Pottery in times of COVID-19

London pottery photography week March 9th-13th.


A third photography week! Blissfully ignorant of what the global impact of COVID-19 would be in a few short days, we set off for London to take more photos of pot sherds. As we make our way to St. Pancras station, we talk about the virus, but as though talking about something far away that will never impact us. Yes, the virus was spreading, but we were young and therefore not at too much risk…


As we have learned from the previous photography session, we had apparently not provided enough detail about what we needed the photographs to look like. We have therefore improved the protocol and included examples of what not to do.


What not to do


We are now armed with a 12(!!!) page document, experience from last time and an inexhaustible supply of dad jokes (courtesy of yours truly). What can possibly go wrong? Okay, we know that by asking people to pay more attention to whether the photos are in focus, we are going to slow down the process, but maybe the experience that we (and the volunteers) now have will compensate somewhat.


Sadly, the one thing you can certainly learn from these blogs of mine is that there is no estimate of productivity where I do not err on the side of optimism. Firstly, we have fewer volunteers than the last time we were here. As far as we can tell, this is unrelated to the virus which is more and more in the news in more and more alarming tones. Whatever the reason of this volunteer drop-out, it wreaks havoc with my productivity estimates (because, of course, this is what I am worried about at this point). Furthermore, experience does not seem to compensate sufficiently for the delay that obsessing with focus causes. At least, in my case it does not. Earlier in the week I could still claim the excuse of coordination meetings with Arch-I-Scan and MoLA staff throwing spanners in the works, but by the end of the week those have dried up and I am still a lot slower than the rest. So you will understand that I spent my time avidly searching for new excuses why I was slower than everyone else. I am sure that can only have helped my productivity!


Overall, despite me obsessing about lower productivity, we end up with a respectable 14,000 photos! So maybe it is teammates compensating rather than experience… Sadly, twelve pages is no guarantee for perfect photos, or even ones that are useable for training the machine:



A ‘fabric photo’ with 0% fabric and 100% surface in view


After 12 pages! I really thought I had made it clear, that I covered every angle in the document. Shows what I know… Well, it shows that I can be too optimistic about my own clarity as well as my productivity…


Still, of the 14,000 photos, the vast majority of is good. And these include beauties, not just in red:



and black!

Pretty things in red…




Another testament to my lack of foresight: Friday afternoon (Friday the 13th, I should have known!), we have a meeting to discuss the next week in light of the evolving situation regarding COVID-19. None of us are terribly worried, though all of us more so than on Monday. Some of us are staying in London over the weekend, so we agree to check in by the end of the weekend to make the decision of whether or not to postpone our second week. My line: “I’m perfectly happy to continue next week, but everyone needs to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable continuing.” The next day, I call the whole thing off for fear of being stranded when the country is locked down. Shows what I know…


Still, the upside is that it is much easier to write a wisecracking blog when things do not go as planned.



Even the pottery tries to keep our spirits up


Now we all work from home and follow government advice to do our bit to stem the spread of this virus. To our project partners, volunteers and all the reader (sic) of this blog, be safe and well. Hopefully we will see each other soon in better circumstances.



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