The Sinhalese use a great deal of terracotta (and sometimes unbaked clay) products for ceremonial, architectural, and domestic purposes. Though the clay ware is extremely utilitarian in character, yet it is also very charming, with interesting forms and decorative motifs and styles. The pottery used for domestic purposes is often unglazed, and undecorated, whereas that used for decorative purposes is usually coloured, painted, or glazed. Sinhalese pottery displays characteristics that are indicative of adept and skilled workmanship. The Sinhalese potters or badahelayo are usually found clustered in areas where suitable clay is available in abundance.
Glazing of pottery was uncommon in ancient times in Sri Lanka, though primitive glazes did exist to make the pottery less porous and to enhance the appearance; today, it is found mainly in pottery intended for decorative purposes. Elaborate terracotta and clay-ware was earlier made for religious purposes, and royalty and rich patrons utilised the services of the best clay artisans for custom-made products. Terracotta, in Sri Lanka, is one of the crafts that has not degenerated over time, owing to the fact that it is inexpensive and well adapted to local requirements as also that it has not suffered from competition with machine-made wares.
The use of moulds in pottery shows links between pottery and metal-casting. Metal-craft and pottery have grown alongside each other in Sri Lanka right from the Anuradhapura period.
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