Pottery is a specialized art that continues to fascinate people who love gardening and decoration. Terracotta in Italian language means "baked earth". It is type of earthenware, which is either clay-based unglazed or glazed form of ceramic.
Terracotta is a term used generally for sculptures made in earthenware, and also those forms created for various utilitarian purposes like vessels, flower pots, bricks, and surface embellishments in buildings. The term also refers to the natural, brownish orange color, which is characteristic of most terracotta forms.
Terracotta has been in existence for a very long time. In fact, it is believed to be the only clay product which was used until 14th century. Archaeologists have found many terracotta sculptures, which are more than 5,000 years old. Terracotta/earthenware has been used throughout history for the purpose of sculpture and pottery. In ancient era, the clay sculptures were sun dried and later placed in open hearths and finally it was placed in kilns.
The major step in making Pottery involves collecting appropriate refined clay, to get the desired shape. After drying, the clay is placed in a kiln or on the top of combustible material located in a pit, and it is then fired. The temperature of the fire should be around 1,000°C and during this process, the iron reacts with oxygen which results in a fired body or reddish color.
The overall color generally varies widely with various shades of yellow, buff, orange, red, pink, grey or brown. Fired terracotta may not be watertight, but the process of surface-burnishing before firing can reduce the porousness while a layer of glaze makes it watertight. The pottery created with terracotta is used for garden pots or decorative purposes in many environments, as well as oil lamps, or ovens. There is painted terracotta available too which is initially covered with a thin coat of gesso, followed by painting. The process of firing at high temperature is the key in terracotta pottery.
Terracotta Hub of Andhra Pradesh
In Andhra Pradesh, Palamaner Mandal in Chittoor District is renowned all over for its most attractive and varied Terracotta Pottery. The ‘Terracotta Crafts Centre’ at Gantavur village here, located on the NH-4, Bangalore-Chennai highway has been a hub of Terracotta pottery in AP for the last 15 years. There are more than 20 small open-air outlets existing here alongside the highway, where dozens of artisans display their work.
The locally available mud/clay is considered suitable for pottery work. The potters here make use of two kinds of mud which are mixed together to make the end products. Black mud and Red mud sourced locally is used. The potters create an array of craft products and these Terracotta products are finally painted, as customers prefer painted objects increasingly these days, compared to the natural terracotta ones. There are wide varieties of Terracotta items available here. There is also a KVIC Technology Transfer center at this site, where Ballmill, Pugmill, Gaskiln and Spray painting machine were installed.Terracotta artisans here make several articles, like lamps, pots, musical instruments, flower vases, horses, idols, plates, elephants, and other highly attractive artifacts.