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Pottery & Ceramics Glossary

Pottery & Ceramics Glossary

There is such a beautiful mix of historic, traditional and new methodologies in the ceramics world. It can be hard to keep up with everything, so we wanted to help by creating an informative pottery and ceramics glossary. Which terms or techniques should we add to the list? Let us know in the comments below! 

Ceramics - A family of materials characterized by their hard, heat-resistant properties. Common examples include clay, porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. Ceramics also refers to a large range of materials and products.

Pottery - The process of making objects with clay and other ceramic materials, then firing the pieces at high temperatures to make them hard. The term pottery also refers to the end products of this process.

Pottery Clay - Clay is a natural product made from particles of rock that is harvested from the earth. There are two main families of clay — primary and secondary — and there are additives in some clays to give them varying characteristics. There are many types of clay that potters use for their pieces. It’s important (and fun!) to experiment with different clay types and techniques until you find a material and style that really works for you.

Pottery Supplies - There are pottery supplies that you need to craft a finished piece. This can be everything from the pottery wheel to the kiln to the clay itself. To know what you need, think what you want to create and how do you want to create it? Answering these questions will help you to know exactly what you should be shopping for.

Pottery Tools - The instruments used by artists to create pottery pieces. These range from the basics of an apron and towels to handheld clay extrudersclay carversceramic trimming toolsgrinding discssanding padsrotary toolshole drillssticky bats and pads and more. 

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Ancient Greek Pottery - Since this type of pottery was able to survive for a long time, it was one of the main artifacts for ancient Greece. Typically, the pottery is black with clay images of people or animals. The black part of the pottery was created through a special wet mixture that was painted on the clay while it was still soft. When it was fired, the sections that were painted turned black. The un-painted sections remained the clay color. Many are decorated with illustrations of daily life in ancient Greece, as well as geometric patterns and the black or red figures.

Bisque Pottery - Instead of glazing your pottery before firing it, bisque — or biscuit — is unglazed. It usually is the step before pottery is glazed, but it can be left as is. This type of pottery has a very natural look.

Celadon Pottery - In the past, the Chinese valued this type of pottery because it resembled teal-green jade. This color is achieved by having an iron-rich slip applied to the piece before it is fired. Today, ancient pieces that are damaged still have value.  

Coiled Pottery - The potter rolls a lump of clay into a long strand. To create a piece, the strand is coiled in horizontal layers, gradually building up the walls of the piece. Coiled layers are pinched together to prevent gaps and to smooth the surface of the piece.

Collared Rims - Consists of a raised band or series of bands at the base of the neck of a pottery piece. This decoration usually occurs between the junction of the neck and the body of the vessel instead of directly on the rim of the piece.

Cord-Decorated Pottery - The edges of the ceramic piece are often decorated with the edge of a cord-wrapped paddle, producing vertical or diagonal impressions. The exteriors are cord-marked by slapping the moist clay with a paddle. 

Delftware - English or Dutch pottery that is tin-glazed. Usually, it is decorated by hand with blue on a white background. If it is a high-quality piece, it can be worth between $3,000 and $6,000. If it is rarer, it can be worth twenty times as much.

Fabric-marked Pottery - Complex designs are sometimes added to the outside of pottery pieces by laying a fabric on top and gently pressing it into the moist clay. This makes it possible to study the fabrics used in the past even without the actual fabric. 

Fluted Pottery - This pottery type has grooves that create a form of decoration on its surface. These grooves usually run vertically and can start or stop just below the top of the piece. 

Greenware Ceramics - This is unfired clay that is starting to harden. It is leather-like in texture and usually is the stage when the artist will carve. Greenware has three stages: when it’s very wet and moldable, when it’s leather-like stage and when it is dried out and can be fired. At create-your-own-pottery stores, for example, this is where you would be able to paint the pottery before it is put into the kiln. 

Horsehair Pottery - The name of this type of pottery is exactly what it sounds like. This pottery is decorated using the mane and tail hair of horses. Before the piece is completely fired, it is removed to be decorated with the hair.

Kaowool - Blended using a mixture of high-purity ceramic fibers and high-temperature mullite fibers, kaowool is able to survive at very high temperatures. It was one of the first high temperature wools invented and still used today.

Kintsugi Pottery - This is a Japanese form of art where the artist puts broken pieces of pottery back together using gold (not always real and instead is made up of a blend of other metals). The idea is that the broken pieces put back together accept the flaws of the piece and make something even more beautiful.

Irish Pottery - Many people believed that most of this type of pottery was initially made without being fired and instead set out to dry. It is made from the regular raw materials, such as flint, kaolin, feldspar, clay and shale. The term for Irish Pottery is Belleek. 

Majolica - Historically, majolica pottery was made through a tin-glaze process that resulted in an opaque white glazed surface. These pieces are traditionally decorated with brush paintings. From the Victorian period, a simplified version of majolica pottery arose with colored lead glazes applied directly to unfired clay.

Mexican Pottery - This is the most versatile type of Mexican Folk Art. It helps to show the culture as well as the historic and geographic differences in the nation. Most of these pieces are covered with white stucco and then painted. Bright red, blue, orange and green colors are used to create beautiful patterns on much of the pottery. 

Nemadji Pottery - Random swirls of earth-tone colors are used to create these unglazed pottery pieces. Initially they were thought to be created by Native Americans, but instead were made by a company that made it seem that way. 

Newcomb Pottery - This type of pottery was produced between 1895 and 1940. To know if you have a Newcomb piece, check to see if it has a NC marked on it, for Newcomb College Pottery. Usually, these pieces are white and blue with a plant design carved or painted onto them. 

Raku Pottery - This is a type of Japanese pottery most often used during tea ceremonies. Typically, it is low-fire and harder to get good results with Raku, making it more valuable. 

Salt Glazed Pottery - This kind of pottery looks more antique due to the salt that is thrown onto the ceramic piece as the kiln reaches the highest temperature. Picture salt melting ice in small patches; that is what it looks like on the finished piece of pottery. The glaze will be speckled where the salt landed during the firing process. 

Talavera Planter - Talavera means of Spanish origin. This finished piece looks similar to Mexican pottery. It has bright colors and can be used inside or out to plant anything from small succulents or flowers to larger plants. 

Talavera Pottery - A Spanish and Mexican pottery tradition originating from Talavera de la Reina in Spain. This is a type of majolica pottery, characterized by its white tin-glaze. Typically decorated primarily in blues, other colors are used on these pieces.

Terracotta Pottery - This type of pottery is one of the most natural types. It is clay-based and usually unglazed. The term terracotta also refers to the red-orange color. Usually, you will see this used as plant pots. 

Wheel - The rotating, horizontal platform used to throw (or shape) round pottery pieces or to trim and decorate ceramics. 

Wide-strap Handles - Wide-strap handles are commonly seen today on mugs. These are handles that are wider, designed to provide a better grip. In the past, wide-strap handles were typically used on kettles and other containers to support the weight of the items while being carried.

Woodland Pottery - Woodland Pottery was created during the Woodland Period of North American prehistory, about 1000 BC to  AD 1000. It is quite thick compared with the pottery created by more recent  cultures. Complex designs were often added to the pieces by stamping, puncturing and cutting the surface.


If you have any questions when it comes to choosing and buying the right pottery tools, we’re here to help! Leave a comment here on the blog, send us an email or get in touch with our team on social media. We’re on Facebook and Instagram!

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