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Early Islamic pottery followed the forms of the regions which the Muslims conquered. Eventually, however, there was cross-fertilization between the regions. This was most notable in the Chinese influences on Islamic pottery. Trade between China and Islam took place via the system of trading posts over the lengthy Silk Road. Islamic nations imported stoneware and later porcelain from China. China imported the minerals for Cobalt blue from the Islamic ruled Persia to decorate their blue and white porcelain, which they then exported to the Islamic world.

Likewise, Islamic art contributed to a lasting pottery form identified as Hispano-Moresque in Andalusia (Islamic Spain). Unique Islamic forms were also developed, including frit ware, luster ware and specialized glazes like tin-glazing, which led to the development of the popular majolica.

One major emphasis in ceramic development in the Muslim world was the use of tile and decorative tile work.

Since the eighteenth century Islamic societies have undergone profound changes. Traditional economies were locally based, dominated by guilds of craftsmen and traders. Increasing contacts with industrial Europe dramatically transformed this system, especially in the provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Fine ceramics were imported from Meissen or Vienna, where manufacturers began producing special series for sale in the East, and even from Sevres in France. In the nineteenth century a few, mostly short-lived porcelain factories were established in Iran and Turkey, notably at Incirli in 1845 and Yildiz in 1894. These enterprises used European manufacturing technology but adapted forms and designs to local tastes. During the same period the arrival of industrial products on the Eastern market at competitive prices made the middle classes increasingly dissatisfied with local products. The gradual disappearance of the guilds, which set standards for trades and trained apprentices, often brought a decline in quality, although this change did not reach the Maghrib until the twentieth century. Today the demand generated by tourism has created new outlets for Oriental ceramics, but the quest for maximum yield and steady profits is not always favorable to maintaining a high level of quality, let alone fostering creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, a few ceramists have devoted themselves to restoring the creative vision of past centuries through technical research or original designs; examples are the Chemla family in Tunis since 1880 and Lamali in Morocco beginning in 1920. At the same time, some contemporary artists have made ceramics their favored medium, while others, like the Algerian Baya, see it as an occasional support for their work. Various countries include ceramics in the curricula of their fine-arts academies, such as the programs at Istanbul and Baghdad. Furthermore, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries some artists in Europe (Theodore Deck and Edmond Lachenal, for instance) and the Far East (Takuo Kato, the contemporary Japanese potter) have imitated or adapted Islamic styles and techniques with varying degrees of success.

Pottery is still produced in great quantity in most Islamic countries, where ordinary people use clay vessels to drink, cook, serve, store, and carry their food. These vessels remain cheap and popular, although they are gradually being replaced by plastic, aluminum, and enamelware. Various writers have addressed the rapid changes in ceramics materials, form, design, and production, making detailed studies of such key centers of the industry as Fez in Morocco, Nabeul in Tunisia,

Fustat and Luxor in Egypt, or Nain and Meybod in Iran.

Throughout the Maghrib two types of traditional pottery can be found-hand-built earthenware made by women, and turned pottery made by men. The first, produced in rural areas almost exclusively for local use, dates to Neolithic times and is today found mostly in northwestern Tunisia, in Algerian Kabylia, and in the Rif mountains of Morocco; production is very widely dispersed. Forms vary greatly; after a short firing, a piece may be glazed with a resin to make it watertight or decorated with vegetable or mineral dyes in a geometric design characteristic of the region. The second style is produced in urban potteries, primarily for sale rather than for personal use. Centers of production are less numerous, and the designs still reflect Andalusian and Ottoman influences. Ceramic architectural elementsglazed mosaics or excised terra cotta in Morocco and painted tiles in Tunisia-are common as facings (zulayj) throughout North Africa in religious schools, mosques, private homes, and official buildings.

Moroccan ceramics from the medieval period to the eighteenth century are poorly documented. Fez is the most famous center of production, but other potteries exist at Meknes, at Sale, and later at Safi. Ordinary clay is used, as in all of the Maghrib; a preliminary firing precedes the application of an opaque lead-tin glaze. A second firing fixes the decoration, blue or polychrome. Sometimes dots of minium (red lead) were added by retailers. Around 1850 the designs, either floral or geometric and often radiating from a central motif, grew denser, and the use of industrial pigments made the colors more enduring. Traditional forms are varied, including plates, covered dishes, and bowls, as well as oil or butter jars, inkwells, and lamps.

In Algeria pottery was never highly developed and virtually disappeared in the nineteenth century. Its porcelain and ceramics are imported primarily from the Netherlands, France, and Italy, or acquired through traditional trade with neighboring countries.

In the last two centuries, Qalliline, a suburb of Tunis, has continued to produce and export ceramic panels adorned with large floral or architectural patterns as those from Iznik or Damascus previously were. Its generously proportioned tableware is noted for vigorous, stylized decoration, often featuring such animal motifs as fish, birds, or lions. In the south of Tunisia, the island of Djerba, whose production of ceramics has been documented for centuries, is best known for its large, un-glazed storage jars and the green and yellow ware that has recently been much in demand. At the beginning of the twentieth century a few Djerba potters established themselves in Nabeul on Cape Bon and began to produce glazed poly chrome pottery that reflected their efforts at research and creativity. While Nabeul is presently the most important center of production, there are others in different parts of the country, including Moknine in the Sahel and Tozeur in the south.

In Egypt, despite a long and brilliant history, pottery and ceramics today are produced almost exclusively for utilitarian purposes. The poorest Egyptians use earthenware for a variety of everyday vessels such as water jugs and bowls. There are many potteries in Fustat and Alexandria, and in Upper Egypt at Ballas, Qena, and Luxor. They rarely sell their wares directly, however, instead supplying peddlers at the local market and other middlemen. Most of the production is not very refined and is usually unglazed, although a few wares get a lead glaze, generally colored but occasionally opaque. The number of potteries is rapidly decreasing with the ongoing changes in rural life and the disappearance of ancient ways of life. In 1956 a new pottery center was created in Garagos in Upper Egypt, with the goal of developing a renewed popular art based on traditional pottery.

In Turkey during the golden age of the Ottoman Empire, the work of the court potteries at Iznik and Tekfur Sarayi dominated the field. Their collapse in the eighteenth century brought about a renaissance of production in the provinces. Among the most notable new products were those of Kutahya, whose tableware, architectural tiles, and religious objects were created primarily for the Armenian community. For everyday use, the pottery at Canakkale on the Dardanelles produced designs that became nineteenth-century stereotypes. Today, in addition to the traditional studios, there is a steady flow of pottery imitating ancient Iznik, intended primarily for the tourist trade.

Nineteenth-century reports from diplomats and other foreign agents in Iran identify several cities as important centers of pottery and ceramics, including Kashan, Isfahan, Meybod, Shiraz, Nain, and others. A number of pieces with dates, identifying inscriptions, or signatures have been found to confirm these accounts. The techniques used are varied: bicolored black and blue, European-influenced polychromy, and a revival of lustre painting. Siliceous pastes are dominant here, and some workshops have made a kind of porcelain. The production of architectural tiles remains vigorous, primarily for garden pavilions as well as for the tourist trade. Folk pottery still yields such charming items as ceramic beehive covers. Copies of historical objects, like the overpainted haft-rang or mindi, lustre painted, and so-called Kubatcha wares are also widely produced.

Afghanistan and Central Asia saw far fewer nineteenth-century imports than their neighbors to the west. As a result traditional styles and techniques are well preserved, and ceramics produced today closely resemble those of earlier centuries: turquoise glazes with splashes of dark blue and purple, designs in colored engobe, and incised green-and-yellow ware that recalls a kind of earthenware produced in China under the Tang dynasty. Potteries are found near many cities, especially Bukhara, Dushanbe, and Khiva, renowned for the ceramic decorations of the many of their monuments. Here too the twentieth century has seen a decline in craftsmanship, despite massive public-works projects to restore many facades clad in brilliant tile.

In the Near East, the related art of glassmaking continued to develop from ancient times well into the fourteenth century, especially in Egypt and Syria and to a lesser degree in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Lustre glass, cut glass, gilt glass, and enameled glass were all produced. Since the sixteenth century, however, fine glassware has been imported, first from Venice and later from Bohemia and Silesia. Nineteenth-century Western artists like Emile Galle and Joseph Brocard drew some of their ideas from Islamic glasswork.

As in the case of ceramics, the Ottoman government decided in the nineteenth century to build a glass factory on a European model. Situated at Beykoz near Istanbul, its most celebrated products, called casmibulbul, were often difficult to distinguish from Venetian glass. Today little fine glass is produced in the Islamic world, except in a few large cities like Cairo, Damascus, and Herat, where studios using recycled materials and kilns fired by gas or heating oil operate on a regular or occasional basis. Nevertheless, the skill of the craftspeople is obvious, even in pieces that have little or no decoration-a simple painted or enameled pattern, or just a thread applied to the surface. In addition to traditional pieces, apprentices make objects of personal adornment, especially glass beads and bracelets. Finding themselves threatened by a glass industry whose superior products are preferred by local buyers, these artisans are trying to adapt to meet foreign demand, both tourist and export, which recognizes the quality and particular value of handmade products, especially in the form of lamps and tableware.

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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/pottery-and-ceramics/
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  • writerPosted On: June 28, 2017
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