To ensure you can enjoy your Terracotta design for many years to come, please follow the advice below. ORNAMENTI cannot accept responsibility for breakage or cracking if any of the following instructions and recommendations are ignored.
Advantages of Terracotta Designs from ORNAMENTI
All the terracotta designs offered by ORNAMENTI are made by artisan craftsmen in Tuscany using local Galestro or Impruneta clays that are frost resistant, unlike most terracotta available in the UK. Galestro or Impruneto clay also benefits from being a naturally warm and breathable material, making it ideally suited for the well-being of plants.
It is essential that each terracotta design (whether empty or planted) has good water drainage. This is because waterlogged soil is: bad for plant health; and can freeze at low temperatures, causing the terracotta to crack or even break. For this reason, a terracotta pot should not rest directly on the ground, which is why ORNAMENTI supplies 3x terracotta feet with most designs in order to aid drainage and assist frost resistance. Please pay particular attention to keeping the drainage hole clean.
Dimensions and Colours
Please note that, as a hand-made product, the size and colour of the design may vary slightly from the description, dimensions and photograph(s), making your design truly unique.
Characteristics of Terracotta
Below are some of the natural imperfections that make your terracotta design unique:
Due to the high firing temperature (more than 1000 degrees), very tiny and fine cracks can sometimes form on the terracotta surface. These are superficial, do not penetrate the terracotta, and so do not alter the frost resistance.
A phenomenon that sometimes occurs when terracotta is removed from the oven during the summer, when the terracotta temperature cannot cool sufficiently. This can cause very small grains from the clay to appear on the surface, and the pots become ever-so-slightly rougher to the touch.
Efflorescence, also known as lime bloom, may appear as a white deposit on the surface of any terracotta product and can often be seen on brick houses. This is a natural characteristic of terracotta which is rich in minerals and is sought-after in antique terracotta garden ornaments. Often a temporary phenomenon, lime bloom can disappear as quickly as it appeared as a result of climatic changes – or may be carefully removed with a very diluted brick cleaning acid. Lime bloom does not affect the structural integrity of the terracotta.
Over time, some terracotta acquires a black patina, which many consider makes it look more elegant and antique. This process is most likely to occur when a terracotta design is positioned under plants or trees. The black patina can be carefully removed, if desired, with a very diluted brick cleaning acid. Black patina does not affect the structural integrity of the terracotta.
How ORNAMENTI’s Terracotta Designs Are Made
The techniques used by today’s artisan craftsmen have been developed over centuries in the Tuscan Hills of Italy. Even the great masters of the Renaissance recognized the supreme quality of Tuscan terracotta, being chosen by Brunelleschi for the amazing 15th century dome of Florence Cathedral – still the largest brick dome ever built. ORNAMENTI has sourced all its terracotta designs from these historic Tuscan workshops as only the best would do…
The process begins with the unique earth found in the heart of Tuscany. Called Galestro or Impruneta clay, it is enriched with oxides, iron and marl, which is carefully ground, filtered and mixed before adding water.
The clay is then hand-pressed into casts, which were hand-made by master craftsmen, some many years ago. Another working technique is to build a pot with coiled ropes of clay, winding them around the outside of a mould. Whichever technique is used, when the compound begins to harden, which may be hours or days depending on the season, the design is removed from the mould (or the mould from the design) and is ready for finishing. This is when the finest details are added by expert hands, working with the precision you would expect.
The next step is time consuming and extremely delicate: the drying process. This takes place over several days in an area where moisture is carefully removed from each piece in preparation for firing. A mistake at this stage is fatal to the process. When ready, the firing can take place in a large oven that reaches temperatures over 1000°C. This takes a long time as the temperature must rise gradually to avoid thermal shock. After two days in the oven, the objects display their characteristic terracotta colour and resistance to climatic variations. The final phase is the cooling period during which the temperature drops slowly, sometimes over a 48-hour period. Only then is it possible to open the kiln. After firing, each piece is immersed in water to stabilize the product, the whole process making each design resistant to frost and extremely long-lasting.
Undoubtedly an investment for the future.