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What??? So Expensive and So Imperfect?

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Handmade quality = each imperfection is the proof of the highest handmade quality

The value of quality products

By purchasing our #terracotta Impruneta products, you are not buying a vase, but a unique piece, where you can trace the unmistakable touch of the craftsman and the strength of the terracotta tradition in Impruneta. Many characteristics of the finished product may seem like defects at first glance but they are indeed distinctive features of Impruneta’s soil.

For this reason, when you buy a vase with Impruneta’s clay, there is no guarantee that it will remain unchanged: this is proof that all our #products are 100% #handcrafted.

It is not difficult, in fact, to be able to find the #footprints of our artisans in the vases, as if to recall the love and dedication to their “creatures”. The terracotta pots of Impruneta are rough to the touch, porous to the eye.


Baking Cracks

Due to the high firing temperature (more than 1000 degrees), very tiny and fine cracks can form on the pots’ surfaces, which do not penetrate the pot, but are only superficial.

These are called “baking cracks” and do not affect the resistance of our #jars to frost or any other characteristics.


Sbullettare

Another distinguishing feature of Impruneta’s terracotta is the phenomenon called “sbullettare”, which can occur mainly in the #summer. When the jars are removed from the oven during the summer, despite being wet, the jar temperature cannot drop enough because of the high external temperatures and the fired clay of the vase continues to ferment. This fermentation causes the small pebbles, which make up the clay, to appear on the surface, and the pots become even more porous and rough to the touch. Also, in this case, it is a phenomenon that only involves aesthetics, as the vases maintain the same characteristics.

The saltpetre, the white patina

Another characteristic of our #terracotta pots is that the color is never the same: it varies depending on many factors, which cannot be predetermined (link FAQ). The color can also change after firing and this is mainly due to the atmospheric agents. Impruneta’s clay is rich in mineral salts which sometimes form a white patina on the surface of the pots, called “saltpetre”. This mainly happens during winter. It should be noted that saltpetre does not affect the quality of the vase, indeed, it is indicative of quality and craftsmanship. It is very often a natural phenomenon that can last a few hours and then reabsorb, but sometimes it can be permanent. In the latter case, #saltpetre can be removed with water and a laundry brush. If this does not work, it is possible to dilute the buffered acid with water, and then brush it off.

The black patina

Instead, over time, terracotta pots acquire a black #patina, which makes them look much more #elegant and #antique. This process is speeded up when the pots are under plants or trees. Again, the black patina can be removed by following the same procedure described above.


Working process

The clay

Everything begins from the #galestro, the famous Impruneta #clay.

During the summer the clay is placed in a large area to dry in the sun. All impurities like big stones, iron or plastic pices are removed by hand.

Then the clay is ground up in a hammer mill which also pulverizes gravel and little stones and inally mixed with water to create the wet clay mixture.

After this process the clay is ready to be worked. There are several methods to work the clay.


Moulds Work

The potters make use of plaster moulds whose sections are held together by long belts. The clay is pressed inside the moulds. Today we have more than 500 moulds that are forged from ancient moulds. Then, after hours or days, depend on the season, the mould can be dismantled and the vessel removed. The artisans have to touch up the ornaments by hand, removing the burrs and smoothing the edges.

Shell Work

Another working technique is called Shell Work, which consists of building the pot with coils (ropes of clay) by winding them around the outside of the mould.

The clay ropes are coiled around it in concentric circles and then spread over the top which will be the base of the pot. At the end the mould is removed and the shell is left to dry before the #decorations rims and borders are applied.

Coiling Work

But only few artisans today can make pots using the most ancient and difficult technique called coiling work, that is building the pot by coiling a rope of clay in an upward spiral, without any moulds.

These ropes are carefully coiled one on top of the other. Of course before adding other coils the underlying mass must have solidified. For this reason it’s possible to increase the height of pot by no more 15-20 cm per day. The work proceeds very slowly and it can take several week to finish one pot.

The Drying

Before firing the terracotta pots must be totally dried.

First with the natural area for a few days, then in the drying rooms which are ventilated with warm air coming from the kiln.

During this phase, pots shrink by about 10% as a result of the water’s evaporation.

Once the pots are dried it’s possible to load the kiln.

The firing

Terracotta is fired at a temperature of about 1.040 C° (1.800 F°) and it takes a long time because the temperature must rise gradually in order to avoid thermal shock.

First phase lasts for 30 hours until the firing temperature is reached. Second one lasts for 8/10 hours, during which the pottery fired at the maximum temperature.

During this phase the pots change colour, turning the warm pick typical of Impruneta terracotta. The third phase is the cooling period during which the temperature drops slowly for about 48 hours. Only after these five long days it’s possible to open the kiln.

After terracotta has been fired and cooled it’s made wet for a long period in order to prevent cracks.