When the earth smiles
The skill of making pottery products in Indonesian archipelago was known around 2,500 B.C. – 200 A.D., when the pre-historic people began to have permanent settlement and started to plant crop plants. Pottery or also popularly called terracotta products have been known almost since the beginning age of human civilization. They were used as traditional household articles.
Pottery products are produced in almost all parts of the Indonesian archipelago. However, there are some regions that are more developed due to better quality of the soil or clay as material, and the availability of craftsmen with good skill to make the products. The major production centers of pottery products are found in the Provinces of Yogyakarta, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara, Central Java, and West Kalimantan.
Heritage of motherearth.
Pottery products are handicrafts made of clay, mixed with sand and water. After being formed through hand-pinching or coiling technique, it is burned at temperature of certain degree. Pottery products are part of ceramic products, but they can be distinguished by the degree level of the burning process and the materials being used.
The burning process of pottery products is carried out at relatively low degree temperature of + 700 – 800 C0, while the process of making ceramic products is carried out through burning process at medium and high degree temperature of 1,000 – 2,000 C0. Materials used for making ceramic products are quartz sand, clay, kaolin, glazer, etc. Ceramic products are mainly used as building materials such as tiles, roofs, toilets, tubs, kitchenware, etc.
To obtain good quality materials, it needs certain conditions such as, among others, easy to be formed, no change of color during the burning process, the color is usually brick red, and not cracked after being dried.
Pottery or ceramic handicraft products are also popularly called terracotta products. Those products have been known almost since the beginning age of human civilization. Initially, they were used as traditional household articles, and even used as the most traditional medium of exchange. According to research carried out by ceramic expert, Bonzan Eddy Rochashadi Seryo, the skill of making pottery products in Indonesian archipelago was known around 2,500 B.C. – 200
A.D., when the pre-historic people began to have permanent settlement and started to plant crop plants. The time between planting and harvesting seasons gave the people enough time to develop their skill to make household utensils like, among others, jars, earthen flask for drinking water, mugs, bowls, and so on.
From pottery artifacts found at the sites of former Majapahit Kingdom, which was renowned between the 13th – 15th centuries in East Java, it was known that besides being used as household utensils, the pottery products were also used for ritual purpose and as artworks.
According to Bonzan, the tradition of making pottery products in Indonesia are also influenced by the development of pottery products overseas such as in Vietnam (Sabuynh), The Philippines (Kalanay), and China. It can be seen from archeological pottery products found along the northern coast of West Java, which is usually called “Buni Pottery Complex”, spreading from north of Jakarta, Bekasi and Cikampek. It is estimated that the event occurred in the period of 200 A.D. to 500 A.D.
In further development of making the pottery products, besides using pinching and coiling techniques, they began to use tools like hand-wheel, paddle, and anvil. Some kinds of paddle and anvil are still used until present time.
According to historians, the tradition of making pottery products in Indonesia then developed and influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, and later on by Islam.
There are many kinds of pottery products with different functions, such as water jars, bowls, mugs, cooking pots, flower vases, plant pots, and as ornamental articles like statuettes of animals and fruits.
In old times, people also made jars from pumpkin or gourd for carrying water. Therefore, nowadays, they make pottery products for water containers look like pumpkin. In Indonesia, water jars of pumpkin are still found in several regions.
Exports of Indonesian pottery or ceramic handicraft products in the last five-year period had a declined trend of 4.09% in average annually. In 2003, the export value was US$ 14.3 million, and increased to US$ 16.3 million in 2004, and slightly increased to US$ 16.5 million in 2005. However, it declined to US$ 14.9 million in 2006, and continued to decline to US$ 12.2 million in 2007.
The decline of exports in 2006 and 2007 were mainly due to a disaster caused by earthquake that hit and ruined production facilities in Yogyakarta and Central Java Provinces on 27 May 2007. Many stocks of pottery products that were ready to be exported were badly destroyed.
Related government ministries and agencies together with National Craft Council have mobilized aid to help recover the production facilities, so that in time those production centers could operate again as before the natural disaster. (Source: Publications of National Craft Council and others).