Turkish Ceramics at The FolkArt Gallery
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Turkish Ceramics

Turkish Ceramics

Fine ceramics, or cini, have been produced in Turkey since the end of the 14th century. (These are distinguished from the everyday ware produced since prehistory.) A painted underglaze on a composite white body, cini began simply as blue design painted on a white ground. Turquoise was then added. The palette of color continued expanding until the mid 16th century, at the peak of the Ottoman empire in the days of Suleyman the Magnificent when Turkish cini became some of the most prized ceramics in the entire world. The hues ranged from a black with the sheen of coal, deep blues and turquoise, green as fresh as baby grass, the red of ripe tomatoes. According to master potter Mehmet Gursoy "...this art was a kindness given by God to the Turkish people." Today, one of the joys of being in Turkey is in seeing the exquisite tilework found absolutely everywhere: in the bus and train stations, municipal buildings and public fountains, hotels and restaurants, and, of course, the mosques.

The technology has evolved through the centuries into a complex and delicate system. To make a bowl, the ball of clay is pressed down over a kalip or plaster mold as it spins on the potters wheel. Then an arm or sablon is lowered to cut out the foot of the bowl. The plaster forms with the bowls still attached are slid into drying racks. Hollow ware such as vases, cups and such are formed by hand from a ball of clay on a foot powered wheel. The pieces are dried, sanded, washed and then slipped. After drying again, the pieces receive the first firing at 850-1000°F in a wood-fired kiln for 12-16 hours. They are then cooled, sanded, washed, painted, glazed and fired again. A large percentage of pieces are lost somewhere along this process. The artist must work slowly and calmly, taking sometimes a week to paint a plate that might be destroyed in a single second through some fluke: perhaps spoiled in painting or cracked in the kiln.

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Turkish Plate

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Pot Plate

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