Printer Friendly

Reviving traditional pottery making in Zlakusa, Serbia: Ezgi Gokce, Zeliha Yayla, Ilker Ozkan describe the old techniques.

ZLAKUSA IS A VILLAGE IN UZICE CITY SITUATED IN THE WEST OF SERBIA. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN UZICE AND Zlakusa is 13 km and Zlakusa is 185 km way from Belgrad which is Serbia's capital city. The village is located on the Sylvan area of the Djetina river valley (Figure 1).

The livelihood of people who live in Zlakusa depends on agriculture, livestock and ceramic production. It is well known that calcite and a red clay mixture have been used for traditional pottery making and wooden wheels have been used for the forming process. This technique has survived for about 300 years in a similar way in Zlakusa village.

Milan Savic (1930) is the eldest potter alive in Zlakusa (Figure 2). He conserves the traditional pottery making in his atelier with his son and grandchild (Figure 3). Savic points out that his father was also a potter and he learnt the pottery making from him. He states that people in Zlakusa have been earning their livings by pottery making for more than 400 years. From the objects have been uncovered while planting and digging gardens, they observe that the same items are being used today but were created with a rougher and different workmanship. In the Middle Ages in Serbia this trade advanced especially in the villages. Skilful individuals initially started working at their homes to meet their household needs. Over time, thanks to their high dexterity, they turned into renowned masters. In some of the craftsmen, talent and experience advanced as a skill and they could create exactly what they saw. Knowledge generally passed from father to son and at other times the technique was learnt from the masters. Initially this village had a simple and specific production technology but as time passed it strongly developed. With increasing demand for the products, the manufacture of these products became more profitable for business than others. The ceramics trade was the most common activity until WWII. Nowadays as a result of scientific and technologic development, machine-made objects are preferred to handicrafts and the traditional crafting methods are almost forgotten. Although this culture has been fading away, Zlakusa village is a rare example of an authentic source of income for the preserved village environment. The trade's development closely links with the 19th century as there are many ethnologic sources pointing this out. On the other hand archeological sources state that there is an even older pottery tradition on the area of Stari Vlah. Pottery trade deserves attention not only for its fading away but also for its specific technique and uses.

The individuality of Zlakusa pottery is of great importance to ethnological and archeological research. From the beginning of the 1990s archeologists paid close attention to the Zlakusa ceramics production technique which is one of the earliest production techniques known in Europe. With the study of these ceramics and their production techniques they defined that they could obtain curious and useful data regarding pottery production especially from Iron Age period. The materials and the production technique make Zlakusa pottery special and important. Potters supply the clay from Vranjani village, calcite from Rupeljevo village and mix them to prepare the batch. The best result is obtained from the ratio of two to one for clay and calcite. Nowadays calcite is granulated with machinery and then mixed into the clay. If needed, water and calcite are added while stirring (Figure 4).

One of the reasons that Zlakusa ceramics are so important is the way that they are still forming by using wooden wheels (Figure 5). This forming technique still continues in the Balkans, in some parts of Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia. Even though it is known that in these past two centuries in Europe this kind of production exists in Portugal and Spain, Zlakusa still remains the most popular. Generally, the wooden wheel has a diameter mirror of 33 cm, the thickness of 5 cm and the height of 22 cm. They are installed on a flat stand. These wheels are handmade so they can be in different sizes. Today metal wheels in similar sizes are also used together with the wooden ones. The coiling method is being used for forming the traditional ceramics in Zlakusa. Initially a small quantity of calcite is poured on the wheel to prevent clay adherence. The hand shaped plate is positioned on the wheel and by taking clay from the centre to the sides, its slight height ensures the adding of the coils. Subsequently the coils are squashed and new coils are added with the help of the other hand. Wooden tools are used to straighten the surface of the form. Last, the surface of the form is smoothed with water and the edges are fixed with a leather patch.

When they become leather hard, the objects are smoothed by polishing and then placed in a drying room. This room is a chamber consisting of a fire place on the bottom and stable shelves on the top. Ceramics are dried with a temperature up to 200[degrees]C (Figure 6). Potters can not, however, measure the temperature of the drying process exactly. Dried ceramics, depending on the weather are also fired outdoors by open firing. The firing temperature of this process is about 700-800[degrees]C (Figure 7). Today in Zlakusa various ceramic forms with a capacity of one litre to 100 litres, with different sizes and shapes, are produced for food cooking and storing purposes.

Chemical composition of the clay body is shown in Table 1 and the physical properties are mentioned below. One of the main characteristics of the sample is its CaO content due to the presence of calcite. Also, the high content of Si[O.sub.2] and [Al.sub.2][O.sub.3] derives from clay fraction of the mixture. The [Fe.sub.2][O.sub.3] content indicates that this clay fires to a red colour. Another important point is the low alkali content of the mixture.

XRD analysis of the clay body sample can be seen in Figure 8. The mineralogical composition of the sample is dominated by calcite, quartz and illite.

The clay body is dried and ground to determine the physical properties. The ground mixture is then humidified up to five percent water by weight. The humid powders are pressed under 150 kg/[cm.sub.2] pressure to obtain 100 x 50 x 8 mm prismatic samples. These samples are dried and then fired at 700[degrees]C and 750[degrees]C using a laboratory kiln. The sample fired at 700[degrees]C has 13.98 percent water absorption and one percent firing shrinkage values while the sample fired at 750[degrees]C has 14.19 percent water absorption and one percent firing shrinkage values.

Also colour measurements along the chromatic coordinates (L, a and b) were performed to determine the colour of the fired samples. (L value indicates the lightness scale where 0 is black; 100 is white, a value indicates the red-green scale where positive values are red; negative values are green and 0 is neutral, b value indicates the blue yellow scale where positive values are yellow; negative values are blue and 0 is neutral). L, a and b values of the sample fired at 700[degrees]C are 64.99, 16.55 and 22.41, respectively where the sample fired at 750[degrees]C has 62.24, 16.18 and 20.44. For comparison L, a and b values of a red firing clay fired at 900[degrees]C was measured as L=51,65, a=29, 12 and b=38.25. These results also showed the bleaching effect of calcite. Due to emerging technologies and industrialization, however, traditional production of pottery declined and nearly came to the end in Zlakusa.

Sofija Bunardzic organised the 1st International Ceramic Colony in 1996 to revive traditional pottery making in Zlakusa and to introduce the craft to the world. Bunardzic is an academic painter-potter, born in 1955 in Split (Croatia). She finished The School of Applied Arts in Split, at the department of Applied Graphics in the class of Petar Jakelic in 1974. She graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade in the class of Djordje Rosie in 1979 at the subject ceramic design-section of pottery and glass. Today she is a professor in The School of Art in Uzice, department for artistic ceramics. She organises The International Ceramic Colony every year and 10 ceramics artists participate in this workshop.

The 18th International Fine Art of Ceramics "Zlakusa 2013" took place at Milan Savic's in August. Artists from Serbia, Turkey, Croatia, The Netherlands and Mexico (Figure 9) produced their individual forms with the traditional Zlakusa ceramics technique (Figures 9-11). Some decorative effects are obtained by pouring flour and beer on the hot pots just after removing the fire.

Through these activities, the number of ceramics ateliers in Zlakusa increased from four to 40. Bunardzic has initiated this workshop with the purpose of providing a place for research and experimentation of the pottery technique called 'Zlakusa' or 'Sofija-Zlakusa' for contemporary, academic and professional ceramics artists from Serbia and around the world. Thanks to this project approximately 200 people from around the world have participated in the workshop in the ceramic colony up today.



(2.) Bljana Djordjevic, "Pottery Making in Zlakusa. First Ethnoarchaeological Research Project in Serbia", Conference Proceedings, Rome Italy, 13th-14th May 2010, BAR International Series 2472, Published by Archaeopress, Oxford, 2013, p.49.

(3.) Milan Savic, Catalogue of 18 International Fine Art Colony of Ceramics Zlakusa Uzice, 2013.

(4.) Biljana Dordjevic Bogdanovic, "On Zlakusa Pottery And Its Signifiance For Ethnological And Archeological Research", (http://

(5.) Biljana Djordjevic, Three Facets Of Traditional Pottery Making In Serbia, Exhibition Catalogue, National Museum in Belgrade, 2011.

(6.) Sofija Bunardzic, 18 International Fine Art Colony of Ceramics Zlakusa Uzice, Workshop and Exhibition Catalog, 2013.

Ezgi Gokge is currently an Assistant Professor in the Fine Arts Faculty of Usak University, Turkey. She has participated in many national, international group exhibitions and has received awards in competitions.

Zeliha Yayla is a Professor of Chemistry at Dokuz Eyliil University, Izmir, Turkey. She has many publications on ceramics chemistry and also studies chemistry and art integration (

Ilker Ozkan is an Assistant Professor at Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey. He studies traditional and advanced ceramics technology.

Table 1. Chemical analysis result of the clay body sample.

                             [Al.sub.2]   [Fe.sub.2]
Oxides         Si[O.sub.2]   [O.sub.3]    [O.sub.3]    MgO

(wt percent)   18.67         16.02        3.49         0.50

Oxides         CaO     [Na.sub.2]O   [K.sub.2]O   Ti[O.sub.2]   LOI

(wt percent)   32.64   0.00          0.14         0.77          27.76
COPYRIGHT 2014 Ceramic Art
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Gokce, Ezgi; Yayla, Zeliha; Ozkan, Ilker
Publication:Ceramics Technical
Date:Nov 1, 2014
Previous Article:Chinese gold miners' Celadon: Virginia Esposito details her extensive research.
Next Article:Marc Leuthold in Italy: Zauli as muse: Rolando Giovannini relates Marc Leuthold's experiences in Faenza and Venice, Italy.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters