I don’t know about you, but to me the thought of putting my hands in wet clay and slowly but surely creating a thing of beauty sounds completely tranquil and serene. I have often thought pottery making would be a fantastic thing to do and the artists that create pottery must be truly peaceful and happy people.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says that pottery is clay that is modeled, dried, and fired, usually with a glaze or finish, into a vessel or decorative object. Clay is a natural product dug from the earth, which has decomposed from rock within the earth’s crust for millions of years. Decomposition occurs when water erodes the rock, breaks it down, and deposits them. It is important to note that a clay body is not the same thing as clay. Clay bodies are clay mixed with additives that give the clay different properties when worked and fired; thus pottery is not made from raw clay but a mixture of clay and other materials.
The potter can form his product in one of many ways. Clay may be modeled by hand or with the assistance of a potter’s wheel, may be jiggered using a tool that copies the form of a master model onto a production piece, may be poured into a mold and dried, or cut or stamped into squares or slabs. The method for forming pottery is as varied as the artisans who create them.
Pottery must be fired to a temperature high enough to mature the clay, meaning that the high temperature hardens the piece to enable it to hold water. An integral part of this firing is the addition of liquid glaze (it may be painted on or dipped in the glaze) to the surface of the unfired pot, which changes chemical composition and fuses to the surface of the fired pot. Then, the pottery is called vitreous, meaning it can hold water.
The History of Pottery
Potters have been forming vessels from clay bodies for millions of years. When nomadic man settled down and discovered fire, the firing of clay pots was not far behind. Pinch pots, made from balls of clay into which fingers or thumbs are inserted to make the opening, may have been the first pottery. Coil pots, formed from long coils of clay that are blended together, were not far behind. These first pots were fired at low temperatures and were thus fragile and porous. Ancient potters partially solved this by burnishing the surfaces with a rock or hard wood before firing. These low-temperature fired pots were blackened by these fires. Decoration was generally the result of incisions or insertions of tools into soft clay. Early potters created objects that could be used for practical purposes, as well as objects that represented their fertility gods.
By 4000 b.c., the ancient Egyptians utilized finer clays and fired the pieces at much higher temperatures in early kilns that removed the pots from the direct fire so they were not blackened from the fire. Closer to 1000 b.c., the Chinese used the potter’s wheel and developed more sophisticated glazes. Their pottery was often included in funeral ceremonies. In the first millennium b.c., the Greeks began throwing pots on wheels and creating exquisite forms. Pre-Colombians, ancient Iberians, the ancient Romans (who molded pottery with raised decoration), and the ancient Japanese all created beautiful pottery for domestic use as well as for religious purposes.
In America, the Native Americans have been creating pottery for thousands of years and their pottery is truly beautiful and unique.
For me, owning a pottery piece brings to mind a feeling of serenity and tranquility that only something from nature can inspire. Everyone should have at least one piece of pottery in their home! Please feel free to leave your comments below!
I also have some articles on the brief history of stained glass, the simple beauty of pottery, hand carved wood, handmade pottery from Nicaragua, handcrafted wood decor, stained glass lamps, handcrafted wooden boxes called Waka Huia, handcrafted wreaths, tapestries, the beauty of stained glass, people that create art with their hands, and carving wood into art. I hope you take a few moments to read them and thanks so much! For more about me, go to the About Me page above.