also in the larger sense of a land and its formation, of the people and things that occupy a given space, of ones mind and ones body. It is a layering of history, culture, industry, place and material, shown through the simplicity of a meal, and its dish. 


The Manila Clam was introduced into Poole harbour in 1989 as an experiment. These Clams who are usually found at home in Asia were introduced to Poole Harbour by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food ( MAFF), alongside 18 other Harbours. MAFF were assured that they would not be able to reproduce due to the inclement seawater temperatures. Fast forward 4 years and these Clams had naturalised in Poole. Although Clams found in all other test sites naturally died out, unable to reproduce, these Clams are now widespread within the parameters of Poole Harbour and the adjoining estuaries. Their presence has been since been documented as far as the East Coast. Although we are unsure whether these new sites are related the original case study, or whether opportunist local fisheries have since introduced these clams.


The Clams, served in Black Burnished Ware are now naturalised in this country. In 2004 the Estimated value of the 500 tonnes of Manila Clams harvested on 31 licensed boats was £1.5 Million.  

Over the last year, with huge amounts of help from the published research of Dr Matthew Harris, I have been focused on understanding 

the introduction, naturalisation and spread of these Clams, their affect on local ecologies and extrapolating data to understand their future movements.

 Research based Project, including Performance, Pottery and a meal for one. 

Documented through Photographs

2017 - Ongoing 


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Running parallel to this line of enquiry I have been researching into Black Burnished Ware Pottery. It’s origins date as far back as 600BC in the UK, originating around Poole Harbour. This Pottery was made famous by the invasion of the Roman Army in this area in approximately 43AD.

Burnishing is a way of finishing a pot, by rubbing the pot with a smoothed stone or piece of shammy leather during its drying stages, you move and flatten all the platelets in the clay, compressing and eventually polishing the pot. When fired at low temperatures for long periods of time in low oxidisation, the pots become Black, withholding there Polished Exterior. This technology was groundbreaking, and revolutionised British Pottery. By burnishing a pot you decrease the water absorption and retention, increasing life expectancy.


Upon arrival, the Roman invaders discovered the local Potters and this new technology. 

Industrialising the local craftspeople it is estimated at peak production the Roman Empire in Poole, had over 600 potters from the local area producing pottery for the Army. The Romans exported this pottery all over England and into Europe, creating arguably, the first creative industry in England. 

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