Ceramics

Ceramics is presumably the oldest form of Lithuanian folk art. Ceramic products are particularly old; therefore they received a great deal of archeological attention in performing research on the origin of the Lithuanian nation.

 

Works of visual and applied arts date back to the period of the Primitive communal system. Ceramics is one of the oldest forms of art in the history of Lithuanian folk art that combines a creative expression, picturesque silhouettes and attractive elements of ornamentation as well as a variety of compositions and occasionally vivid colours.

 

Ceramic items spread across Lithuania in the Neolithic period (the third millennium BC). In those days kitchen utensils of different shapes were used for cooking and as eating utensils; and additionally, urns and weighs were used in fishing nets and in the process of weaving. Even the most primitive utensils were decorated with various geometric ornaments and rough textures. In the 10th-11th centuries utensils were moulded in a circle throw. It resulted in emerging of nicer shapes, soft contours and a rich ornamentation. In the 14th-15th centuries in the ceramics workshops of the country decorative ceramic items, namely clay beads, coated with different glazes, and the relief ornamentation began to pile up.

 

According to the functions, folk art ceramics is divided into three groups:

1. Visual (utensils used for cooking and as eating utensils as well as for storing food products).

2. Architectural (various ceramic elements in buildings; tiles).

3. Decorative (urns, flower pots, small vases, small sculptures, whistles and candlesticks).

 

Visual ceramics consists of pots (kitchen pots), coking pots, jars, tea pots and plates. The function of a utensil determined its shape, silhouette, ornamentation and occasionally colour.

 

There are different types of pots: the pots, widening towards the top, without a neck or with a small convex at the holes. Some of them are spherical and with small holes.

 

Clay frying pans have slightly sloping sides, a loop handle or legs.

 

Pots for storing food products are distinguished by a variety of proportions and shapes. Pots are glazed on the inside and the outside. Pots may be divided into utensils with a loop, crockery, butter dishes and ceramic bowls for storing bacon fat.

 

Jars were used for storing milk, beer, kvass and mead. They were distinguished by different sloping sides that were masterfully narrowed in toward the neck likewise by spouts and loops of different shapes. The shape of a jar was enhanced by a horizontal line, which separated the sides from the hole. Wine utensils had a narrow hole and one or two loops. Their sides were straight or particularly convex (resembling a globe). Clay plates (platters) were deep, of a different height, with steep edges and occasionally with a narrow horizontal convex. Different clay kettles, salt dishes, butter dishes, butter churn, smokers on bees and other utensils were used for domestic purposes.

 

Architectural ceramics consisted of tiles for masonry heaters, tiles for floors and walls, decorative panels, tiling, etc. Architectural ceramics of the interior decoration of buildings was widespread — tiles, heater rails and plinths had different patterns of ornamentation. Usually, tiles resembled bowls; they were deep and not glazed. Tiles were of different colours and bore the relief ornamentation of plants and other motifs like coats of arms, portraits and allegorical images. Dominant colours of tiles — various tints of green and rosy glazes. The ornamentation of some tiles had the features of the late Renaissance and Baroque styles.

 

Decorative folk art pottery consists of urns, items for shroud, vases, flower pots, candlesticks, whistles and reed-pipes. Urns and jars for shroud that were predominant in the period of the Primitive communal system resembled household utensils, pots and cups. Vases were not high; they had straight and widening towards the top edges. Some of them had convex that was decorated with the images of miniature flower pots or birds. Vases were decorated using contour and relief techniques (sometimes painted in different colours) that manifested through the images of stylized plants and geometric ornaments. Vases bore various shapes and distinctive colourful decorative patterns of plants. Clay whistles resembled the images of stylized animals, birds and people. Their characteristic features were as follows: a spacious layout and laconic generalized forms as well as expressive silhouettes.

 

The surface of ceramic items may be decorated in three ways:

1. Contour cutting.

2. Relief modelling.

3. Polychromatic painting.

 

In the period of the Primitive communal system contour lines on the outside dishes were made by means of hay or a grass tuft. Contour lines were peculiar to the dashed curve and dotted curve ceramics likewise the comb and string ceramics. The patterns of geometric motifs and the contour cutting of different compositions were characteristic to the ceramics of the subsequent periods. Relief modelling was exercised already in the 15th century. Usually, it was used in architectural ceramics. Relief patterns were slightly raised from the base. Plant and animal motifs were predominant in those patterns.

 

Polychromatic painting was prevailing in the ornamentation of household and decorative ceramic items. Painted patterns applied on the surface of ceramic items were distinguished by their spatial - asymmetrical arrangement. The surface of ceramic items was decorated with red, green, yellowish and white glazed designs.