There are a lot of little-big things that define the world, as we know it - human evolution, technological advancements, co-existing communities, and the list goes on spending on different contexts. But at core of almost everything, lies the art that laid the foundation to better living. Ancient crafts that once only served aesthetic purposes, are not living up to their true potential in the functional sense as well. One of the centuries-old arts that has now become a modern-day wonder is Terracotta pottery.
The actual translation of “Terracotta” is “baked earth” in Italian. The art forms include sculptures, figures, vessels or any kind of pottery born out of the craft. In order to give the right form to these structures, the art of Terracotta clay making has to be mastered.
How is Terracotta made? The clay is born out of fairly coarse, porous clay. Previously, the raw clay was exposed to the sun at its strongest. Then, it was baked in primitive ovens created in the ashes of open fires. Today, the most common method of making terracotta is to work with refined clay. The very first step is to give a fitting form to the raw clay by moulding it into the shape that has been visualized. After the mould is dry, it has to be placed in a kiln or on top of a combustible material in a pit. Then, the firing process begins with the firing temperatures that ideally should reach up to 1,000°C.
When this raw form of clay is treated under fire, it features different colours. The iron content gives the clay a reddish color as it interacts with oxygen during the firing process. But today, thanks to modern tools and techniques, you can also find terracotta clay art in shades of orange, yellow ochre, grey, pink or brown.
As for the origins of Terracotta art, it has been long practiced in different cultures, to name a few - Chinese Pottery (from 10,000 BCE), in Greek Pottery (from 7,000 BCE). You can find one of its finest proofs in Mesopotamian and Egyptian arts and sculptures as well. During the ancient days, terracotta was primarily used for building-brick, roof tiles, and sarcophagi. In India, traditional terracotta sculptures, mainly religious, are quite a common sight.
Apart from the century-old existence of the figures made from terracotta, the clay was also accepted as a great material for architectural purposes during the 19th century. By the arrival of the 20th century, the artisans and architects came to realise the aesthetic and functional value of terracotta, leading to the introduction of the terracotta houseware that have found their home on many shelves today.
What is terracotta made of? Terracotta is a more evolved form of raw clay, in a sense. It is made from firing porous types of clay. The next question that comes to mind is - what exactly is the difference between terracotta and clay? Clay is the raw material. Whereas, terracotta is clay that is already moulded into a final form and fired. Earthenware that boasts a brilliant brown-orange color that is commonly known as terracotta.
What makes terracotta stand out from the crowd is the fact that it is incredibly flexible in nature. It is relatively easier to work with as compared to other materials; regardless, it produces pieces that are just as worthy. Terracotta pieces can be formed by both the techniques - addictive and subtractive. Both these methods allow the artist to adorn the piece at hand with intricate details that are hard to miss.
In addition to their rustic appeal, terracotta vessels also bring a treasure trove of health benefits - both in terms of cooking and storing food in them. Being some of the finest forms of earthenware, terracotta clay vessels are known to counterbalance the food’s acid content. They are perfect for storing dairy products. They are also incredibly convenient in the sense that they are microwave-safe, keeping you only minutes away from warm, healthy meals. They also contribute to enhancing the flavour of food and retaining its nutritive value as well.
Terracotta Vessels & Vases By Ikai Asai
Home to products created from ancient crafts, Ikai Asai is where you will find fine pieces of terracotta vessels and vases. Each one of our pieces is thoughtfully handcrafted in the heart of Maharashtra by gifted craftsmen, descending from a lineage of traditional kalakars. This art form harks back to the traditional uses of terracotta vessels such as to store water, to keep it cool on a hot summer's day or drinking warm chai in a kulhad (cup) moulded in clay. Using ancestral knowledge, our craftsmen channel the creative energy of the elements of nature, to create pieces that cut through the fabric of time and civilization.
The clay is first refined to remove the dust particles and other impurities. Then it's mounted at the centre of the potter's wheel for our craftsman to shape it. Once the shape is ready, it is dried under the sun for 2-3 days. It is then fired in a kiln, an open furnace, powered by local fuel such as dry coconut leaves or small wooden pieces. Once ready, this extensively treated piece is given a beautiful transparent glaze to give it a refined finishing.
How To Care?
- Clean your vessels immediately after you use them.
- Soak a soft sponge in tepid water, apply mild detergent and gently rub your vessel clean.
- Give your vessels enough time to dry, this helps to retain their natural finish.
- Be careful while using, since all tableware is susceptible to abrasion from repeated handling.
- Make sure to put a cushion of tissue / cloth between each product while stacking.
- These vessels are microwave safe, so you can heat conveniently yet eat traditionally.
- Stack the vessels in the sink to wash them all at once.
- Use a harsh stainless steel/metal scrubber to clean.
- Put your vessels in a dishwasher to rinse or clean.
- Store food in the vessel overnight or for a long time.
If you are looking to adorn your living room, dining room or kitchen with the elegance of Terracotta clay art, then you will find the finest of dinnerware, serveware and décor born out of this craft at Ikai Asai. They make for subtly elegant pieces that fit perfectly into a varied range of hosting themes, to name a few - floral, rustic, minimal, DIY, abstract and many more. You can browse through our terracotta collection that features handcrafted plates, tumblers, bottles, snack bowl, vases, serving bowl with lid, and more.