Georgian (Georgia)English (United Kingdom)
Terra sigillata - antique technology and it’s applying contemporary georgian ceramic

George Yashvili,
Full Professor at the Faculty of Design, head of the Department of Ceramics  Tbilisi St. Academy of Art

Pottery and ceramic – traditionally developed field in our country has gone through difficult times for the last 2 decades. In addition to other objective reasons focus of heavy industry on import of raw materials – mostly white high temperature clays that were used by big soviet stile factories built in our country played significant role. After collapse of unitary state of Soviet Union utilization of imported raw materials from neighbor post soviet countries became unprofitable. Factories were closed. The industry was collapsed. We see the way out from the existing situation in going back to wide utilization and further analysis of possibilities of local red clays. Testing of Terra Sigillata technology using local clays represents only a small part of possible activities in this direction.

Clays utilized in classical Terra Sigillata are of low-temperature, high plasticity, containing iron oxide (Fe2O3). Regions of Caucasus, particularly Georgia are rich with deposits of such clays.

In this  article we shortly describe our theoretical  study of technology  “Terra Sigillata”: history, method, use. Also practical and updated by experiments  method of  preparing  the “Terra Sigillata” solution based on local row material, red “Ksany”  clay.
“Terra Sigillata” represents lasting, shining coating of ceramic crock visually very much similar to glaze. Having gone through generations of potters and having reached its perfection, present technology got lost in Europe in first centuries of our Age. Many scientists, technologists and potters at different times tried to reveal the secret of this magic technology, but it remained undiscovered.
Only approximately 1500 years later in the middle of the XX century it became possible to understand main points of Terra Sigillata preparation technique.
In this regard clay tested by us provides unlimited space for further experimenting making present material very promising.
Having started work related to use of Terra Sigillata to say honestly, I was,  doubtful that selected local material as well as other related clays from Georgia that are widespread in grounds of our country could have appeared to be of narrow abilities for creating high quality Terra Sigillata, due to natural qualities. It might have lacked versatility and refinement which we observe in works of the Mediterranean ancient craftsmen.  Complete lack of precedent of similar researches with local clays was also alerting.
To everyone’s satisfaction our work had positive outcome.
Accessibility of the required material and its prevalence make it tempting both for artists and entrepreneurs occupied in this business.
Obtained results of activities motivate us and our colleagues to perform a more indebt research of this technology, conducting methodological experiments with other clays that are widespread in Georgia.
At this stage we can make following conclusions
1.    Theoretical information collected and analyzed at the Department of Ceramic of State Academy of Art on methodology of Terra Sigillata preparation made possible to correctly apply present methodology to local clay in practice.

2.    Local Ksany clay like all red clays gives in to Terra Sigillata technology and at the same time carries the best qualities features and high potential for creating high quality end product and in terms of quality is one of the best natural raw materials. for this technology.

3.    Ksany deposit clay suits and can be successfully used in mass production of ceramics and can have competitive cost price.

4.    Using Ksany clay Terra Sigillata solitude can be produced for industrial purposes by local enterprises.

5.    Terra Sigillata methodology tested and adapted to local clays by us can be successfully mastered and used by individual ceramic artists for creative purposes, scope of utilization of Terra Sigillata based on local clay is not limited to ceramics in its ordinary meaning, it is extremely practical in sculpture, architecture and interior design.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone who assisted me in this work, colleagues from the Department, students, especially MFA students who at the decision of Academic Board now are studying methodology of Terra Sigillata technology developed by our department and are full of enthusiasm and are contributing to the research process of this grateful, ancient and promising technology.

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