A Brief History of the Art Of Pottery
The history of Pottery is one of the oldest. Ceramic figurines have been found that date back as far as 24,000 BC and tiles are said to date back to 14,000BC. The oldest discovered vessel dates back 10,000 years, to the neolithic period. From function to artistic expression, let’s explore one the most enduring crafts in history.
In ancient times, before irrigation or plumbing, vessels were needed to carry water. Originally woven baskets were used for transportation, ideal for solid materials but much less effective for liquids. However, as most water had minerals and clay in it, sediment would build inside the basket and eventually form a hardened barrier- this interior cast was the birth of pottery. Clay was then gathered and formed into pots then baked in a fire pit. These original vessels were unadorned, fit for purpose and function, and an essential tool in everyday survival. The Greeks are credited with then taking pottery to an artistic level, adding decorative elements and turning pottery into an aesthetic art form.
The Evolution Through Time and the World
From the humble coil pot to fine porcelain china, pottery has had a place in every culture’s history, each one contributing throughout pottery’s thousands of years in existence. Nomadic tribes across the world are credited with the very first forms of pottery. Following, the Greeks are recognised for turning pottery into an art form- painting elaborate depictions of greek mythology. The Romans were in many ways similar to the Greeks in their use and application of pottery, however they developed and favoured relief adornments over painted. Egypt played a vital role, developing both the potters wheel and fired glazes made from glass (another Egyptian discovery). In 1600 BC China brought about porcelain, a material renowned to this day for its delicate beauty. At the other end of the spectrum- Germany developed stoneware in the 13th century. Stoneware, still used in modern day, is incredibly strong, non-porous material made from fine clays fired at high temperatures. An interesting contribution to the craft originates from Japan where they practiced the method of kintsugi (golden repair) which is the repairing of broken vessels with gold or silver. A practice which adheres to the philosophies of Wabi-Sabi where imperfections and irregularities are cherished. They believed racks and defects should be celebrated and displayed as part of the pot’s history and journey.
While there have been many advancements, the basic notion of pottery has remained throughout all this time and will continue to withstand time. Still used in everyday life for function or decoration. Whether eating off it or putting flowers in it, pottery is involved in every person’s life. Beyond function, pottery is a reminder that there is beauty to be admired in imperfection just as much as perfection. And, creating pottery therapeutic, hands-on and ideal for any age and any skill level.