Experimenting with Terracotta and its Status

According to Alison Britton, the ‘vessel’ points to a particular set of values, as if it has a special status, it says ‘this is not just a pot, this has some extra qualities’. Spiritual, metaphorical, aesthetic. She is drawn to use ordinary words and making something magical, in the same way that she would never use porcelain because she wants to make exciting stuff out of ordinary materials.

Terracotta clay has been of a utilitarian kind because of its cheapness, versatility, and durability. The earliest forms of pottery were made from clays that were fired at low temperatures in pit-fires or in open bonfires. They were hand formed and undecorated. Because the bisque form of earthenware is porous, it has limited utility for storage of liquids. However, earthenware has a continuous history from the Neolithic period to today.

Seeing the implications of using porcelain, I decided to try and use terracotta both smoth and grogged. This allowed me to built quicker, but thinking back what really got me into porcelain was its tactility at vitrification level. Therefore,  I tested some samples at higher temperature and well above the maximum 1170°C mentioned by the supplier. I took it to 1280°C achieving some great results using my tin glaze and some great vitrification.

Working within a small scale has showed me not much implications, both using the wheel and coiling, as you can see bellow with some lovely plant pots.IMG_5880.JPG

Moving into a much bigger scale has demonstrated a bigger challenge. Making wise, amazing material with deep historical context to build with, while a porcelain vessel might take 6 hours to make a terracotta one might take as little as 2 hours achieving the same visual outcome. However, when it came to glaze I was trying to achieve the same glaze effect when I glazed my work last year, showing process, and applying little applications of glaze demonstrating utilitarian values within objects, affordances (Norman, 1999). A perceived properties that may not actually exist, suggestions or clues as to how to use the properties, can be dependent on the experience, knowledge, or culture of the viewer, can make an action difficult or easy.

Yet a month after my big terracotta firing, the tension in the glaze of one of my bigger pieces made it crack right through, so I need to watch out for glaze application and how thick I apply it so I don’t have further incidents.


Probably need to make more samples in different clays to compares the different qualities. Perhaps looking at different atmospheres like reduction.


Published by


BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

One thought on “Experimenting with Terracotta and its Status”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s