HOW THE CERAMICS ARE MADE
FORMING THE CERAMIC VASE
THE ART OF CERAMIC MAKING
Traditional Turkish ceramics, or 'çini' as they are known in Turkish are appreciated around the world for their strength, colour and design. The art of Turkish ceramic-making developed over the centuries incorporating many different techniques and styles and these are described below. The splendour of Ottoman ceramic art reached its peak in Iznik (formerly known as Nicea) in the 16th century and is unlike anything else produced in either the East or the West with designs more complex and balanced encouraged by the patronage of the Ottoman Court.
The features which make Ottoman ceramics invaluable are their strength which challenges centuries, the unfading dynamic colours which are vividly translucent and harmonious, and the unique use of stylized motifs such as the lotus, the tree of life, plant and flower motifs (some of which carry deep and meaningful explanations). The ceramic industry in Anatolia achieved a deservedly worldwide reputation with the support of the Ottoman court. Today, Kutahya has been revived as an important centre of tile and ceramic-making.
GLAZING THE CERAMIC
COMPOSITION OF CERAMICS
The raw materials used for ceramics are predominantly kaolin, which is high in silica content, clay and calcite. After successive processes, that include ball mining and filter pressing, the compound is ready for the potters throwing wheel where it is moulded by hand into vessels such as vases, bowls and jars. The resulting wares are then covered with a thin coating of 'slip' to make the body whiter.
CERAMIC POTTERY IN THE KILN
ACHIEVING THE FINAL PRODUCT
They are then fired at a temperature of up to 950-980 degrees Celsius to obtain the 'biscuit' on which the motives are drawn, painted, glazed and fired once again to achieve the final product. Due to the increased difficulty and risks associated with firing at high temperatures, a great deal of skill and expertise is required to harness a technology whose end product is ultimately real art.
Iznik pottery has a higher quartz content than Kutahya pottery which makes Iznik pottery much harder and more brittle, hence more difficult to form shape. Coupled with forming difficulties and increased risk of being damaged, Iznik pottery is more expensive than Kutahya pottery.
DECORATING THE CERAMIC PLATE
TECHNIQUES USED FOR PRODUCING MOTIFS
The techniques used for producing the motifs are described below.
Sable (Samur) Technique:
In the Sable technique, the main pattern, motif (or design) is printed on a piece of paper which is used as a template to transfer the motif onto the white unglazed ceramic items known as a "biscuit". The artist then places the paper directly onto the biscuit and using a fine needle pierces the paper to transfer the main outline of the design. The motif is then drawn in full by pencil on the biscuits using the piercings as a guide. This is called "tahrir" or "kontur" and means the act of drawing. The motif is then finely painted with a special brush (hair from the lower mane of a female donkey) using different colours. The remaining area is then filled freehand with small relevant patterns. Some very skilled and well-known artists do not use any template for their design and simply 'come up with a motif'. However, the skill is acquired through repetition of the same design.
A steady hand is required...
Embossed (Kabartma) Technique:
The Embossed technique is created by using a ceramic mix which is piped directly onto the biscuit using a pen-like tube. The ceramic mix can be coloured to reduce the painting work or left white to be painted later. The exact requirement depends on the complexity of the design. In addition, the biscuit is sometimes painted in a red, green or blue colour before embossing to achieve more complex designs.
Once the ceramic is glazed and baked in the kiln, the embossed patterns and colours become permanent. The patterns can be quite intricate but generally speaking the workmanship is not as labour intensive as the sable technique.
Turquoise (Firuze / Turkuaz) Technique:
The Turquoise technique is the same as the embossed technique as the patterns are piped onto the biscuit. The main difference is that the colour turquoise is used predominantly both in the background or in the piped design with possibly green and purple.
Painting the fine designs
The Millenium technique is similar to the sable technique but produces a much simpler design. The motifs are generally not as detailed as in the sable technique as larger areas are filled with colour rather than fine detailed patterns. The most common colours used in this technique are blue, green, yellow, red and purple. The workmanship is still more labour intensive than embossing as each design uses the method of tahrir to transfer the motif prior to painting.
It is possible to utilise a combination of Embossed and Millenium techniques to produce unique, colourful designs.