Clay that matures at a low temperature (anywhere between 1700 to about 2000 degrees Farenheit) is usually considered Earthenware. It may be red or white, though the red clay is the more ‘natural’ of the two – white earthenware being a man-made invention by mixing different materials together to produce a white clay. Terracotta is a term used to describe the red earthenware.
Red clay has been dug up in people’s landscapes and made into vessels for an extremely long time in human history (see my history links for specific information). It slowly went out of favor as technology improved and people were able to reach higher temperatures and/or make white clay bodies that could be highly decorated with multiple colors. Though it may not have been considered high fashion or highly prized and desirable, red earthenware has continually been mined and made into vessels and lately, I feel as though it has been coming back into favor.
For more information about the technicalities of earthenware as a clay body and, more importantly as a clay for functional pottery, please READ THIS.
I am pleased to see a number of potters working in earthenware today. The rich, red clay (though some is that awful tingy whiteware- sorry for my opinion) is so luscious! The material, having quite a history, often lends itself to modern re-interpretations of historical techniques. Maiolica is a good example of this – tin-glazed wares came out of the middle east around the ninth century and was popularized in Spain and then Italy in the 1400’s (Renaissance) under the title Maiolica or Majolica. Slipware is a fabulous tradition popularized by European potters in the 1600’s that utilized earthenware and slips (liquid clay) for decoration.
My previous instructor, Linda Arbuckle, is queen of maiolica and seems to be working in slip right now, too. Wherever I look for earthenware, I find Linda’s pieces or those of potters heavily influenced by her work.
While looking around the web, I found a traditional Redware potter, Stephen Earp Redware, from New England, who not only makes traditional styled Redware pottery, but blogs about ceramic history! These are great links. The history blog is Stephen’s musings after reading historical texts both on and off-line. Thanks, Stephen!
Here is a list of links to potters I know that work in earthenware and that I admire:
Joan Bruneau – Canadian potter. Red clay, slips and decoration with traditional copper colors. Definitely influenced by history in her decorations!
Lisa Naples – Pennsylvania potter with a penchant for storytelling in surface treatment.
Steven Colby – Potter with Japanese flair in his decoration. Note his influences: Kenzan and Rosanjin
Mudskipper Pottery – Paul Linhares makes functional pottery using historical Middle Eastern decoration as his influence.
Victoria Christen – Loose in a handmade way – her pots are, to me, like contemporary paintings that you can use. I love them! Slips are her predominant decorating material, I believe.
Ayumi Horie – If you haven’t seen her pots already, take a look. Fun drawings (scraffitto) of animals and best of all, to me, is her dry-throwing technique. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks promising. Lastly and most importantly, her website has a phenomenal list of links to other art and ceramic related sites worth checking out!
Katheryn Finnerty – Beautifully designed and decorated pots. Highly ornamental yet still functional, steeped in history and yet very contemporary. Check her out!
I will post more links as I find them. Students may find these links helpful – both to inspire them and to see what I look at when thinking about my work and assignments for classes.
Paula Wolfert shares her love of claypot cooking with the LA Times.