“Ceramic pottery” the ancient art which is considered to be the most exquisite one today, was discovered as early as 24,000 BC. The word ceramic comes from the Greek Keramikos meaning “pottery”. Ceramic industry is considered to be the earliest industry discovered on the planet. Once discovered that the clay could be dug up and formed into objects by adding water and then firing, it gave birth to the ceramic industry. It was around 10000 years later that ceramic tiles were manufactured in India and Mesopotamia. As the communities settled and the art developed ceramic pottery kept on establishing on further stages. It was the time when ceramic pottery was used other than vessels for storing food and water.
Mesopotamia Ceramic Pottery
There is a long history of the ceramic pottery art in almost all the cultures around the world. The remains of these artistic ceramic objects are the left evidence of the vanished cultures. One of those is the ceramics from the Nok culture in Africa dated over 2000 yrs ago. The art of ceramic pottery was developed in various cultures which include the Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Korean, Greek, Mayan, Cretan and other modern Western cultures too. It is the elements of ceramic art like the shape of the object, painting style, designs, carving and other methods, and the glazing found on most ceramics that differentiates it from each other depending on the culture they belong to.
The Art of Making Ceramic Pottery
In India, the art of making ceramic pottery has developed at a fast pace. Though it is considered to be an ancient art have a great demand worldwide even today. The beautiful ceramic products that we use to decorate our home and other interiors go under a long procedure of making which is a tedious time-consuming task. Though the process of making ceramic products is quite similar globally; the shapes and the art used for making the ceramic pottery distinguishes it from others.
Today we will talk about the Khurja ceramic pottery of India!
The essential raw material used for making ceramic pottery products is clay mixed with other materials likes quartz, potash, and feldspar. The clay used for making Khurja ceramic pottery is procured from various parts of the country, like the china clay and ball clay from Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bikaner, Kundan clay from Kerala, Rajmahal clay from Bihar, and fire clay from Delhi. All these raw materials are mixed in a defined ratio and grinded in a Ball-mill equipment for around 10 hours to get a homogeneous mix of clay dough. Two types of clay material are produced, the liquid clay used in moulding and clay dough.
The Clay Moulding Process:
The mould of a required article with the product cavity is prepared using Plaster of Paris (POP). Then the clay is mixed in a liquid solution so that no lumps are formed. This clay solution is then poured into the mould till it fills the cavity. Mould box is shaken/rotated/tilted gently to avoid air bubbles and drain out excess clay liquid. Once the setting time is over the moulded product is removed with the help of a blade from the rim and other surfaces. These elected products are kept to dry in room temperature for a day. The moulding process is generally done for bigger products like vases and pots.
Jigger and Jolly Process:
Another process of making ceramic products is called Jigger and jolly process. The equipment called jigger contains dye while jolly contains cavity to shape the clay. Jigger consists of a movable handle (up & down) which holds the dye and a base (rotatable) to place clay dough whereas Jolly is same as jigger but the base is to hold the cavity shaped bowl. A thick dough of clay with more elasticity is used in this process. The product is removed from the base and kept to settle to remove moisture on the base. Further, it is taken from the base and kept to dry in room temperature (diffused sunlight). For products like a coffee mug and cup, handles are made separately and fasten.
Dried products are subjected to semi-finish process to improve the surface finish by sanding un-even surfaces and parting lines with sand paper. Cracks developed during the molding process are filled with clay and allowed to dry followed by sanding. These products are then washed thoroughly using cotton cloth and plain water. Due to the addition of china clay as raw material, washed products turns half-white color before painting process.
The process of painting is further divided into two, Mughal art and simple motifs. Mughal art is painted with a rich azure of cobalt-blue colour followed by a colourless lead glazing. While simple motifs of flowers, animals and geometrical designs are drawn using oxide colours followed by colourless lead glazing adding significance to the ceramic pottery products.
Glazing is a glossy layer fused to ceramic objects which serves to color, decorate, waterproofing and to strengthen the underlying ceramic. Glazes can be transparent, opaque, translucent, glossy, semi- matte and matte finish. Glazes are made up of three basic elements, glass former, melter and binder. Articles are dipped in the required solution according to the type of ceramic product and taken out immediately and dried in room temperature followed by firing process.
Once the ceramic pottery product is ready it goes under the final process of firing. It’s a process done in a covered kiln. Earlier brick kiln were used which are now replaced by gas or electric kiln with a temperature control technology which is easy for the artisans to operate and to avoid the number of damages. Firing process done in electric kiln helps to spread the heat uniformly in a given time. Damaged pieces are reused and good pieces are sent for packing.
Forms of Ceramic Pottery:
Studio pottery has become really famous nowadays!! It is widely demanded by home decorators, interior designers and also by decor stores as they look classy in appearance and also adds unique art form to the decor. Studio pottery is pottery made by amateur or professional artisans working alone or in small groups making unique designs using their artistic skills. In studio pottery, all stages are of manufacture are carried by the artisan himself. Studio pottery products include functional ware such as tableware, cookware, crockery, kitchen accessories and non-functional ware like sculptures.
Ceramic pottery tiles are often used as wall murals or for creating a wall design. These tiles can range from simple designs to complex mosaics. Ceramic pottery tiles can be seen mostly on the walls of ancient mosques and churches. Now day’s ceramic tiles are used for giving home and kitchen interiors an exquisite décor look.
Ceramic figurines and showpieces are quite famous for their beautiful appearance and exquisiteness. Ceramic figurines are demanded worldwide for decor purposes. Figurines may be realistic or iconic depending upon the imagination skills of the craftsmen.
Ceramic artists today are using a medium whose evolution is closely interwoven with that of modern mankind itself.