It was produced at different centres in Gaul, each with its own style of decoration and variations in vessel form. The main areas of production were South, Central and East Gaul, mainly because the right type of clay was found there. Samian manufacture was attempted in Britain. Although kilns were set up in Colchester, they were never good enough to compete.
The manufacture of samian ware was a highly organised industry and the first example of production-line manufacture. Pottery centres were built up from separate workshops (officinae). Individual workmen would have specialised in a particular aspect of the manufacture.
The decorated bowls, in particular, were made in several stages – one potter made the moulds, another pressed clay into moulds and shaped the inside of the bowls, another dipped the vessel into the slip while another placed it in huge kilns which could fire thousands of pots at one time.
Information about workshops and workers has been gained through looking at the stamps and the decorations on the vessels themselves and from the production centres where the remains of kilns have been found.
Samian vessels were very expensive and were obviously treasured. Vessels have been found which have been repaired using lead rivets or glued together with pitch as an early form of adhesive. The fact that samian vessels were mended shows that they were valued more highly than other household pottery which was thrown away when it got broken.
For further information about samian, visit the Ceramics and Glass collection.