(late Umayyad period ewer, left, and the America's Cup trophy, right, the oldest trophy still in use today)
Some time back, while chatting with my friends in the studio, the subject of ewers came up. It became clear to me that some folks might not be familiar with this type of vessel, it's shape, usage and history. I thought it might be fun to show some contemporary (and not) examples of this piece of pottery and explain why you might come across it quite often but not be quite sure of its purpose.
Simply put, a ewer is a vase-shaped pitcher. Now, that doesn't exactly tell you much, especially considering the examples I've shared below. In contemporary terms, the shape of the vessel has been unhitched from that narrow definition and is more commonly related to its usage. Historically, a ewer was a nearly-closed pitcher used for thousands of years across the globe for the transportation or storage of liquids. Some cultures used them for transporting olive oil, keeping water by a basin for washing, or even kept in a bathroom to flush toilets.
Nowadays, ewers are mostly used to store water (as on a nightstand) or for decoration. Today, I think what defines a ewer from a pitcher or teapot is one of a few possible characteristics. A ewer might look like a tall teapot or a squat pitcher with a spout. It may or may not have a lid, but surely any openings will be small so as to keep out dust and bugs. It might have a long neck or a long body so as to be more appropriate for storing beverages than brewing them. The most defining characteristic that make this vessel what it is, however, is the classification by the artist. As long as it has a spout and a small or covered opening, if the artist calls it a ewer, it's a ewer.
Now you tell us: Do you make or use ewers? Why and for what purpose?
(Tom Rohr, rest in peace)