The potter workshop is considered the most ancient of the manufactured industries, all because in the pre-historical period, the humans started to replace the ceramical vases with the containers made with “porongos”, conconuts and calabash, from other hard skin products used to store food.
The clay objects handmakers and the creation of potter workshops occured in the neolitical period, when people and the society started to make more sophisiticated instruments, in order to solve the food storage, or food preparation problem, from the agricultural and pastoral productions, main feature of the neolitical revolution.
There are ceramical items (handcrafted) found in the lands that actually are part of the european mainland that are from the year 6000 bC, but the first bricks were only made in europe in 1200 bC, showing the probable date of creation of the first potteries in the old continent land.
The pottery in Ribatejo and Asseiceira
The pottery are is extinguished in almost the whole Ribatejo, where many places once lived from this occupation Canha, Marinhais, Vale de Estacas, Ribeira Branca, Árgea, Ourém, Charneca da Peralva, Alferrarede, Medroa, Olho de Boi, Valhascos (Sardoal), Penhascoso and Mação.
Asseiceira used to have more than 30 clay pot workers. Today, there are only one or two left, working with clay. Many came to the conclusion that where the clay pots were sold, also could find jugs, bowls, coffee pots, pans, vases, chestnut spits, bowls used to extract resin from pinetrees, between otherclay articles. This way, the clay workers had a bigger article range, recomposing part of clay modelling history that way, that evolves the medieval clay pottery and the discovery times in Tagus Valley.
The pots ans jugs and the “jobs” to separate olive oil
Olive oil extraction is typical from the ancient people of the Mediterranean. In Europe, the first sign of olive use, in its wild state, comes from Bronze age and was verified in northern Italy. Although, the Greeks were the ones that improved the olive tree culture and used the techniques to extract the olive oil. The mechanical principle was reused, pefected and difunded by the Romans.
The container destined to clear and separate olive oil was frequently carved in the ground, in a lower plan from the squeezer, or from the torcularium base.
This process of carving or building the recipient that colected the liquids from the olive milling and compression below the soil natural surface was followed in the Iberic Peninsula by the Muslims.
As time and history passed by, the resevoirs that were built in the ground to collect the “dirty water” and olive oil were replaced with clay pots.
Industrial development and the important role given to olive tree plantation, that were mainly important and developed in Portugal during the 18th and 19th century, allowed the customs and use preservation, that were only surpassed by contemporary technology.
The Romans were the ones that generalized the use of big clay pots to store and maintain olive oil.
The pottery, due to its specific nature, matched, for more that three millenniums, the progress requirements, becoming irreplaceable, during many centuries.
In «Regimento dos lagareiros dos lagares de azeite» – document that ruled the workers from olive oil press -, dated 1572, is written that in all the olive oil press should exist pots for olive oil keeping, In documents from the 16th century is made common the use of that “well-belted” vases, as well as clay pots, measuring from 18 to 20 bushels, that increased its sizes during time, and that were produced with the exact form of the roman “dólios”, in many of Alentejo’s potery centers.
In Asseiceira, although, other less well known clay vase, named “tarefa”, is used to separate olive oil from the “dirty water”. It’s not known yet by what point “tarefas” were insuperable and irreplaceable.
In Asseiceira’s potterys surrounding areas, besides pots and clay jars, it used to be frequent finding “tarefas”, waiting temper or the harding needed before going to the oven.
This local potteries were the suppliers of “tarefas” to the olive oil press of the nearby places, but also to the ones in Sertã, Pombal, Lousã, Góis and Ponte de Mucela (Vila Nova de Poiares).
The art of clay kneading
In Portugal, clay pot wotkers still use today many ways of clay kneading. They can smash it reducing it to dust with a presser, sift it, and then dilute it by mixing with water, being knead and whopped over a stone table. The clay can also be stepped with the workers’ feet after being diluted and removed from the tanks where remained a few days.
A really udimentary tool is used by some traditional pottery workers, named “amassador” – kneading, or “atafona”, “moinho”, “engenho”, “foca” or “maromba”.
Herança e Tradição – Heritage and Tradition
After clay preparing ina more than 70 years old machine, named “fieira” – spinneret, the clay is ready to be slowly molded, giving body to the desired items. They can be big or small, with many different uses.
José Miguel started with his father, that by his way learned from his grandfather, the beatiful art of clay working.