White Pottery

White pottery is one of the lesser known forms of pottery that people practice around the world. The colour of the pottery ware and the final appearance does not really look like a finished product to most people, and that is probably why it isn't considered to be something special. With other forms of coloured pottery, like black and red techniques, taking off and hitting new heights of popularity, there are very few places where you can still find evidence of people working on white pottery techniques.

The main technique used in white pottery is known as the white ground technique. Everything about the white ground technique is the same as it would be for regular pottery but the only difference lies in the fact that finishing and colouring of the application doesn't come from firing. Instead, white pottery is created by using paints and gliding, on clay that is already white. Since there is only one major colour that is used in most cases, people tend to find white pottery less attractive as compared to other forms and techniques.

The Origins of White Pottery

White pottery has been around since the 13th century BC in China, and since the 6th century BC in Greece, which makes it quite an old and traditional form despite the low popularity. The technique was known for creating pieces that were used as grave offerings, with the colour signifying and complimenting the sacred nature of the white-shroud that people were wrapped in, before burial (in Greece). During the 5th and 4th century BC, this form of pottery became extremely popular with grave offerings being the primary reason for their creation.

However, once the white ground technique came into prominence, things began to change. This technique began introducing figures that had been drawn on white background and originated from the region of Attica, in ancient Greece. As the Greek empire spread, so did the techniques of white pottery and with the white ground technique adding another element to its form, there was no looking back. The Chinese versions of white pottery were always meant for their aesthetic beauty, something that made them quite popular with the ruling class.

The white ground technique ensured that white pottery would come out of its position as something that's used merely during burials. By introducing figures, shapes and designs to the world of white pottery, it turned into something that people began to admire and, slowly, spread to other parts of the world where it is still practiced.

Making White Pottery

White pottery comes together with a special form of white clay known as Kaolinite. This clay is essentially a form of porcelain clay but unlike normal porcelain clay, has a figuline content that's higher than the iron content. As a result, it is fired at around 1,000 degree centigrade. The Greeks had technique for making white pottery that was totally different from the technique used by the Chinese.

In the Greek form of white ground pottery, a vase is created and covered with a light slip of kaolinite. Originally, these slips were used in vase paintings but when the Athenian sculptors decided to move into a separate style from the ever-popular black and red forms, white ground technique started gaining pace. Originally, the Greeks probably used this technique for the kind of final appearance it would give. The look was similar to something made of ivory or, maybe, white marble.

However, unless the entire vase was made in Kaolinite, the slip was never made to cover the entire pot. However, the Lekythoi, created as funeral offerings, were covered entirely in white slip. These vessels were also more fragile as compared to the other black and red forms of pottery. As a result, they weren't used unless it was to keep them as a votive offering or the usual grave offerings.

In China, however, the art of making white pottery was different. Their Kaolinite pots were made entirely of that form of clay and were completely white, inside and outside. Unlike the Greeks, the Chinese worked hard to create sturdier white pottery forms, improving their results to make white pottery ware harder, more resistant to fire and with the ability to absorb water too.

The design patterns for Chinese white pottery were a lot more interesting with geometric designs ruling the roost in the Shang Dynasty. Patterns were also carved into the pots and most of the patterns were mimicked from other forms of pottery, like bronze-ware.

The format has been practiced in the same way today, with people using Kaolinite on the potters' wheel and making incredible pieces of white pottery ware in their homes and workshops. While the older and more prominent forms of white pottery will have patterns that might overwhelm beginners in the craft, stick to this beautiful and lesser known form because it has everything you are looking for in a pottery hobby.

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