In the area of Pirot and Bela Palanka national traditional pottery craftswork was under various spheres of foreign influence. Pirot was the centre of the pottery craftswork of Serbia. In the middle of the 19th century there were even 40 pottery workshops in Pirot. Yet at the end of the 20th century the significance of this craft was declining which led to the reduction of the number of potter’s shops to only 32. Since the towns in the north and west of Serbia kept growing rapidly after the liberation from the Turks a number of potters from this area left Pirot having gone northward and westward in search of employment and better earnings.
Potters were making earthenware on a” nožno kolo ” ( a gadget for making objects out of clay ) . Craft – workers – potters were making their own tools and kit for their needs. The main raw material for producing pots is clay. To prepare clay for processing, first, it has to be digged up with a hoe along with adding a certain amount of water. That procedure is primitive and was applied in the 19th century. With the beginning of the 20th century handmade gadgets were used for grinding the soil. Today the use of electrical devices makes it possible for the procedure to be improved.
The objects were shaped on ” nožno kolo ” and then glazed into yellow, green and brown and for „ engobiranje ” white clay was used. Glazed pieces used to be baked in special ovens „vurnja”. Today the process of baking is done, in electrical furnaces.
The pottery in Pirot was very productive. There used to be manufactured over 70 types of pots of different shapes and purposes.
Oily clay served for making convex pots and for those which had to be resistant to high temperatures fatless clay was used.
The craft got its name after ” grne “ , a pot used for cooking food on the open hearth. Apart from ” grne ” , they also used ” đuveč “or „ đuvečarka” , ( pan for making stew ) , then a little pot for yogurt, ” grnajče ” also called „ brde ” ( a coffee cup ), bowls and plates.
The Pirot potters were sometimes referred to as “testidžija “ because they manufactured „ testija “ or „ stovna ” ( a kind of pot in which water was kept in ) which was considered to be the most significant pot for everyday life.
Goblet or pitcher has the neck which ends with a small glass used to be a kind of decoration in a household. Nicely ornamented wedding goblet was used in the ceremony of inviting wedding guests. Flask or copper ( narrow – necked vessel with a cover ) served as a brandypot.
There were not so many kinds of winepots as there were various brandypots. Small pitchers were used for storing either water or wine. ” Shepender ” , solely storing wine and collecting ” merka ” , ( three litres ) was a kind of a pitcher with a wide half – covered opening, so called funnel, in the upper part of the pot.
The objects of cultural significance, icon lamp, were manufactured with particular devotion. The potters also manufactured ” panica ” ( bowl for holly water ), used for blessing the water, ” svetovod ” as well as ” chirak ” , ( candlestick ).
The potters created the pieces of pottery which were used in households ( funnels, lids for brandy stills, watering places for poultry ) .
They also made toys, whistles, pipes, then various craft – helping devices ( small pickax used for decorating the pieces of pottery ) , and lots of other various pottery products.
All these pieces of pottery which used to be purchased at the fairs held all over Serbia are characterized by harmonious colours ( yellow, green, brown ) and decorated with different kinds of ornaments by engraving the circles, winding lines, vines, by sticking on the ornaments with applicated rosettes, floral and snakelike ornaments, drawn flowers and other motifs. The pots of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms are of exceptional value. The potters from Pirot used to shape figural cheramics thus emhasizing the main characteristics of the person ( with femails those were clothes and extremely slim waste and with mails beard, moustaches and arms ) .
The artistic value and beauty of the Pirot pottery could influence the contemporary artists who make designs in cheramics as well as the inexperienced potters. The Pirot traditional pottery is widely recognized in Serbia as well as all over Europe.