There is a ghastly difference when an artist buys an art piece and when any other person buys an art piece. My mom and I were checking out handicrafts at a store. I came across a glazed beer mug. My reaction, “Omg! So cheap!” and my mother’s reaction, “Omg! So expensive”. I realized it was glazed terracotta.
My fascination with clay dates back to 11th grade. I loved the clay modelling classes in school. The fascination just grew watching different clay pieces at Dilli Haat. Well! The fascination turned into curiosity as I heard terms like Terracotta earrings, Ceramic, Clay modelling, and Pottery. Thanks to Mr. A. M. Banerjee who recently encouraged me to learn Ceramics from Mrs. Vibha Sharma at South Delhi Polytechnic College that I understand these terms somewhat. On first thought, I decided to research sources on terracotta and ceramics and write this blog post, but then I thought why not write what I personally learnt.
Ever wondered why terracotta earrings are high priced? There is a huge process that goes into making them. Let’s begin with the design. So, firstly one decides on what you want to create. Clay preparation is a very important part that affects so much the ease with which one can create their work. The clay is kneaded till right consistency. If it’s too hard then cracks will develop as you work and if it’s too soft then your work won’t be sturdy enough. An interesting fact is that in clay work the adhesive used is clay itself. Slip – clay mixed with water- is used to hold clay parts together. Different dilutions may be used for different purposes. So how is this sticky, soft, and pliable material so hard at the end? It’s baked! But before it can be baked it is allowed to stand to dry completely that may take days. The clay pieces need to be hollow for air to expand else they will burst during baking. The baking goes on for min. 3 hours. The kilns varies in sizes. After baking, the finished product is yet not ready. The baked product is smoothened with sand paper and before painting coated with texture white. People in love with terracotta would prefer to leave it in its original crimson red color. To give it just a little shine, diluted fevicol can be applied.
Let me clarify the terms I mentioned above. Terracotta is natural crimson red colored clay, while ceramic clay is white in color and prepared by mixing different like china powder etc. Ceramic clay is more chemical in nature and thus hardens more easily. Terracotta is baked at a lower temperature than ceramic. Ceramic work is more technical. Color is given to ceramic by glazing. Glazing is like a huge lab experiment. A perfect formula of mixture of different oxides is reached to get the desired color. It is first tested in a smaller kiln. Glazing is what one sees on the ceramic crockery. So, ceramic is fired in kiln twice.
Pottery is higher skill than terracotta and ceramic. A minimum of 6 months is required to getting your hand set on a potter’s wheel. My journey in the world of clay continues. Clay sculptures make my heart pound. Future posts would speak more about this art.