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Collection Museum

 POTRIES AND POTTERY

Over the last few centuries, Potries has left its mark on the villages of La Safor and other neighbouring regions thanks to its pottery production. The artisans and their products have been responsible for Potries´ presence in the markets of our villages, as well as in the reality of a traditional economy. Nowadays, Potries town hall is the repository for this entire cultural heritage, with an important collection representing all that the craftsmen of clay from Potries have been modelling along the centuries.

In addition, we are engaged in a project to turn la Safor into a cultural and patrimonial reference point, which will soon be available for the public to enjoy. Thus, we have set up an ambitious project to renovate and build a museum to house the pottery by Àngel Domínguez.

LA CATORZENA, FIRST CENTURY

The archaeological site of La Catorzena, with trace remains of a clay centre, is situated on the right bank of the river Alcoi and about 400 metres away from the Roman villa of Campina. The deposits of the second bottoms are rich in red clay of a high quality suitable for use as raw materials. The oven used for firing pottery was active between 40 and 80 AD .

The most representative production was that of amphorae designed for the transportation and sale of local wine: the local Dressel amphora of 2/4 and, during the latter stage of the period, the amphora with a flat base G.4, were both used for wine. This agricultural by-product was the basis of the economy in the Roman villa of Campina, which was situated in the environs of the handicrafts complex. Furthermore, the presence of the Dressel amphora 20 sim. –type Oliva 3-, which was less common, points to the commercialisation and sale of a more limited oil surplus.

In addition, the archaeological record provides evidence of the production of building materials: tegulae, imbrices, etc., as well as a wide variety of different types of common clays.

La Catorzena is witness to the first signs of pottery production in the area of Potries, from almost two thousand years ago (except for an archaeological site from the Bronze Age, in the mountain of Penyascals, where a large number of handmade pottery has been found). This fact is the reflection of an extensively recorded phenomenon in the old territorium of the city of Dianium (Dénia), where a group of fifteen clay centres has been singled out in the area of rustic villages which sprang up throughout the land close to the coast. They developed during the 1st and 3rd centuries, and during the second half of the 1st Century AD they experienced a period of growth, when these rural settings seemed to reach their zenith with regard to the export of locally produced wine to Rome and Mediterranean Italy. Such signs of pottery activity in Potries confirm a fact which has been recorded by historiography since the end of the last century: the origins of the toponym of Potries, a name with a Latin root and a very indicative meaning linking it to pottery.

16tH – 18th CENTURIES

There is no evidence at our disposal to suggest pottery activity in our area during the Islamic Period.
In the late Middle Ages, Oliva and el Terme de Dalt, to which Potries and other settlements belonged, became the territory of the Barony of Rebollet from the 13th century. During the 15th century, this area was known as the County of Oliva.
The lineages of the Carròs, the Riusech and the Centelles held dominion over this fertile land, where sugar cane production provided wealth and splendour. From the middle of the 15th century, the destiny of this County changed when it became a province that was part of the Duchy of Gandia, belonging to the powerful Borjas family.
 The records of the early years of the 17th century confirm the presence of pottery activity in Potries. The quarrying, as well as the butchery or the shop in Potries, remain recorded in the lists of incomes that, as royalties, contributed to the support of the Domain (1). In 1613, a document “about the leasing of fruits incomes and emoluments from fruit to the corresponding Lord in the so called County of Oliva and in the villages, baronies, valleys and places of the environs” (“sobre lo arrendament de fruyts rendes y emoluments a Señor pertanyents en lo dit condat de Oliva y en les dites viles baronies valls y llochs a daquells adjacents”) tried to guarantee, among other aspects, the future of the production of the pottery centres in Oliva and Potries.
 “The same is agreed on, decided and established by the parts, that the lessor has the faculty to prohibit that the makers of shapes, belonging to Oliva and Potries, cannot reproduce any shape for any other part without previous notice to the lessor, for him to provide himself with all the shapes that are necessary for the trip of the mentioned businesses, and in the case that some of the masters do not work in accordance with the agreed terms, the lessor will be entitled to change the masters and replace it with some other instead according to his preference and he will be allowed to make the above stated shapes” (2) (“Item és pactat, avengut y concordat per y entre les dites parts, que lo arrendador tinga facultat de prohibir que dels obradors de formes, que estan en Oliva y Potries, nos puxen traure nis traguen formes algunes per ninguna altra part que primer dit arrendador se haja proveit de totes les formes que haura menester per al viatge dels dits ingins y trapigs, y si cas sera que alguns dels mestres de dites formes no treballara conforme es raho en dits obradors, en tal cas tinga facultat, lo dit arrendador, de mudar y posar los mestres que li parexera, i ben vis li sera pera fer dites formes.”)(2)

 A document exists which dates back to around 1660, ruling and regulating the commission by the members of the Oliva jury, which also confirms the exemptions of this tax for some of the trading activities among which it refers to those associated with the sale of pottery “this way the glazier of pots, the craftsmen of clay pots, dishes and similar will not have to pay commission”. (“així mateix los vidriers ollers, obra de terra plats i escudellers, car bo no paga sisa”).

 The findings from a refuse site facing the street of el Barranc (gully) and, more recently, the excavation of an oven at Sant Joan street in Potries, show evidence of an extensive production of pottery for cooking utensils and for tableware with glazed lids, basic pots and painted pots, as well as sugar jars and wine bottles which helped provide trade and commerce within the region. The styles and techniques used in the production indicate a consolidated production that was characteristic of the first half of the 17th century.

19th – 20th CENTURIES

In 1801, the “Royal Certificate by Their Majesties and the Council Lords by means of which it is ordered to keep and comply with the current regulation, which is aimed at avoiding the risks for health evolving from the copper vessels and the deficient glass of those of clay and other aspects already stated” was published. This document is, perhaps, the key to providing a context for the period that would evolve during the 19th century. The improvement in techniques and in the quality of glass for the pottery would become widely used together with the unhealthy metal.
 This situation explains the emergence and revival of many pottery industries which supplied the limited local markets. 

Pascual Madoz (1845-1850) does not provide us with any information about this (3), his silence does not suggest the production of casserole dishes, which we are sure of, around this period. During the 1920´s, the Geografia General del Reino de Valencia (General Geography of the Valencia Kingdom) (4) informed us that there were many potteries.

THE PRODUCTION CENTRES

TILES AND MASONRY

The tiles and stonework centres in Potries are scattered over a wide area. In many instances, their location is determined by their access to the clay extraction sites. This raw material is required in large quantities for this kind of production.

Initially, the artisans developed both clay building materials and pitchers, which at that time were essential for the transportation of water and other liquids. Later on, following specialization, the production of pitchers disappeared.

The tile centres have a very characteristic architecture: they occupy vast areas, with wide spaces and large open areas for the stacking of clay and production storage. They are situated either in the area around Potries, or in the south-west or in the region of Vilallonga, which has the richest and most abundant clay deposits.

The Aznar and Fuster families monopolize the property of this artisan business, which requires many workers. Up to 45 people were working for the industry belonging to Peregrí Fuster during the first quarter of the century. We have information regarding 10 industries of this type which were operational in the town of Potries and that of Villalonga, whose owners were from Potries.

CASSEROLE CENTRES

 The casserole centres are the most characteristic and distinctive potteries in Potries. Despite the uncertain origin of the production of fired glazed pottery, which dates back to the 16th century, it is only by the middle of the 19th century that they stabilize and become part of the urban topography of Potries. Its zenith would take place during the first four decades of the 20th century.


 For each of these, their location is the historical nucleus of Potries. They display a certain grouping towards the two ends of the village, reflecting the pollutant character of this industry, which generates dirt and smoke. The best known group, with four casserole centres, among which is the one belonging to Àngel Domínguez, is located in Cup street (before Olmo’s).

The pottery and the actual structure of the work are always linked to a family cell. However, the ovens are often assigned to common use by the different units of production. The Tarrazó, Domínguez, Faus and Canet families, among others, are the most representative of this artisan business, which requires a certain level of specialization to be led by the artisans and other members of the family nucleus. There are documents that provide evidence of the existence of up to 8 casserole centres at the urban nucleus of Potries.

PRODUCTION IN POTRIES

BUILDING MATERIALS

 There exists a broad variety of building materials, according to their functions and uses. Traditionally, the Arab tile is, perhaps, the most stable type, together with glazed ceramic tiles and floor tiles, which present a wide range of shapes and different parameters. This type of tile is very much evident, regarding shapes as well as decorative and ornamental motifs, in the milestones, displaying moulds and engraved decoration.

During the first decades of the 20th century there emerges an important building activity throughout our region, and, at the same time, accompanied by a wide variety of architectural languages, which added new elements to buildings. These were generally decorative features representing different stylistic affiliations. This fact is evidence that the tile centres produced complex building materials offering a wide range of shapes. This diversity of elements permits the reproduction of pilasters and elegant cornices for the façades, the roofs or edgings, and attractive mouldings for windows and balconies. By 1950, Potries had developed the production of architectural items of pottery made from casts which , perhaps, form the most distinct image of the pottery manufactured in Potries during recent times. High and ornamented tops, ornate pine cones and pediments decorated with fine vegetable garlands adorn the edges of the façades of a great number of the public buildings and numerous residences in la Safor, particularly in those built near to the beaches of our coast. Vicent Aznar was the main artisan involved in this type of production. The Stations of the Cross and the Potries’ cemetery preserve continue to be good examples of this artist’s particular expertise.

PITCHERS AND OTHER EARTHENWARE

The pitchers and jugs are elaborated in the tile centres and are fired together with the building materials. These are placed together in the oven due to the fact that pitchers and jugs complement the contents of the oven. The artisan knows how to combine these two productions at the same time. However, during the decade of the fifties the production of pitchers and jugs was to disappear and the tile centres become were to become specialized in the production of building materials.
 Pitchers and jugs require a more detailed study in order to mass produce a typology, although the existing production allows the individualisation of two particular types, which are, regarding shape, very similar. However their sizes including base dimensions, are different, and, as such, their capacity too. Some have a wide base while others a narrow base. These two types were the types most commonly used by women for the transportation of water. Whereas, the smaller one can be held with one hand, the larger one is designed for carrying on the hip.
 The pitchers and jugs originating from Agost (Alacant), which are defined by Ilse Schulz as Gandia pitchers, and which reproduce the model or prototype traditionally elaborated in Potries, are those responsible for the disappearance of the local production of pitchers, given the competition amongst these product types, which are lighter to carry and of a better quality clay.

 

CASSEROLES AND FIRED POTTERY

 The fired pottery from Potries, although displaying a wide range of production, basically focuses on the elaboration of refractory clay. The varnish that covers the interior and exterior sides is of a honey colour, with various tonalities which range from honey tones to iridescent greens. The shapes vary according to their specific functions within the traditional kitchen.

 

THE ARTISANS OF CLAY


This chapter aims to pay homage to the people who, throughout the generations, have moulded the clay in our village, and also to those who, together with their predecessors, made possible the existence of an artisan industry which, unfortunately, has disappeared. We would also like to pay tribute to all those artisans who on a daily basis, through their work with clay, provide us with another means of understanding life.

 That is why an important part of the exhibition reveals the graphic memories of the main potter families from Potries, who are the true creators of this artisan industry. The limitations of this publication do not allow for an in-depth study of these potter families, which in themselves would be an interesting topic for future study. Here we will only mention some aspects that will help us to gain an understanding of their artisan production.

The family used to be the fundamental cell throughout the production process. The trade itself and the actual skills were transferred from parents to children through experience, through the daily practice of the tasks to be carried out. All members of the family were specialised in the different phases of production; some of them were responsible for throwing the pottery, some varnished it, others fired the products and other family members used to market the production throughout the neighbouring regions or in la Safor. The trade was hard, very hard, and it demanded constant dedication from every member of the family.

We have had the opportunity to verify that the potter families developed marital links that were sometimes of an endogamous nature; they married among themselves and, at times, even between relatives of the same family (see appendix).

When talking about the production centres, we mentioned the most significant families, the Aznars, the Domínguezs, the Faus, the Fusters and the Tarrazós, although there were other ones who also worked with clay, such as the Canets, the Llopis, the Sigatats, the Mascarells or the Prietos. This last one, a potter from Ciudad Rodrigo, worked in Potries at the end of the nineteenth century.

In addition to these families, there were the woodcutters, who provided the firewood for the ovens. These families used to have animals dedicated to transportation and they were also used for bringing the clay to the potteries. Among other woodcutters, we will refer to Vicent, known as Godalla; Joaquin, el Roig; Adelino, el Saler or Ernesto Estruch.

 As far as the marketing of the products was concerned, we should point out that this was carried out in the local markets. The products were transported, protected by straw, and loaded onto animals or onto carts. In the industrial contribution record for the year 1857, there is a list of ten people who were linked to the marketing of the local production from Potries. On the list we find Jose Llopis Vidal described as “peddler merchant of pitchers and jugs”. The other nine people are each described as “peddler merchant of pots”, among these we find Gregorio Canet, Francisco and Ramón Solera, the widow of Antonio Moreno and José Canet Llopis. Such references confirm the importance of the production of pottery in Potries by the middle of the nineteenth century and the number of people dedicated to the marketing of this production helps us consider the magnitude of this trade. From the middle of last century, the women are, generally, those in charge of going to the markets; this was the case for Ma. Teresa Muñoz Canet, Pere Vicent Faus’ wife; Consuelo Martí Bolinches, Simeón Tarrazó Domínguez’s wife; Concepción Ortolà Avaria, Àngel Domínguez Fuster’s wife or Purificación Orengo Estruch, Tomás Domínguez Garrigós’ wife. However, in conjunction with this, there are still some men who carry on selling their production; good examples are Joan Baptista Canet, Juan Bautista Domínguez Moreno or Simeón Tarrazó Martí. The port of Dénia was an important point for the exportation of pottery from Potries to the north of Africa. During the fifties an important part of the production was sent to Alcoi on the Gandia-Alcoi train; together with the carts which came from Benidorm in order to take the local production to la Marina Baixa.

AZNAR
DOMÍNGUEZ
FAUS
FUSTER
TARRAZÓ

 

For further information on the Collection of Potries Museum, visit our website:

www.cult.gva.es/dgpa/

VISITS TO THE PERMANENT EXHIBITION OF THE COLLECTION:
CASA AJUNTAMENT DE POTRIES (Town Hall House)- EXHIBITION HALL

  • Carrer Boamit 26, POTRIES

VISITS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

  • Please, contact: 962 800 588, from 9:00a.m. to 2.00pm.