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Borodino, Bessarabia Pottery (earthenware ceramics)


In Borodino, ceramic potters were called Haefner (from Hafen=Topf), who produced various ceramic domestic untensils/containers as earthenware [versus wooden domestic utensils/containers as “treenware”].

In our era (1810-1940) in Borodino, any intellectual inquiry of historic pottery, as whether band or coil ceramics of a prehistoric era was an unknown curiosity. These were important utilitarian vessels for daily domestic use. In Borodino, earthenware potters produced functional utensils necessary for their ethnic German household, (usually using faster-skilled “wheel-thrown” cylinder technique, much preferred over coil-built technique.

The early arrival and particular origins of ceramic pottery production in Borodino village is vague. A resident potter family trekking from Poland had settled originally in Kloestitz, before re-establishing in Borodino. Members of the Frey family (Wilhelm, Gottlieb (son), Adolf (grandson), Eduard (grandson), Reinhold Reinhardt (brother-in-law of Gottlieb) and Johannes Reinhardt (Reinhold’s brother) practiced ceramic pottery vocations in Borodino, according to Hugo Haefner. Haefner also names Philipp Stauber and his son Martin as potters.

These men must have apprenticed and journey-mastered these skills, before emigrating to Borodino from Germany, although no oral or written documentation is available. This information fragment from Haefner still stands verified as correct, since a Stauber was residing in Borodino. Christian Hoeger was a potter only a brief time.

Raw material for pottery production is clay with special variations. In Borodino, clay was called “Letten”. Kaolinite, the basic substance of clay, is also the important component of “Kaoline”, also a necessity for fine porcelains. The distinction between “letten” and kaoline is the purity difference in kaolinite. Letten is premeated with impurities of ferric oxides, quartz, feldspar, and coarse rock.

After “bisque-firing”/intense baking, the porous earthenware shows their common rusty-pink color from ferric oxides. However, many impurities are mechanically removed from “sledge” sediment. Producing earthenware’s desirable “clay body” is achieved in the following phases: 1) repetitive kneading of letten material with water in a pliable stiff dough; 2) frequent kneading for removing coarse impurities; 3) forming “centrifugal-thrown” cylinders/bowls/crocks/jars on the potter’s wheel; 4) air-drying completed forming of clay items; 5) a “bisque-fire” baking in a wood-fueled kiln/oven; 6) after cooling, apply a wood-ash slurry glaze by dipping or brushing; and 7) after drying, a second intense baking in the kiln, called the final glaze-fire. The work skills of a potter can only be briefly sketched. For further information, read the documentary report of Hugo Haefner in the Heimatkalender 1981.

During my school-days youth, I was allowed by the Frey family to watch at their workshop the various processes to produce this earthenware: bowls, plates, cups, wine jugs (for drink in the barley and wheat fields), flowerpots, milk pots, cream pots, and canning-preserve jars. Other potters are presumed to have a similar selection. The women filled their purchasing needs for earthenware directly with the producer potter. The surplus inventory was displayed at the trade market by the potter himself to sell merchandise there.

According to material and technique, pottery is related to the manufacture of baked clay bricks or cinder blocks, called “bricks” in Borodino. Thin contoured glazed ceramic bricks became inter-locking “roof tiles”, which often replaced thatched roofs on the village’s farmhouses. Bricks (mauerziegel) were not produced as building material in Borodino, despite a large common need. Foundations were laid of roughly hewn sand stone, before erecting rammed-clay walls or “batzen” blocks/clumps of sun-dried clumps of clay and straw. “Batsen” is a distinctive adobe block manufactured by ethnic German settlers.

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