The art of Ceramic production
The art of ceramic production goes back to 5,000 B.C.
Sicily was invaded by various populations, that influenced the style of the production of ceramic objects.
Water and fire are the two essential elements needed for this art.
All of the findings discovered have contributed to a better understanding of the history of our island.
- Greek civilization: china painted shiny black;
- “Siculo” period: local ceramic findings in the tombs;
- Roman period: introduction of brick, even if the tradition remained the same.
- Muslim domination: introduction of lead glazing , that embellished the ceramics;A� the Muslim influence was very important and its decorative motifs and techniques remained even during the successive dominations;
- Spanish domination: introduction of new colours; blue and yellow, green and manganese;
- Renaissance period: the local industries imitated the majolicas of Venice, Cafagiolo and Faenza. In this period there was a fine production of ceramics in Palermo, which later spread throughout the island;
- 17th-18th centuries: the small town of Burgio in the province of Agrigento became famous for the production of majolica, influenced by the Spanish ceramics. Blue, green, grey, brown and yellow are the main colours;
- Ceramics of Caltagirone: during the 17th-18th centuries, Caltagirone had a leading role in the history of Sicilian ceramics. Among the production, we can find: trees, amphoras, vases and oil lamps. In the 17th century greyish blue was the main colour which became dark blue in the 18th century;
- 19th century: in this period there was the production of clay figures, oil lamps, characters from the nativity scene, figures of the Sicilian trades. Each figure represented an era, a tradition and a social class.
Ceramic laboratory (Mrs. Aurelia Todaro)
The word a�?ceramica�? derives from the Greek word a�?keramosa�? that means pottera��s clay. It was born 10,000 years ago when men began to mould the clay to create crockery and other essential objects to preserve food and drinks.
Since 3,000 B.C. the lathe was used to mould objects with perfect and symmetrical shapes like plates, vases, bowls, etc.
The colour of clay varies from grey to a reddish colour depending on the quantity of iron oxide contained in it and once ita��s baked at high temperature it acquires a reddish colour. It takes a lot of manual ability to mould clay.
I had the privilege of showing a group of students of a�?Liceo Artistico M. Buonarrotia�? how the artistic clay is worked. I noticed a certain interest in the processing techniques used in my laboratory; in fact every object was rigorously decorated manually and this made it unique!
At first the students did a written exam to evaluate the skills already learned at school to highlight the differences between what they had studied and the actual production of artistic ceramic.
Despite the limited quantity of time available we could work together moulding the clay with the technique of the a�?colombinoa�? that allows to create the desired shape without the lathe; the created objects were dried out (the objects at this point are already solid but still fragile), these were baked and a�?terracottaa�? objects in classic reddish colour were obtained.
The objects were immersed in the glaze (without lead), then with the finishing touch possible imperfections were eliminated. Once completed, the objects were ready to be decorated with abstract motifs (above all to learn how to use the new materials); later with motifs regarding our territory such as the symbol of the project a�?Made in Trapania�?.
At the end of the process the objects were baked to obtain the vitrification at a temperature over 900A�. It was necessary to handle the objects adequately to avoid damages.
Once baked, it was exciting to see the objects created by a simple material like clay, now transformed in unique pieces of artistic ceramic!
The results were positive both for me and the students because the making of ceramic objects requires a lot of time, great creativity and much practice. The students showed great enthusiasm and worked diligently.