World Ceramics: How was it made?

Most Han pottery was made in MOLDS. In contrast, this hand-built inkstone shows the expressiveness and wit of a Han dynasty craftsman. Here, the artist's unique interpretation combines ORGANIC and GEOMETRIC features. The head, face, feet, and shell are formed by hand to resemble a real tortoise. Before firing, and while the clay was still damp, the artist INCISED patterns and symbols into the shell.

The inkstone is made of LOESS (less), an earthen material whose low clay content prevents distortion during drying and firing. Such pottery is usually fired at a low temperature and left unglazed. The color is created by reducing oxygen in the kiln during firing. The fire draws needed oxygen from the clay, replacing the oxygen with carbon. This saturation of the clay with carbon results in the gray tone of the inkstone.


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