Make your own pottery

Working with clay can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. It can also be intimidating for those who have never created pottery art before. This guide can help you get started.

While the terms ceramics and pottery are largely interchangeable, ceramics is actually a broader term that refers to both pottery and porcelain. The main difference between pottery and porcelain is that porcelain is translucent, whereas pottery is opaque.

Pottery Basics

There are three major types of pottery: stoneware, earthenware and porcelain. Each type has a different clay mixture and must be fired (heated in a special oven) at a different temperature. While firing may seem like a simple process, it is actually one of the most important parts of creating pottery. The temperature and timing must be precise or the essential chemical reactions will not take place and the finished product will not look as it should, nor will it be durable enough to withstand frequent use.

Stoneware is a strong, heavy clay mixture that is fired at a very high temperature. Stoneware has the hardest finish and is the most durable of the three major types of pottery. Earthenware is fired at a lower temperature. This allows for more creative shapes and glazes, but it also results in a finished product that is less durable and more easily chipped than stoneware. Porcelain is made from a fine white clay called kaolin. It is the most delicate form of pottery and must be fired at a low temperature.

Art Pottery

Creating art pottery can be rewarding, but it involves more than just playing with clay. The first step is to prepare the clay for "throwing." Throwing involves putting the clay on the pottery wheel and using various tools, as well as your hands, to work the clay into a shape.

A pinch pot can be created by using your hands to press and shape the clay (no pottery wheel is needed with this method). Altering involves carving decorations into the clay while the clay is still wet. Bisquing is a "pre-cooking" stage for pottery that is fired at high temperatures. Bisquing makes the clay hard and porous so that it will absorb glazes in high-temperature firing.

Ceramics and Pottery Supplies

Essential pottery supplies include a pottery wheel, pottery glazes and a firing kiln. A pottery wheel is a machine used to shape the clay into round ceramic pieces, such as pots and bowls. Pottery glazes come in different compositions, colors and thicknesses. There are two standard recipes for glazes: the percentage recipe and the base glaze recipe. 

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