Ceramics are products made by sintering different types of clay with mineral impurities. The term "ceramics" comes from the Greek word "keramos", which means clay. Ceramic is the ancient name for products made of clay and fired in a fire. The variety of pottery is very wide. It is a variety of utensils, elegant vases, figurines, paintings, candlesticks, teapots and other decorative items.
As soon as people discovered a natural material such as clay, he immediately began to learn how to process it and make it indispensable in everyday life utensils. Pottery thus dates back to times immemorial. In primitive communal system, people made thick-walled vessels of porous clay, by sticking separate bundles of clay. Since then, people began to experiment with different types of clay, adding something new, improve the shape of products, firing methods of clay, decorated with all kinds of drawings and ornaments.
The history of ceramics is very varied and interesting with ingenious discoveries in this field. Ceramics evolved simultaneously in different parts of the world. Masters of Ancient Egypt already possessed the secret of making earthenware. Somewhere around the VI century, the Chinese began to produce products from such fine ceramics as porcelain, which were obtained by mixing Chinese kaolin clay with stone "petunce", and fired at high temperature. The products were stunningly strong and beautiful. This was a clear turnaround in the history of ceramics. Only in XIII century the products from Chinese porcelain began to appear in the countries of Europe and were considered a rare luxury. In an attempt to imitate the products of the original, Europeans introduced a new kind of pottery - "soft porcelain". It was definitely inferior in quality to Chinese porcelain but became actively used in the manufacture of tableware.
An important event in the history of ceramics was the emergence of the potter's wheel, which greatly increased the productivity of the potter's workshops.
Pottery production also developed to an art level. Archaeologists found the remains of primitive pottery already had ornaments. They were originally endowed with magic meaning and associated with natural phenomena. Later on, ornamental patterns became merely decorative elements. This shows that primitive pottery reached the level of artistic expression. A special discovery in the development of artistic pottery is the appearance of coloured glaze in the Ancient East. Relief glazed panels adorning temple walls stand out among ceramics of Ancient Iran.
When studying the history of ceramics, one cannot ignore the ceramics of ancient Greece. Ancient Greek pottery was renowned throughout the world and was considered to be an amazing piece of this artistic craftsmanship. The main feature of ancient vessels, in fact, made of simple clay, was painting with black lacquer. Skilled artists depicted on their products all kinds of scenes from everyday life, mythological plots, sporting events.
In the Middle Ages, ceramics of Central Asia and Persia reached the world recognition. Multi-colored glazed vases, plates, painted with intricate ornaments "arabesques" were of great value. It is worth noting that ceramic production was widespread in those areas as Muslim religion prohibited the use of metal ware in everyday life.
In Europe, the second birth of ceramics was during the Renaissance. With the importation of Spanish-Mauritanian art ceramics, Italian masters began to create their own beautiful vases, dishes, paintings painted with vivid landscapes and scenes from the Bible. At this time, such type of Italian ceramics as majolica was developed. Coloured decorative majolica decorated many buildings, temples and palaces.
Many famous artists of different times considered the passion for ceramics as an interesting life episode. Some of them were engaged in this fascinating occupation for a long time, while M.A. Vrubel plunged into the wonderful world of clay craftsmanship. He worked using the technique called "majolica". Numerous unique vases and sculptural portraits, tiled cookers were created by hands of Vrubel.
The master was mainly engaged in the production of earthenware by the method of regeneration firing. At the time of Vrubel's life and work, this method had been somewhat forgotten in Russia, so Vaulin and Vrubel were the people who were able to restore this method of clay production. When the firing process of the pottery began, Vrubel noticed that in several places some metallic tinge appeared on the glaze. Professional potters-ceramicists consider "metallization" of colour as a defect. Only Vrubel managed to prove that this is not a marriage, but a completely new aesthetic direction in the essence of ceramics - a unique expressiveness in the flame of the furnace.
This work, which was carried out in the direction of restoring the majolica technique, was quite fascinating, but no less challenging. The clay objects were covered in white enamel after the first firing - this was a kind of reflector for the subsequent layers of glaze. A glaze was painted on the white enamel layer, then the furnace was filled with a small pile of birch firewood, copper and crucible with ammonium chloride. After those preparations the furnace was bricked up and the firing process took place without any access to oxygen. When the last birch billets were burnt out, the oxygen remaining in the furnace was burnt out, thus creating a certain reducing environment. From metal oxides, which had lost oxygen, reduction into metals took place. The atmosphere in the furnace was so saturated with copper vapour, which was deposited on the glaze with unusual watercolour strokes. In this way, truly creative and unique examples of earthenware were born.