The Fascinating History of Tuscan Terracotta

Mud Mountain Blog

A selection of Tuscan terracotta pots

Our Tuscan terracotta pots are lovingly handcrafted by artisans using ancient methods, but exactly how far back do they go? 

Incredibly, the art of making terracotta pottery dates back to the Etruscan civilization, which flourished in Tuscany between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE. The Etruscans were skilled potters and produced a wide variety of ceramics, including vases, jars, and figurines. 

During the middle ages, terracotta in Tuscany largely fell out of use, but it was revived during the Renaissance, when the city of Impruneta, south of Florence, became known as the centre of terracotta production in Tuscany, with Impruneta terracotta being highly prized for its quality and durability, being used to create a variety of architectural elements as well as decorative ones - things like roof tiles and flooring as well as being used to decorate building facades.

Old town Tuscany

The Orcio

It’s thought that Orcio jars first appeared in the residences of noble families in cities like Florence and Siena in around 1600. These can be incredibly ornate, their fuller-bodied shape lending itself to intricate decoration. 

The classical Tuscan Orcio is a unique design that encapsulates all of the tradition, and love of the centuries-old craft that’s put into the traditional methods and techniques of their creation. They make incredible centrepieces in any garden, adding character and history - telling the stories of where they came from. If you're looking for you're own, take a look at our antique oil jars - we have an impressive collection currently in stock.

Tuscan Orcio

A transformation...

The introduction of new manufacturing techniques in the 18th and 19th centuries led to a significant transformation in the production of Tuscan terracotta. It allowed for a mass production of terracotta objects making it more affordable and accessible to more people, but it also led to a decline in quality.

Tuscan terracotta today

Today, it’s still being produced by traditional techniques with artisans in Tuscany creating handcrafted vases, jars and other objects, and it’s highly valued for its beauty and durability. 

It might be hard to imagine, but the gorgeous red hue of terracotta pots actually starts out life as clay. The rosy red comes from the iron-oxide, and it’s the process of firing that brings out the attractive, rosy colour.

The whole process requires an incredible amount of skill from beginning to end. From adding exactly the right amount of water to the clay, to producing the moulds which are essential for the traditional method of the ancient gypsum mould technique. Once the clay has been pressed into the mould and allowed to dry initially, the mould is removed for the potter to hand finish before firing. They check every detail, erasing imperfections and finishing sometimes very elaborate decorations before the pots are dried and fired. With the entire process being so hands-on, it’s no wonder that Tuscan terracotta pots are still so widely renowned for their quality and durability to this day!

You can learn in more detail exactly how our pots are made here.

How can we help?

Are you looking to add your own piece of history to your garden? If you’d like any guidance on finding your perfect pot—please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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