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History of Pottery

The making of pottery is one of the most ancient arts. The oldest known pottery dates from about 10,500 to 400 BC in Japan and even the earliest ceramics exhibit a one of a kind class of techniques and designs. Geologist digging in the Near East have found primitive fired clay vessels that were made there more than 8,000 years ago.

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Ancient Chinese PotteryIt is believed that pottery workers were working in Iran by about 5500 BC and earthenware was probably being produced even earlier on the Iranian high plateau. Chinese pottery workers had developed recognizable techniques by about 5000 BC. In the New World many pre-Columbian American cultures developed highly artistic pottery and ceramic traditions.

After the fall of the ancient Roman Empire pottery workers in Europe produced little other than repetitive pottery for everyday use until the end of the Middle Ages.

By the beginning of the 15th century Italian pottery workers had abandoned the old familiar processes and a change in style and techniques was under way.
The severe style was followed principally in the school of Tuscany and continued to the end of the 15th century, but rules and principles slackened and the addition of human figures in designs which were previously frowned upon was accepted.
At the end of the 15th century Faenza became the thriving center of a re-energized pottery industry in Italy.
A new, rich decorative style, known as istoriato fired the imagination of pottery workers, reaching its highest point in the workshops of Urbino.
In early 17th century England, attractive slip pottery was produced including the slip decorated earthenware that was made mainly by the Toft family of pottery workers.
A kind of tin-glazed earthenware was also produced in the Netherlands, mostly at Delft, beginning in the mid 17th century.

Delftware original plate

Termed delftware, it was among the first European pottery to be decorated with figures and designs inspired by Chinese and Japanese models.
European pottery workers, who really liked the porcelain of the Far East tried to imitate it, but the formula for it remained a secret.
Francesco de Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, produced an inferior type of soft paste porcelain in his Florence workshop during the 16th century.
In March of 1709, Augustus II of Saxony announced that his ceramic worker Johann Bottger 1682-1719 had discovered how to make porcelain.
That was when the first European royal porcelain factory was established at Meissen near Dresden, Germany.
Throughout the century following the discovery of the porcelain formula, despite all the precautions at Meissen, the secret was somehow leaked out and many rival factories were set up in Europe.
Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and England also soon had factories engaged in the production of pottery much like those of Meissen.
Porcelain figures were first produced in Meissen as table ornaments.
The earliest examples were formed as part of sweetmeat dishes.
Many splendid wares were made at the royal factory, but none were more admired than the finely modeled and decorated porcelain figures imitated by almost every German, Austrian, Italian, and English factory.
Widespread interest in figures of both pottery, porcelain and ceramic has continued to the present.
Johann Joachim Kandler 1706-75, who was a master pottery worker, was the most notable of the artisans engaged in this work at Meissen and rivaled the famous Franz Anton Bustelli 1723-63 of Nymphenburg.
The method used to produce porcelain figures was developed by Kandler and gave a new dimension to the art.
German porcelain figures were usually produced from molds which were cast from an original master model made of wax, clay, or sometimes wood.
The use of molds provided for unlimited reproduction.
Usually, the figures would shrink during firing and allowances had to be made in their sizes.
A small vent hole in the back or base was needed to permit excess heated air and moisture to escape.
Because different factories placed these holes differently, it help determine who made it and would prove the authenticity of each piece.
When considerable undercutting was necessary, porcelain figures were usually made in sections using separate molds.
Portions of elaborate groups and single figures were later joined by a specially trained assembler known as a repairer who usually worked from a master model.
Europe's second hard paste porcelain factory began operations in Vienna in 1717.
In the late 1700s at the royal Sevres factory in France, pottery workers experimented until they developed a pure white and finely textured body.
Sevres pottery pieces were painted in unique colors that no other European factory could duplicate.
The bleu de roi and rose pompadour of Sevres pottery pieces captivated all Europe and with the products of Meissen and Vienna it inspired English pottery workers.
Early Sevres soft paste porcelain, or Vieux Sevres .The finest English porcelain both soft and hard paste was made between about 1745 and 1775.
The first English porcelain was probably produced at Chelsea under Charles Gouyn, but his successor Nicholas Sprimont, a Flemish silversmith who took over management in 1750, was responsible for the high quality pottery, especially the superb figures, for which the factory became famous.
Factories at Worcester, Bow, and Derby also produced pottery that rival those of the United States.
Led by the ambitious, energetic, and enterprising Josiah Wedgwood and his successors at the Etruria factory, English pottery workers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries became resourceful and inventive.
Wedgwood's contributions consisted mainly of a much improved cream ware, his celebrated jasperware, so called black basalt and a series of fine figures created by famous pottery and ceramic artists.
After Wedgwood, other pottery workers of the first half of the 19th century developed a number of new wares.
Of these, Parian pottery was the most outstanding and commercially successful.
The name of this ware was derived from Paros, the Greek island from which sculptors in ancient times obtained the creamy or ivory tinted marble that Parian pottery resembled.
The first examples of this new product, described as statuary porcelain was made in Copeland and Garret's factory in 1842 and were immediately praised.
Two varieties of Parian pottery were produced: statuary parian used in the making of figures and reproductions of sculpture and hard paste or standard parian, from which hollowware was made.
Statuary parian used a glassy frit and is classified as soft porcelain.
Standard parian which had a greater proportion of feldspar in the composition but no frit, is called hard porcelain.
Early parian statuary was ivory tinted due to the presence of iron in the feldspar and having no iron silicate.
Suitable deposits were eventually located in Sweden and Ireland.
Both English and American pottery workers either obtained details of the original formula or worked out their own and the resulting production of Parian pottery on both sides of the Atlantic was enormous.
Among the most beautiful and successful pottery pieces invented by 19th century pottery workers were those decorated in what came to be known in England as pate-sur-pate, a paste-on-paste technique devised sometime after 1870 by Marc-Louis Solon 1835-1913 of Minton's in England.
MINTON STAFFORDSHIRE VICTORIAN POTTERY PARIAN WARE FIGURE OF MIRANDA DESIGNED BY JOHN BELL C.1861Pate-sur-pate, involved both modeling and painting techniques and was stained. Parian pottery was decorated with the projection of figures or forms from a flat background in translucent tinted or white slip, the colors being laid one upon the other. Solon was inspired by a Chinese celadon case decorated with embossed flowers that he had admired in the museum at Sevres, where he worked for a time.
At first his slip painting on dry biscuit porcelain simply peeled off.
He was successful, however, when he applied layers of slip to a damp surface.
Minton pottery decorated with pate-sur-pate became the most costly and desired pottery ornaments produced in England in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Only a few English pottery workers mastered Solon's complex technique, but the work of his pupil, Alboin Birks, surpassed that of the master.
By the late 19th century, with the development of machinery and the introduction of new technologies, the age of mass production began and the pottery workers art really suffered.
Western ceramics and pottery pieces declined quite a bit in quality of materials and decoration.
Very ornate designs, gaudy coloring and plain shapes became fashionable, and continued into the 20th century.
Not until the 1930s was there signs of a new presentation in the forms and decorations noticed in the productions of pottery and ceramic workers who were active in Western Europe and the United States.
Many of these pottery and ceramic workers arrived at their methods or products by way of continuous experimenting with materials and techniques.
Others sought inspiration from primitive types of Japanese pottery or in the forms of ancient American Indian traditions.
Since the end of World War II the design and decoration of pottery and ceramics in both Europe and the United States, especially ornamental pottery has been largely influenced by individual pottery and ceramic artists.
Commercial products such as tableware's have tended to reflect the styles and patterns developed by these pottery and ceramic workers, whose work has often shown striking originality.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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