Ceramic art is one of the oldest forms of art. It entails making art and craft items using specific kinds of clays. Ceramic items are preferred in a household because of their resistance against untimely wear, corrosion and heat as compared to the conventional metal items. Artisanal Creations has set a new benchmark in the world of ceramic home décor and accessory items. It is dedicated to creating a sustainable relationship with artisans and provide them with the opportunity for their economic empowerment. The artisans of Artisanal Creations have developed a unique skill and methodology of work that is deeply rooted in traditions.
Artisanal Creations procures its ceramic products from Khurja. This small town, in the northern India, has been a hub for ceramics since the 14th century. The city sustains numerous talented artisans that have had their craftsmanship passed down over generations. However, over the years, mass production has replaced the traditional ceramic work, leaving many artisans unemployed and destitute. And once a prosperous town, Khurja is now reeling under the poverty.
We have introduced these needy artisans to more modern designs and provide an international sales channel for the products made by them.
By buying a product from Artisanal Creations, you are extending your support to a generation of artisans and reviving an actually dying art form. Our artisans hand craft knobs, vases, napkin rings, trinket dishes, planters and other home décor accessorize using these methods. Associate yourselves with them and be a patron in reviving the art to a new form.
Ashok Sharma, our resident ceramic expert, explains the ceramics process we follow at our studio in Khurja. He is a fourth-generation ceramic artisan.
Natural clays range from the pure white and very infusible kaolin, containing only alumina and silica with very small percentage of alkalies, to the impure grey, red, or brown clays, containing, along with alumina and silica, magnesia, potash, soda iron, lime, and carbon. Kaolin is used with China stone (a combination of felspar and quartz) to make porcelain, the finest and hardest paste known to potters. It has a very hard white translucent body, only slightly vitreous at the highest fire (around 1700 deg C).
From this, highest grade, we have almost insensible gradations to common earthware. English and French porcelain are compounded of clay, sand, and alkalies ground together to make a frit, re-ground ad mixed with stiffening material (in English porcelain, bone-ash), to support the vitreous matter in the intense heat. The finest earthenware does not differ greatly in its formula from soft porcelain, but it is not so hard or transparent.
Clay on being dug up is usually weathered in the open, and dried and broken up and the greater impurities picked out. It is then thoroughly mixed with water in a blunger and passed through a succession of sieves until all foreign matter and impurities are left behind and it is the consistency of cream. This was formerly done by hand, the clay been raked in to a thick “slub” and washed though a series of tanks until all impurities had settled, leaving only the fine clay suspension. It is at this stage that any additions are made to form a paste. The modifying ingredients, ground and sieved to the requisite degree, and thoroughly incorporated with the slip, which is allowed to settle. The clear water on top is siphoned off and the paste dried sufficiently to handle.
Filtering Device used to Refine Clay Slurry
Plaster Molds are used to form the thick paste in to regular shapes. The mold is made from a model representing exactly the object to be made, but slightly larger to allow for shrinking during the drying phase. The making of molds needs special care, because it is essential that the plaster should always have the same consistency, so that its absorbing power may be always the same. If two molds made from the same model, one has been made with thick plaster and the other with thin plaster, the latter will be more absorbent it will dry the body more quickly, and will give denser wares having less shrinkage.
If a dry plaster mold is filled with a liquid body (slip) and the liquid is removed at the end of some minutes, the inside of the mold with be covered with a layer of the body. A part of the water having been absorbed by the plaster. By leaving this body in the mold until it has become hard an article obtained reproducing exactly the form of the mold, and of any desired thickness. The body should not be very plastic, or the absorbing acting of the plaster would be hindered, as, with the plastic body, the layer nearest the mold fors an impermeable coating. Hence this process of making can only be employed for certain porcelain bodies or for others having china clay or other lean clays as a bse.
Mold Storage Room
Simple objects like knobs are formed using a manual press. Such presses work by pressing a lever which forces the base of the mold forming mandrels to rise and compress the body against the side of the mold.
Mold Press for Cabinet Knobs
The water of formation is removed from the bodies to harden them sufficiently. This enables them to be carried to the oven and placed therein, and to make the firing more rapid and less risky. When the articles are made of a dry body, the drying may sometimes be avoided and the ware placed in the kiln immediately.
In the drying of any body the surfaces first lose a certain proportion of water. A further supply of water is then carried to the surface by the interior layers which are nearest to them, this transference being continued till the center of the mass is reached. There process sets up a capillary flow of water from the center towards the surfaces, the speed of which depends on the texture of the body.
Ceramic Knobs Drying in Trays
Glazes are vitreous coatings used to cover ceramic objects, either to decorate them or make them impermeable to water. They partly combine with the body itself. Their chemical composition is nearly as variable as that of the bodies, but they may be considered as “glass” in the widest meaning of that word.
Glazes differ from glass in not being solely composed of silicates; they sometimes contain quite as much borasts, or phosphates of lime, and among the bases may be oxide of tin, while sometimes the alkalies are quite absent. The fusibility of glazes is much more variable than that of true glass; sometimes they vitrify at a temperature lower than that for fusing borax, at other times, however, they need a temperature high enough for burning porcelain.
Glazes are amorphous bodies, that s to say, their molecules have not taken a certain grouping together, as is the case in crystallized bodies. It is only exceptionally that the phenomenon of crystallization occurs in glazes and the presence of wollastonite (a silicate of soda and lime) or of oligoclase, a silicate of soda, alumina and lime) can be detected. By increasing the proportion of the alkalie, or by introducing several bases in the glaze and by not giving the latter a definite atomic composition, regular grouping of the molecules is made more difficult and crystallization is prevented.
Certain substances are added to the glazes to render the mass opaque. These chemicals do not combine and remain in suspension thereby reducing transparency. The oxides of tin, zinc, alumina and phosphates of lime are of this kind. If the temperature of the kiln is increased, these bodies tend to combine, at least partially, and to be dissolved in the amorphous mass.
Dipping the Knobs in Glaze
Colored glazes are prepared like ordinary glazes, but with the coloring matter added to them. This method of coloring pottery gives most brilliant colors. According to the color used they must be alkaline, boracic, or plumbiferous. After having been finely powdered, water is added to make a paste of the desired consistency. They are usually put on the burned body or on the biscuit.
If the whole ware is to receive a uniform layer of glaze, the latter is applied ny oe of the processes used for putting on colorless glazes either by dipping or dusting, the body having been first coated over with gum Arabic or with some other viscous material.
Knobs with Colorful Glazes
The firing is the last, most important, and the most difficult operation in the manufacture of ceramics. Its object is to make the body permanent, to give it impermeability and to vitrify the glazes, by giving them the physical properties of glass.
The temperature to which the body must be raised to make it unchangeable, depends on its chemical composition and the fluxes it contains. It varies from 700 deg C to 1500 deg C. The temperature to vitrifying the glazes is still more variable and ranges between 500 deg C ad 1400 deg C. Naturally it must be below, or at the most equal to, that needed for the firing of the body. When it is equal the firing of both glaze and body may comprise of a single operation; when it is lower, the body must first be busicuited. Then, by a second firing at lower temperature, the glaze must be vitrified.
Fired ware can still be submitted to one or more other firings afterwards, each at decreasing temperatures, so as the make the decorations or colors of greater and greater fusibility adhere to them.
Knobs about to enter the Kiln for Firing