Krafts of India

Here’s What You Need To Know About Terracotta

posted by Radhika Chugh December 20, 2016 0 comments

Kraftly has decided upon a new way to appreciate crafts which add to the traditional beauty of our country, yet are somehow forgotten or soon to be lost in every sense. So, we came up with Krafts of India a while back in order to jolt such arts back to life. The pick of the day is Terracotta, which in true terms is considered to be among the oldest forms of arts of India.

What Is Terracotta?

Terracotta (from Terra costa in Latin), by very definition, means ‘baked earth’. All terracotta products are made from natural clay and are known for its eco-friendly quality. In today’s’ scenario, where designer products are at its peak, there are some of us who want to go back to the traditional, yet exclusive styles. And terracotta is most definitely one of those. Before we go into much detail, it’s imperative that we look into its past.

Terracotta Plates

History Of Terracotta

When I say it’s one of the oldest forms of arts, I mean literally going back to 3000-1500 BC. Various figurines (human as well as animal) were unearthed from archaeological sites of the Indus Valley Civilization in Mohenjo-Daro (Yes, Hrithik’s new movie is based on the same Mohenjo-Daro). Not only that, Archaeologists found various miniatures of votive terracotta while boring into Dholavira (Gujarat) which is a city from the Harappan civilization itself.

Not only that, somewhere around 210-209 BCE, a Chinese emperor – Qin Shi Huang was buried with a terracotta army. An army of life-sized Terracotta soldiers (about 8000 of them), 130 chariots with 520 horses, and some 150 cavalry horses were built and buried. Why? Well, it is said that this army will protect the emperor in his afterlife.             Terracotta Army2

It was believed (and still is in certain parts of India) that not only does Terracotta have aesthetic properties, but also religious ones. They were known to have some wish-fulfilling quality. Old villages of India had animal figures which were said to be sacrificed in burning fire to grant their wishes. Terracotta products in actuality get together the 5 vital elements of life, namely Water, Fire, Ether, Air, and Earth; which adds to the mystical quality of it.

The Making Of Terracotta

All you need is –

  • Smoothen Clay,
  • Oil (To be applied on your hands to avoid the clay from sticking on it),
  • Rolling pin/ Carving tools/ Cutter/ Pins/ Syringe etc. (To carve and make impressions to your desire), and
  • The Sun (to naturally bake it).

Basically, purified clay is played around with thoroughly. Starting with pressing, then molding to the desired shape, and designing it. It might sound super easy, but it is a very intricate art form. The designs, patterns, and decorations are made using carving tools. Now you can bake it, fire it and/or paint it.

Terracotta DIY

It needs to be left for drying for at least 24 hours, or baked under the direct sun. After drying, the clay is fired in a kiln at a temperature of about 1000 degree Celsius, which helps in bringing out the natural brick color.

The terracotta is not naturally waterproof or watertight, but burnishing the surface before firing will most definitely decrease its porousness. Glazing can be done as well, which is a coating on the item for protection, increasing the durability of the same. Glazing will make it watertight.

The product so made can be hand painted in various earthy colors. Be it jewellery, home décor lamps, and tableware, pottery, or infrastructural purposes like sanitary piping.

Why Terracotta?

  1. It’s waterproof and sturdy, hence it is useable to carry pressurized water for archaic as well as garden uses. Terracotta pots can also be used as oil containers or lamps.
  2. Terracotta jewellery is non-reactive, unlike other jewellery. College students nowadays like to add the rusty touch of terracotta, with exclusive jewellery to bring out their ethnic and semi-ethnic outfits. The jewellery does not cause any allergies and suits all skin types.
  3. It has both commercial as well as residential uses.
  4. It is fireproof. In a burning house, your terracotta will just turn a shade (or two) darker.
  5. Fun terracotta use: If it is uncracked, try hitting it lightly. It will ring, and you have a unique instrument for yourself right there. 

Terracotta In India.

It seems that Terracotta as an art is still thriving in India. Craftsmen all around have learned different skills when it comes to Terracotta, to carry forward the legacy of their forefathers. Many states like Pushkar, Bishnupur etc. have played a vital role in keeping this art alive. Temples in West Bengal (Bishnupur, Birbhum, Hooghly, or Murshidabad) are brilliant examples of the beauty of Terracotta.

Terracotta as an art was used to make deities for temples or for festive occasions. Some tribal communities still use votive figures made of terracotta for their rituals. If you go around the city of Nizamabad (somewhere in East UP), you will find crafts in thousands made with a particular kind of clay. These are black in color, as they are dried up in the sun.

Terracotta India

So Bring It Back To Life!

Terracotta has several uses and over the years has become something which takes us back to our roots. It is beautiful and marvelous. What all can be made with Terracotta, is pretty much unfathomable.

It is considered as an ideal gifting item today in forms of Terracotta Jewellery, Pottery, Paintings, Figurines, and what not. Go on, make yourself some intricate pieces of art, or add a dash of earthy to your outfits with these Terracotta Jewellery items. Or maybe bring some rustiness to your homes, with our collection of Terracotta products.

If you know any more than I do, I’d love to know. If you know anybody who works with Terracotta, advise them to join us at Kraftly. Do let me know if you spot a terracotta!

Source – Pinterest
Disclaimer: All images belong to the respective owners & we do not claim any copyrights for any images. 

Leave a Comment