John Wesley Primitive Physic
Back in the first lockdown of March 2020, I was working on a project that had been gestating for a long time, about my response to the 1759 novel ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’, by Laurence Sterne.
The news coming over the radio during February and early March about Covid-19 was increasingly alarming, and it made me wonder how Sterne and his contemporaries would have responded to an equivalent epidemic in the mid-1700s. After noodling about online with this in mind, I happened upon a book written by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, called ‘Primitive Physic’. As well as being inspirational spiritually, Wesley turned out to have had very strongly held and detailed beliefs about health and lifestyle. ‘Primitive Physic’, written in 1747, was a collection of his suggested cures for common ailments of the time, using mostly local ingredients such as herbs and vegetables, fresh milk and cold water. A quick look through made me laugh out loud – some of the cures were so very odd and totally foreign to our contemporary approach to illness. Cures such as ‘hold a live puppy constantly on the belly’ for a stomach ache, ‘suck an healthy woman daily’ as a cure for consumption and ‘wear leaves of celandine upon the feet’ for jaundice drew me into a world where beliefs around illness were very different from our own. Actually, some of the cures make sense if you think about them for a bit – I do think that a nice warm puppy would be really nice if I had a stomach ache, for example! Wesley also relates in the book how a very overweight woman cured herself of this condition inside a year by eating only vegetables, which many raw diet aficionados today would thoroughly approve of.
I decided to make a collection from this book, with some of the cures transcribed onto typical medical ceramic items from the 18th century. More online research took me to a fascinating world of posset pots, albarello jars, bleeding bowls and leech jars. The elegant and mysterious shapes of these apothecary items really appealed to me and I had a great time attempting to recreate them on the wheel. This project gave me a curious sense of calm and perspective during the early days of the pandemic. As I escaped into the 18th century world of John Wesley and his cures for awful complaints.
I was given a longer view of current events in terms of human history and was reassured in a way that this time too will pass – looking back on it now, I really believe that John Wesley and his Primitive Physic was an enormous help to my own mental health. Thank you John!
A preoccupation with linking the European ceramic and decorative art styles of the past with the present day is very much in evidence with Katrin Moye’s ceramic practice. References to Georgian and Baroque interior design, Dutch still life and vernacular painting, Italian Majolica and European Delftware can all be detected in her work. Wheel-thrown multi part compositions, triple handled baluster jugs, fluted candlesticks and hand-built lidded flower bricks are exquisitely hand painted with coloured slips and underglazes. These traditional materials and techniques make her feel connected to the long and distinguished line of European makers of decorated earthenware that stretches back hundreds of years.
Katrin's creative output is very much animated by her education in History of Art and English Literature. Her pieces effortlessly marry the two subjects together with humour, joy and great sensitivity.