The Functional Art Of Terracotta

 The Functional Art Of Terracotta


Terracotta, the first creative expression of civilization, man’s first attempt at craftsmanship. Terracotta, a form of art that is considered magical in ancient India for its atavistic Handcrafted Terracotta Tiles  nature which incorporates five elements – earth, water, air, fire and ether.

Terracotta is basically a ceramic. Etymologically Italian, terracotta means “baked earth” or “fired earth”. But the term ‘terracotta’ is also used to refer to the particulars made out of it. The craft of terra cotta involves using clay to prepare reddish brown unglazed earthenware firing it through a very high temperature. The reddish brown color is basically because of the presence of iron. Other colors include yellow, grey and pink.

The history of sculptor and pottery started with terracotta. From the petty earthen pot for the trivialities of daily use to the idols they worship, terra cotta occupied an important place in the lives of the people of ancient India, without which life would come to a stand-still for them. In the Indian sub continent terracotta art bears testimony to the varied and ancient traditions of its practice over five millennia. Harrappa and Mohenjodaro civilization bears the evidences of the antiquity of the craft terracotta.

But the domain of the craft of terracotta is not confined only to India. The art of terracotta has defined a culture for generations in Imprunetta of Italy where the craft is still blooming. Beginning in the 15th century and continuing through the 18th, Italian sculptors raised terra cotta to a status of indomitable fame in the house of European creative art. The terracotta stuff handcrafted by them has the exquisity and antique traditions respecting the cultural and professional continuity of the art.

Among other countries making extensive use of the art of terracotta are China, England, France, America and Africa (west). The Terracotta Army of China (the terra cotta soldiers), the Abduction of Hippodameia (from Greek mythology) in France, and the two buildings of Victorian Birmingham in England bear testimonial of this antique art of terra cotta.

The craft of terracotta in India is an epitome of religious expression conveyed through clay. Molded clay is converted to masks and murals capturing the sculptor’s imagination. Nevertheless, always existing outside the rigid rules of the constituted Hindu canons governing artistic expression, the art of terracotta enjoys enormous freedom in terms of imagination and conception which lead to the parturition of a wide variety of sculptures with the tag of ‘beauty and ethnicity’ attached to it, for good. In the world scenario, the most famous terracotta sculptures are those of the Terracotta Warriors in China.

The basic features which are still holding the millions of years old craft of terra cotta and which lead to its flourishing success yet are the simplicity of the process and its eco-friendliness. The simpler process of creating a finished product and the reusable mold-making techniques places it on a higher position to bronze sculpture. As compared to the stone works like marble, terracotta products are far lighter. Hence, terracotta bells and terracotta clocks could be easily put anywhere as compared to the marble ones.

A village in India without a potter creating miracles of terracotta would be a long search, may be a never-ending one. Products for daily use, decorative items like murals, masks, clocks, bells, tiles, pots, molded bricks, sculptures in temples…the range of terracotta products is a wide one. The fable of rich Mother Earth, imparts the medium, terracotta, with such a high degree of mouldability and adaptability that beauty of form, color and texture varies across the length and breadth of the country, and across the world.



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