Art history/ Historiography, Crafts, Handlooms, Art, Craftspersons/ Artisanal

Clay: Traditional Material for Making Handicrafts

Gupta, Dr. Charu Smita

Art in handicraft has been regarded as timeless and dateless. Clay and terracotta figures have been existing continuously from pre-historic times. There have been an implicit continuity in the traditional knowledge and technology of making artefacts of clay by adding several materials and if required, firing the artefacts thus made. The fired clay was called burnt clay or terracotta. Clay as a base material for hand crafted item has been used all over India for several types of finished products. There has been a variety of materials added to the clay, techniques and equipments for making several forms and decorating these forms across the length and breadth of the country. The paper discusses the variety of the clay components, shaping and firing techniques used to create variety of forms.
Decoration on the clay and terracotta objects is limited to adding pigment motifs, getting textural effects at the time of firing or making appliquéd motifs with clay itself. In unique instances, the clay core becomes the primary source for the decorations to be obtained on the metallic object. The core clay is decorated with threads or sheets of wax or resin. These take impression on the upper layer of clay mixed with rice husk. The molten metal takes the design of the wax or resin on middle layer of clay. The remains of terracotta vessels, sculptures, beads, blocks, seals and tools found in every section of Indian history from Indus Valley Civilization, i.e. 3500 BC to the beginning of twentieth century are similar to tho...