Traditional Arts Using Clay
CERAMICS, EARTHENWARE GLAZED TILES
Clay is the result of granite rocks being eroded by nature, and is the most
suitable material for making ceramics. On account of its pliable nature, clay is
easy to shape and can keep that shape after being fired. The ceramic industry,
based on these principles, is one of the oldest in the world.
- Earthenware pots are made by mixing clay and water, and after the firing
stage, objects made from it become hard and maintain their shape.
- Ceramics means the formation and firing of inorganic materials by various
means. The main component of ceramics is clay, which can either be shaped in a
mould or on a lathe. Ceramics is a general name given to all kinds of materials
created by this process, and to all kinds of earthenware products, including
The history of ceramics began with the discovery of fire. Its origin was the
need to protect and store water. They were used in pot making for centuries and
also in making bricks for buildings.
During excavation works, many examples of ceramics are found that can
illuminate the history of Anatolia, which has been home to many different
cultures. The oldest examples of these ceramics are from the Stone Age and have
been found in the excavations at Catalhöyük, Beyce Sultan and Demirci Höyük.
Such specimens are interesting not only because of their shapes but for the
decoration on them as well. Anatolia has seen the Chalcolithic Age in around
3,500 BC, Troy and the Hittites in 2,500 – 1000 BC and the Seljuks in the 11th
to 13th centuries AD. The Ottomans who came to Anatolia in the 10th century
continued the ceramic culture of the Seljuks and developed their own individual
style in the 15th century, leaving behind them beautiful examples of the art.
Anatolian ceramic art, whose initial source was the Turkish ceramic art
outside Anatolia, became a sui generis art under the Ottoman Empire, becoming
widely respected and exported. Many ink wells, bowls, long-spouted pitchers,
carafes, goblets, oil lamps, vases, censors and plates were made by using such
methods as hard white glaze or silvering.
The clay used in ceramics is mixed with water, and becomes a thick,
dough-like substance. It may be shaped by hand, in moulds, by compression, by
turning or other techniques.
Fired products are called biscuit-ware. These are decorated with designs,
figures or writing with the help of specially prepared patterns. Charcoal dust
is used in the decoration process. These designs are subjected to the “tahrir”
process (surrounded by thin lines) and colored. The painting used is generally
Ceramic objects are covered with a transparent glaze. This consists of metal
oxide and helps to provide and fix the colors at high temperatures. Metal oxides
which enhance colors can be used singly or mixed to create different colors. The
metal oxides used for coloring are; chrome, iron, tin, copper, cobalt,
manganese, zircon, nickel, vanadium and rutil. Tin and titanium are used for
The surface of the object must be clean before glazing. The clay is washed
under water for a short while. The glaze must be at 1.5 millimeters thick. If it
is any thicker than this, however, bubbles appear on the surface. If it is any
thinner, then empty spaces occur. Glazing can be done with the help of brush or
using other techniques.
Decorated and covered products are fired in big ovens with traditional
methods. While some objects are fired in ovens, pots and bowls are fired on a
fire, and thin products in covered ovens.
Çini (earthenware glazed tiles) are usually used in architecture, and
products such as pots and bowls are referred to as ceramics.
Although the word Çini might seem to have something to do with China, experts
accept that the art is totally indigenous to the Turkish people.
Until the 18th century, çini in architecture were called “Kasi” and çini
objects used in daily life (plates, vases, bowls etc.) were called “evani”
(kitchen equipment). At that time, Chinese porcelain was very popular and widely
imported. In order to emphasize the quality of the Turkish-made “kasi,” these
began to be called çini.
Çini, which is a branch of ceramic art that developed in Central Asia, was
brought to Anatolia by the Seljuks. It occupied a very important place in
Ottoman architectural decoration and embellished mosques, medreses (theological
schools), tombs and palaces. The early Ottoman period continued the Seljuk
heritage. Geometric writings with figures, plant designs, and yellow and green
colors were used. İznik, which also used to be a center of ceramic art,
maintained its dominant position between the 14th-18th centuries.
In addition to the İznik workshops, which lost much of their importance in
the 17th century, Kütahya became another center for ceramics in the 15th
century, although the quality of its products was inferior to those of İznik.
Kütahya-styled ceramics are generally blue, red, yellow, purple and green.
In the 18th century, Çanakkale ceramics that demonstrate regional
characteristics appeared. After the 17th century, ceramics began to degenerate.
Up to the republican period, we mainly see Kütahya and İznik ceramics, as well
as Yıldız porcelain, the raw material for which was imported from France.
In the 18th century, the ceramic arts in Iznik finally died out. At the same
period, Kütahya cini reached their peak but began to lose quality during that
same century. In the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, Iznik designs began to be
imitated elsewhere. Today, the center of this art is Kütahya. Here, Seljuk
designs and colors are widely imitated.
Comlek/Colmek is a earthenware pot or saucepan made by sculpting clay.
Pottery is an art that has existed in Anatolia for centuries. Clay is
available everywhere and easily worked. It can be shaped while still soft
without breaking. When making pots by hand, pinch, wick and tablet methods are
used. There also pots shaped in moulds. Pottery can be defined as an art in
which pots, bowls, vases and cups are made by firing, with or without glaze.
Pots produced in Anatolia are generally covered with sculpting clay, and
fired not in the oven but in open areas.