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Russian Tradition of Pottery Craft, Part 1
May 22, 2015 17:56

The turning of house pottery into a professional trade, as well as broad use of the potter's wheel in Russia fell on the 9th century, the era of formation and development of towns. While studying information about archeological finds in settlements, towns and burial grounds of the Old Russian State, one can see that most of such materials are provided with splinters of various clay vessels. Water and provision was stored and food was cooked in them. Original clay pots accompanied the dead, and were broken at funeral feasts.

Town potters achieved better skill in preforming on the wheel. Walls of the vessels were gradually made thinner. Special furnaces for baking clay items were developed.

Medieval pottery was not particularly diverse. Those were mostly pots and bowls of small sizes. The quickly rotating potter’s wheel brought about linear and stripe ornaments. Potters branded their products, the fact testifying to their transition to small-scale pottery industry.

The end of the 9th century saw an important technical enhancement as the potter's wheel in the south of the Old Russian state. Its distribution promoted an independent pottery specialty separated from other labour.

The most ancient potter's wheel was fastened on a rough wooden bench with a special hole for an axis holding a large wooden circle. The potter rotated the wheel with the left hand and formed clay with the right hand.

The improvement of clay tableware quality and increase of potters’ labor efficiency was promoted by the appearance of potter's wheels rotated with feet.


Potters of various regions of the Old Russian state made tableware of a variety of forms. At the bottom of their works Russian handicraftsmen put special brands in the form of triangles, crosses, squares, circles and other geometric figures. Symbols of keys and flowers were found in some pottery items.

In Old Russia the ready earthenware were baked in ancient furnaces consisting of two separate circles. Firewood was placed in the lower part, and the upper part was filled with clay vessels. The furnace was heated up to 1200 Celsius degrees.

The skills and mastery of Old Russian potters developed throughout centuries and therefore reached its highest level.

Rural ceramics of the 19th – 20th centuries preserved typical characteristic features of the 14th – 15th century pottery. Earthenware falls into territorial groups depending on the composition of clay dough and shape of the items.

The most typical are pots with a short neck and maximum extension in the upper part of the trunk. They are made of made of clay with sand admixture and very well baked. They are widespread in the areas adjoining the Central Volga River.
Open cup-shaped earthenware prevails in the Kirov, Vologda and Arkhangelsk Regions.




Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Folk Arts Arts and Crafts Pottery   

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