A call from a former student turned into one of the most unusual commissions University of South Carolina arts instructor Virginia Scotchie ever received.
A new television show needed 300 pieces of ancient Egyptian ceramics, and they needed it in about a month. Artists don’t like to be hurried, and they don’t like to be told exactly how their work should look, but Scotchie was intrigued enough to take on the job.
Lara Allard, is now an assistant prop manager for the 20th Century Fox television pilot “Hieroglyph” and thought of her former teacher when she found the production needed historically accurate pottery.
“She said the prop manager told her ‘I need a lot of Egyptian pottery.’ And she told her, ‘I know just the right person,’ ” Scotchie said.
Scotchie, head of the ceramics program at USC, has done plenty of sculpting and pottery work, but she never had done historical reproductions or experimented much with ancient Egyptian styles. “I’m much more familiar with Asian and European ceramics,” she said.
She researched Egyptian ceramics as well as special glazes that could make ceramic plates and cups look like gold or silver. The production company also did its research and sent photographs and an itemized inventory of what it wanted.
Scotchie was pleased that a television production wanted artists to produce the work “because craftsmanship is something people don’t think about anymore.”
She recruited another USC alumnus, Bri Kinard, her partner at Redbird Studio along Rosewood Drive, to help throw the bowls, cups, plates and amphoras. They did the work on wheels at Redbird, but that studio didn’t have enough kiln time to handle the volume, so most of the pieces were fired in kilns at USC. The two of them have put in long days almost every day since the order came in.
Scotchie declined to reveal how much she and Kinard will make for their work, but the production company is paying almost $1,600 to pack the ceramics and ship the delicate items to New Mexico, where the pilot is being filmed.
The show’s main character is a thief who was taken from prison to serve the pharaoh. The ceramics include clay dinnerware that would be used by common folks, and fancier silver and gold vessels suitable for the pharaoh’s get-togethers. The cups and plates could be seen as supporting actors in banquet scenes in a series that has been scheduled for a 13-show production schedule.
Scotchie enjoyed the new experience, especially throwing the unusual shapes of the amphoras. But she would think twice before taking on this type of quick turnaround project again.
“I wouldn’t say no to it, but I’d like a little more time,” she said.