What IS Terra Sigillata?

   Terra sigillata is a slip made of super fine particles of clay that will take a burnish. Its rich, reddish hue is due to a concentration of iron oxide in the clay. "Terra sigillata" is Latin for"sealed earth", (not from the burnishing, but from its origins).   The original terra sigillata clays , thought to have medicinal qualities, were dug on the island of Lemnos (located in the Northern Aegean opposite the Dardanelles) August 6th of each year. The clay was put into containers and thus the name.

Others believe that the term is a misnomer used by scholars stemming  from the word “sigil” or “seal”, owing to the relief work on some of the original pieces, called Barbotine.  Pieces finished with this red slip are also generally known as "Samian Ware".

This ultra fine slip was also used by earlier cultures such as the Minoans and Myceneans, but mostly seen in colors such as cream or buff, white and black rather than the red iron oxide color seen in Roman pottery. Pots finished in this way span from the Late Geometric or Hellenistic Period, about 750-BC, to the Late Roman Imperial Period, about AD 200; the finest Roman examples were made from 30BC to 200AD. 

     The dry, “greenware” is first burnished to sheen with a stone.   Terra Sigillata “slip” (refined clay) is then applied in several layers to coat the dry, unfired, burnished clay.  Each piece is then  individually hand polished with each successive coat using a piece of chamois leather.  The piece is fired once at 1620 degrees F /890 C.

A special thank you to Vince Pitelka for his recipe and easy to follow instructions in how to make terra sigillata and inspiring me to do Roman reproduction pottery.

For more information, please visit his website at:


 These Terra Sigillata wares are food safe, but care must be taken not to gouge the finish.  It is strongly recommended NOT to put these pieces in the dishwasher or microwave.  The pieces will darken when wet, but this will not damage them. Oil won't harm them either, although they may darken a bit. Over time, oil stains will generally clean right up with regular dish detergent and hot water.

  Pitchers are coated with 100% food grade beeswax, and can be washed with warm water (not hot) and regular dish detergent.  Uncoated plates, cups, and bowls can be safely washed with hot water. DO NOT subject the pieces to extreme changes in temperature, as it could cause fracturing.

 Stains: It is normal for these pieces to darken when wet, but if there are wine stains such as on the inside of a cup for example, the pieces can be immersed overnight in a mild bleach solution (see below).

 TO SANITIZE: Add 1/8 tsp of bleach to a bucket of water, soak overnight, and allow to dry thoroughly OR place in strong sun for a day.

c/o Julia Passamonti
12 Camino Romeroville
Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701
(505) 652-1033

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