Traditional Arts Using Clay

Traditional Arts Using Clay


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 porcelain.

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 imported.

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 opaque glaze.

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.