Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Terra Sigillata, a 2500 years old pottery technique

The terra sigillata method dates back to the Greeks and Romans some 2500 years ago. The main characteristic of this pottery technique is that the slip, the glaze, on the earthenware is using the finest particles that float at the surface of the clay. (We can also find this technique in Chinese pottery: ni jiang you. It is sometimes used on Shantou teapots to make them less porous and appear redder).
The brown cup in this article is a Terra Sigillata cup made by French potter Dalloun. He is using this ancient method by adding a touch of unexpected natural beauty by using wild mud for his slip. Because this slip is obtained directly from nature, it contains different elements that produce different colors. And since only the lightest and smallest particles are used, this glaze is very soft to the touch and has a natural gloss. 
It's also interesting to see that Dalloun threw the cups on a wheel and later de-centered them to make them slightly uneven, using a wabi approach.

The body of the cup is made of white earthenware. It is fired between 950 and 1070 degrees Celsius. He usually uses a gas kiln, but the cups he sent me were wood fired.
My job was to test these cups, give him suggestions for future productions and establish which tea would be most suitable for his works. The first thing that struck me is that each cup had a different reaction to tea. Using different soils to make the slip means that the content of each slip is different and interacts differently with the teas. One color in particular (which I won't sell) produces very sour notes!
Terra sigillata cups aren't as thoroughly glazed as porcelain. They are much less porous than unglazed earthenware, but there's still some absorption and interaction between the tea and the slip and clay. My tests have shown that these two cups are good fit with puerh, especially shu, and with heavily roasted Oolong.
You may also check my 'Before spring specials'. For the first time, I have discounted the spring 2016 Da Yu Ling Oolongs! And I have increased the discounts on several teas up to 20% off!
The brush marks are visible on the surface of the cup!

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