The ancient origin and well-established regional characteristics of
Bulgarian pottery-making can be seen in the shape, decoration
and execution techniques of folk ceramics.
According to Bulgarian folk mythology, the potter's work is
sacred. It was believed that the mastering of this craft was
a mystery, jealously kept within the family. As late as the 18th-19th
centuries this generally accepted rule was broken and "outsiders"
were admitted too.
By the beginning of the 19th century, there were already several
major ceramics centers. Towards the mid-19th century this craft
reached its zenith in the towns of Troyan, Gabrovo, Berkovitza,
Razlog, Aitos, Chiprovtzi, the village of Boussintzi, and the Sofia region. The well-organized market in all parts of
the country resulted in an interaction of techniques and artistic
principles. Still, some of the regions retained their specific
preferences for particular shapes, patterns of decoration and
Functionally, earthenware adhered to the specific characteristics
of copper vessels, very often with an identical form. Special-purpose
pottery included the wedding wine-vessels (krondiri), wedding
brandy flasks, carried in the waist-band, rukatki (vessels for
carrying food to field toilers), etc.
Apart from pottery for everyday usage, potters used to make objects
connected with Christian cults: baptismal fonts, holy water bowls,
Some pieces are unornamented and without glaze. Others, however,
like pitchers, dishes, krondiri, bowls are genuine works of art.
They were decorated using mineral dyes known as early as the Middle
Ages: yellow, green, brown, and red. Ceramics from Chiprovtzi are
executed in the different nuances of yellow and green, while
the Troyan pottery technique consists in letting drops, in white
and brown, trickle down the pot surface.
During the Revival, the
medieval decorative technique of sgraffito ceramics was still
alive in the Turnovo region.
There are also some
items with plastic
decoration. In this case the ornament is separately stuck to
the body of the pot. The designs complied with the general folk
traditions deeply rooted in folk beliefs. The magic function
of ceramics was achieved both through the representations of snakes,
rosettes, concentric circles or crosses and through the colours used.
Thus, for example, charms could be made only in a green bowl,
while people suffering from "samodival illness" used
to drink water only from a little green krondir.