Ceramic Folk Art from Around the World
The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme. This month we are focusing on National Art – whether iconic styles that remind us of a certain place, or a movements that developed in and became emblematic of a region. Be sure to check out everyone’s posts below!
Every culture makes utilitarian objects like furniture, clothing and ceramics. Folk art is decoration applied to these functional items which reflects the tastes of a people. In addition to seeing works from professional artists in a national museum, I am always on the look-out for local craftspeople or cultural museums that show off local folk art. As a lens to compare several cultures, let’s take a look at some traditional ceramic styles around the globe.
Italian ceramics, especially from Tuscany, may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of international ceramic styles. The Deruta style with its Renaissance flourishes, grotesque heads, and white, yellow and blue palette remains popular today. Know as Majolica, Italian tin-glazed pottery can be found all over the country with decorations varying from fruits to stylized geometric patterns. The curls, flowers, scrolls and animals developed during Renaissance can still be widely found.
Ceramics in Turkey run the spectrum from folk art to very high art. In the 16th century, the city of Iznik developed a decorative style characterized by finely detailed blue rosettes, tulips, and vines. The “Blue Mosque” in Istanbul earned its nickname because of all the impressive blue Iznik tiles used to decorate the interior. While the Iznik factories eventually declined, this style is still obvious in today’s ceramic pieces. Shoppers with also find more provincial patterns with larger flowers, fish, and abstracted vegetation patterns.
Polish pottery really appeals to me for its delicate floral designs. Generally decorated with a blue and pink palette, small repeating patterns and hand painted accents produce a quaint countryside look to this pottery. The surface regularity is created by using sponges or templates to decorate each piece.
The Japanese take an different approach to pottery. Rather than using repeating decorative patterns, the ceramic vessel is a canvas for detailed scenes. Gardens and mountains are popular subjects with people and animals appearing as minor elements in these grand environments. Subtly in glaze and color is also appreciated. The Japanese developed glazing techniques centuries ago that are still seem in today’s pieces and have been further developed by art potters. The Raku technique involves removing hot pieces from the kiln and placing them in an oxygen-free environment (usually because of combusting saw dust, grass or paper) and can result in matte pieces or ones with a metallic luster depending on the mineral content of the clay and glaze. These simple yet elegant pieces were first used in Japanese tea ceremonies in the 16th century.
What is your favorite kinds of ceramics? Have you ever brought pottery home from a trip?
For the rest of the March ArtSmart Roundtable, see:
- Alexandra of ArtTrav – Art and Territory in Conegliano
- Jenna of This is My Happiness – Where to See the Art of Brazil
- Pal & Lydian of Art Weekenders – The Modern Dutch Stijl
- Ashley of No Onion, Extra Pickles – America and Its Skyscrapers