The Potters Cottage
In the Niagara region, visit The Potters Cottage to view the finest in ceramics and pottery, and sign up for interactive classes to learn this ancient and thriving artisan craft yourself!
Visit us at 4028 Erie Road, Crystal Beach, Ontario.
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Call today, 1 (905) 894-3412
The Potters Cottage - News
An artisan craft so historically important that it resulted in the birth of the Wheel, pottery has morphed and evolved throughout the ages more than perhaps any other handmade craft. From its apogee in the Ubaid period of ancient Mesopotamia, pottery production has been inexorably linked to the progression of the cultures and civilizations that created it. From the lowly and simple urns used to store food and possessions, to the priceless and towering vessels that displayed intricate carvings and historical records, pottery was present in every class of citizen and continues to help historians piece together the most important details of past history.
Pottery, and specifically ceramics, stretched back even before civilization and recorded history; the earliest known examples of ceramic creations are the iconic Gravettian figurines, stemming from the Paleolithic area in what is now the Czech Republic. Some of these figurines date from as far back as 29,000 BCE, and depict the nude female form. From a more functional standpoint, pottery was first found to have been used in vessel form in ancient Japan, as far back as 10,500 BCE. Stretching through prehistory, the invention and use of pottery marked important milestones in the evolution of separate civlizations, and pottery was invented independently in different parts of the world.
Pottery grew exponentially during the reign of the Greeks and the Romans, and indeed the ceramics and pottery pieces from those eras constitute some of the richest collections of artifacts still existing today. More has been gleaned from the study of ancient pottery than from perhaps any other artisan craft.
The creation of pottery and ceramics involves a number of steps, and at each step the artistry and experience of the potter really influences how the overall result will look. The first step is the shaping of the piece, either done freehand or using a pottery wheel. Freehand affords the artist unparalleled control over the size and shape of the piece, allowing creativity to completely take over; for more uniform pieces, a wheel can be used, but this is not to say that a wheel stifles the creativity of the shaping. At this point, various clays and slurries can be used to colour the final piece, and impart various properties to the pottery through combinations of desired clays. Porous clays might be used if the pottery will end up as stoneware, and finer coloured clays can be used for beautiful banded and gradiated patterns.
After shaping, the pottery is glazed using one of a variery of methods. Glazing both protects the piece, and imparts some decoration to the pottery, allowing the artisan to display beautiful patterns and designs upon the surface of the pottery. For functional pieces, such as vessels and dishes, the glaze acts as a waterproof coating to protect the somewhat-porous clay from being affected by the liquids it is intended to carry. After glazing, the pottery is fired.
Firing takes place in a kiln, and produces irreversible effects within the clay, hardening it and often changing its colour. The types of glaze used, the clays within the piece itself, and the atmosphere within the kiln all effect the level of change that occurs within the pottery, and the artisan has a great level of control over each of these changes. The pottery is then allowed to cool naturally so as not to crack, but even this process can differ among styles; Japanese Raku pottery is removed from the kiln while still glowing hot, and either plunged into water or smothered in ashes and wood chips to cool it, resulting in varied and unique oxidization patterns upon the surface of the clay.