Guide to Pottery

History of Pottery

The history of pottery goes almost as far back as the history of human beings. Before emerging as an industry, pottery was the only way household items and utensils were made. From Asia to Africa, pottery was one of the core elements in every civilization with rich variations of uses, materials and designs, environmental needs and inheritance.

With the passage of time and growth of human civilization, pottery started to emerge as a cottage industry. Asian countries (specifically the subcontinent) were more prominent in pottery making. Continued modernization and industrialization transformed pottery making into an industry focused on ornamental gifts and crafts. This orientation towards gifts and crafts added a high monetary value to pottery making and the era of its commercialization began.

Today, pottery is being manufactured in small and medium size industries as well as in small cottage industries. The ratio of pottery used as household utensils is very low (and is usually in rural areas) as compared to its use as crafts.

History and Evolution of Pottery: A detailed review of the history of pottery and the various stages of its evolution by

How Pottery Evolved: The timeline of ancient pottery

The Unique Chinese Pottery: Get an insight into the world's richest pottery culture

Pottery History for Kids: History of pottery in an easy to understand way

Pottery and its Types

Pottery can be best explained as the art and science of making pots, decorative utensils and other usables out of clay, sand or with some other ingredients mixed in them.

There are three major pottery types:

  • Earthenware
  • Stoneware
  • Porcelain

Each type is distinguished by its clay mixture and the temperature at which it is baked or fired. Earthenware is a pottery clay mixture that is fired at a lower temperature. The low baking temperature allows the use of colorful glazes but also yields pottery that cracks and chips more easily than other types. Stoneware pottery is made of a heavier clay mixture that gives it greater strength. Stoneware is fired at a much higher temperature to give a harder finish. Porcelain is the purest and the most delicate type of pottery. It is formed from kaolin, fine white clay mixed with controlled amounts of feldspar and flint which is then fired at a low temperature.

The Benefits and Value of Pottery: Pottery goes beyond mere monetary benefits; it is a means of expression for many.

The World's Most Famous Potters: An index of the most famous Potters from around the world

Ancient Pottery Database: A database of ancient pottery that provides a wealth of information.

Basic Process/Steps Involved in Pottery Making

Pottery making has emerged into its current shape after hundreds of improvisations; however, the basic process remains the same:

  • Material Identification - The first step in pottery making is raw material identification. It could be clay, sand, or any other suitable material (or a combination) based on the requirements. Hand-made pottery usually has a higher concentration of sand and clay.
  • Wedging - is the process of removing air molecules from the raw material and controlling the level of moisture in it. It can be done through vacuum machines as well as manually. After wedging, the material gets ready to be shaped.
  • Shaping - is one of the most important phases in pottery making. Various shaping techniques are used to mold the clay or sand into the required shape and size with all the required designing.
  • Designing and finishing - is the next phase in which the shaped pottery is delicately colored and finished with different variations in styles and themes. Use of stones and mirror embroidery is also very common and is in high demand. Hand designed, decorated and finished pottery carries a much higher aesthetic value than machine designed pottery.
  • Heating - After designing and finishing, the pottery is heated at very high temperatures. This is done to make it stable and more durable.

Pottery Making Illustrated: A magazine that provides intermediate to advanced potters with practical techniques, tips and information for the studio in a well-illustrated format.

Potters Council: A community of potters to share knowledge and ideas.

The Art of Shaping Pottery

The true value of pottery making is in the way it is shaped and designed. There are many different shaping techniques which are used in this industry, each having its own unique value.

  • Hand Crafting: This is the most valuable and oldest technique of shaping pottery. In hand crafting, a solid ball or slab of clay is molded into the required shape using hands and fingers in a specific manner. The resultant product is very fine and delicate.
  • Potter's Wheel: This is another very important pottery technique, which is widely used in cottage industries. In this technique, a clay ball or slab is placed on a potter's wheel which rapidly rotates. The pottery maker rotates the potter's wheel with one hand or foot, and shapes the clay ball or slab into the required form with the other hand. A dilute solution of clay and water is used as a lubricant during the process.
  • Mold Pressing: This technique is used to make similar types of pottery in large quantities. In this method, semi-solid clay granules or a ball is placed in the mold of any specific shape and is pressed. As a result, the clay gets the same shape as the mold and is then dried.
  • Injection Molding: This is a type of molding which is used in making complex shapes on a mass level. This technique is usually used in industries with mass pottery or ceramic production.

In addition to the techniques mentioned above, there are many other molding techniques which are used to shape pottery.

Guide to Buying the Best Pottery Wheel: The key factors to be considered while purchasing a potter's wheel

Glazing and Firing Pottery: A guide to various methods of glazing and firing your pottery

Set up your Home Pottery Studio: A beginner's guide to setting up a home pottery studio

Ancient Egyptian Pottery: Egypt is not all about Mummies! An insight into beautiful Egyptian pottery.

Pottery as an Industry

Pottery making is one of the biggest cottage industries in many developing countries and holds a strong financial value. Pottery making has a considerable share in the exports of the countries in which it is produced. The pottery made in Asian countries is particularly high in demand all over the world. It also provides a means of earning a decent living especially in the rural areas.

While pottery making is doing a lot of good as an industry, there are some concerns as well. The two most significant concerns are:

  • Negative effects on Potters/workers
  • Effects on the general environment

The negative effects of the working environment on the workers in pottery and ceramic industry include the internal environment of the facility, including the indoor air quality, over illumination, etc. However, these concerns apply only to the mass production of pottery and do not apply to hand-made pottery.

Top 12 Pottery Making Websites

How to Make Pottery: A step by step guide to making pottery
Ceramic Artists - Ceramic and pottery galleries for pottery lovers
Learn Ceramic Arts - Information and inspirations from inside the artists' studio
Lakeside Pottery - Learn pottery today!
Claystation Community - Discuss ceramic arts with the experts
Pottery Making Info - All the tools you need to make pottery
How to Make Pottery - A step by step guide to making pottery
Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent - Resources on the North Staffordshire pottery industry
Unique Chinese Pottery - Ancient Chinese pottery with all its colors
Ceramics and Pottery: Techniques, lessons, tutorials, and resources
Paint Pottery - Your pottery - Its fun!
Old Florida Pottery - Learn the rich history of pottery in Florida

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