Friday, December 11, 2015

Terracotta Jewelry

                Terracotta is an Italian word meaning ‘cooked earth.’ Practical household kitchenware was made from this earthy material and it was also used to make exquisite terracotta jewelry.
                        I couldn’t find much details on this kind of jewelry except a very brief history. Terracotta jewelry is one of the oldest types of jewelry in the world, primarily from India and Bangladesh. India, since times unknown has always been associated with terracotta based arts and crafts. Various antiquities made of terracotta have been unearthed from archeological excavation sites; prominently figures of deities worshipped in those times.
                     Terracotta art has been flourishing since the Indus Valley civilization in India and its neighboring regions. The history of terracotta dates back to the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilizations in India. The terracotta figurines that were unearthed were recorded having elaborate artistic jewelry. Archaeologists found a variety of ornaments, such earrings, ear studs, necklaces, pendants, and bracelets primarily with designs inspired by nature, animals, leaves, and flowers.
Although the terracotta industry was developed to its fullest in West Bengal, the art of making terracotta jewelry became famous in cities of Tamil Nadu such as Chennai, Madurai, Trichy, and Coimbatore.
                     As for the processing of this product…Terracotta is a hard red earthenware. The process of manufacturing involves purifying the clay, then shaping and designing the wet slab.  It is then dried by exposure to the sun. Next, the clay pieces are completely burned in a fire kiln so the clay develops a stone-like consistency. During the process of firing, the clay will take on either a natural brick color or shades of pink, grey, or white, depending on the quality of the clay. If the clay is burned along with sawdust, it will turn a natural black. These shaped and burnt clay pieces are then painted by hand with bright colors to complement traditional as well as modern outfits.

                     For this project I roped in some enthusiastic friends and we decided to make our own terracotta jewelry. I spent considerable amount of time beforehand looking at and learning from plenty of Youtube videos on how to make this terracotta jewelry. For inspiration and ideas, we each searched and saved some images we liked. We assembled on a cold winter day in comfy clothes, cranked up the heater and began. This was not a single day project; it took 3-4 hours to roll out the terracotta beads and make the pendants. After the pieces had dried (that took almost two days, maybe because of the wet cold weather), we met on another day to paint and string the jewelry complete. I chose air drying terracotta clay to avoid having to bake the pieces. It was a preciously different experience…spending time with friends, involving them in my project, talking and sharing, heart-felt conversations, some good potluck food, and of course these completed pieces as mementos.

                    Although I personally am a big believer in words, I will lean on the famous adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ because in arts and crafts, the pictures do bring visual understanding and significant impact. So I will let you read about this project of mine via plenty of these following pictures. 
Guess which one I made? (hint: I made two)

And after a couple rounds of spray glossy sealant...

this one is mine
And this one is mine

                 As you can see these pieces offer vast variety in their look; they can be carved, embedded with stones and gems, embossed with patterns and shapes, can be elaborate or simple, painted, and finished with different glazes and sheens. Organic terracotta jewelry can be designed as traditional or contemporary as we like. Terracotta jewelry, a proud heritage from ancient India offers a rustic and earthen appeal, this visually eye-catching experience offers an aesthetic and functional alternative to other jewelry.

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