Knowledge Terracotta, meaning ‘baked earth’, is a mix of clay and water hardened by fire at low heat, resulting in a brittle and porous product. The typical red to ochre colour is produced when the iron in the clay reacts to oxygen during firing.
Terracotta is made from a mix of mainly clay and water. In pottery, its process is simple and consists of four basic steps: mixing, kneading, shaping and firing. A close attention to consistency and dampness of the clay is what guarantees its stability. The process of firing is usually done around 1,000 degrees Celsius, and it is during this step – when the iron in the clay reacts to oxygen – that the clay gets its typical red to ochre colour.
The only known form of ceramics until the 14th century, terracotta is versatile and durable and was originally used for large-size objects, architecture, and sculpture. As the clay attracted the attention of craftsmen in the 20th century, it started to be used to make smaller pieces. Today terracotta is used to make utilitarian and decorative objects. The colour of terracotta pottery depends on its use. Often left untinted and in its raw, porous texture, the clay can also be stained or glazed, to give it a shiny finish and resistance to liquids.