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All sorts of ceramics

An exhibition focusing on an industry which, during its heyday in Victorian times, employed thousands of people in Scotland, has opened at Springburn Museum in Glasgow.

"Gone to Pot" tells the story of pottery manufacturing in the city, where some 25 businesses were once located, concentrating on factories which were based in its northern district.

The Glasgow Pottery, for instance, with 800 workers, grew to be the biggest in Scotland, making "spectacular profits" for its owners, the Bell brothers, who built themselves an elegant mansion (now the headquarters of BBC Scotland) with a private picture gallery.

Seventy pieces of locally produced work, including jam jars, beer bottles, kitchenware and elegant tea sets, feature in the show, which runs until the autumn. Contact the museum for information on schools' visits and workshops.

Although few large-scale potteries exist in Scotland today, there are a good number of craft or studio potters operating on their own or with a small workforce.

More than 30 studio potters are represented at Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, whose studio ceramics collection, with more than 500 pieces, is second only to that of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The collection includes work by some of the greatest names of the British studio pottery movement (among them Bernard Leach and Staite Murray), which reacted against the "over-elaborate factory-made pottery of the 19th century" (the very stuff celebrated in the Springburn show).

Only a fraction of the collection is on public display in Paisley at any one time, but there are study facilities for teachers and students (who must book beforehand). A comprehensive illustrated catalogue is also available, at Pounds 1.75.

From July 8 to September 14, however, more of the ceramics will be on view when a touring exhibition of British craft work sold by London gallery Primavera since the Forties comes to the museum. A large number of pots were bought from Primavera when the Paisley collection was first established, 13 of which have now been borrowed back for the show.

Then, on August 31, "Teapotmania", an exhibition exploring 150 years of the craft teapot - and the tea cosy - opens in Paisley for a two-month run. Contact the museum for details of events planned for both these exhibitions.

Pottery also features in an exciting venture recently launched by Kirkcaldy Museums in Fife. It's a converted double-decker bus called MAC (short for Museum and Art Coach) and is Scotland's only museum on wheels. Although MAC has been on the road only since the end of March, it has already been visited by more than 1,000 school kids.

"Teachers and children seem to love it," says MAC's outreach officer, Emma Nicolson, whose "stops" so far have included one school with just 11 pupils. "At the start of each session we ask how many children in the class have been to a museum and sometimes only two hands go up.

"There's a lot to get through in 45 minutes. We discuss the reason for museums, and why some things have to be kept behind glass. We let the children handle the less fragile items and encourage them to ask questions. It's very interactive."

Items from the magnificent Cochrane Collection of British and continental porcelain, recently donated to the city of Aberdeen, have now gone on permanent display at the Aberdeen Art Gallery. It is a breathtaking display, one of the highlights of which is a 200-year-old caudle cup and saucer in the Worcester Royal Lily pattern, apparently much liked by Queen Charlotte. Caudle, we learn, is a warm gruel made from wine or ale mixed with eggs, bread or oatmeal, supped from a spoon and usually fed to invalids.

Springburn Museum, 0141 557 1405; Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, 0141 889 3151; Kirkcaldy Museum, 01592 260732.

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