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Reference Library: Terra cotta

'Terra cotta' (Italian: "baked earth") is a hard semifired waterproof ceramic clay used in pottery, older wastewater drains, and as surface embellishment in building construction. The term is also used to refer to items made out of this material and to its natural, brownish orange color.

History


Terra cotta has been used throughout history for sculpture and pottery, as well as bricks and roof shingles. In ancient times, the first clay sculptures were dried (baked) in the sun after being formed. Later, they were placed in the ashes of open hearths to harden, and finally kilns were used, similar to those used for pottery today.

Users


Significant uses of terra cotta have included Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army of China, built in 210–209 BC. American architect Louis Sullivan is well-known for his elaborate glazed terra cotta ornamentation, designs that would have been impossible to execute in any other medium. Terracotta and tile were used extensively in the town buildings of Victorian Birmingham, England.

Advantages in sculpture


As compared to bronze sculpture, terra cotta uses a far simpler process for creating the finished work. Reusable mold-making techniques may be used for series production. Compared to marble sculpture and other stonework the finished product is far lighter and may be further glazed to produce objects with color or durable simulations of metal patina. Robust durable works for outdoor use require greater thickness and so will be heavier, with more care needed in the drying of the unfinished piece to prevent cracking as the material shrinks. Structural considerations are similar to those required for stone sculpture.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Terra cotta".