Introduction to Pottery

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Pottery is the ceramic art of making pottery goods.  There are three major types of pottery: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.  The term pottery is also the name given to the place where pottery goods are made and the actual art and craft of the potter.

Pottery is made by shaping/molding a body of clay into a preferred shape and then heating this shape in high temperatures until all the water is removed and the clay becomes hardened and the shape set.

History

Pottery is one of the world’s oldest known handicrafts performed by humans. Back as far as 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic period it is believed to have begun.  In those days especially in the Middle East and Africa the lifestyle of the nomadic hunters was transitioning into farmers who were planting crops. Baskets were well used in these times but the one problem that they had was the inability to hold water. This is why pottery was born.

They needed something new to fill this void, but it had to be light to carry. Since clay was in great supply and was easily shapeable it was the chosen material and through trial and error the tribes began to understand what was possible with this new form of this material. Especially what happens to it when it dried.  It was the Egyptians who invented the kiln to fire the pots to dry them out at a faster pace.

It was the Greeks who made it an art form and the Chinese who created porcelain. In medieval times they discovered that mixing sand with clay made it strong enough hold over fire. So the art of pottery has evolved to what we love. It is an ancient art form that is used in every day life.

Clay

There are many materials that are referred to as clay. What sets this apart from each other are the properties that each type of clay possesses. These properties include plasticity, malleability of the body, what extent they will absorb water after firing and the amount of shrinking the particular material will have when being fired. Here are a few clay types that are generally used for pottery:

  • Kaolin, this was first used in China and is sometimes referred to as China Clay.
  • Ball clay, this clay is plastic, fine-grained clay that also may contain organic matter. Small Amounts of Ball clay can be added to porcelain to increase plasticity.
  • Fire Clay. This is also plastic clay, which is highly heat resistant. This clay can be added to other clays to increase their firing temperature.
  • Stoneware Clay. This is obviously for creating stoneware.

Shaping Pottery

There are a number of ways to shape pottery. Lets take a look at a few ways that are used today.

The earliest way that potters used to shape their work was by hand building.  Coils of clay are constructed by hand, this is done by combining flat slabs of clay or pinching solid balls of clay or using a combination of both. Parts of hand built clay pieces are joined together by the aid of a slip. A slip is the suspension of clay body and water. Potters find that hand building is best to create one off pieces of work.

One of the well-known ways of making pottery is by The Potter’s Wheel.  The process used here is called throwing. You place a ball of clay in the center of turntable, known as the wheel-head;the potter rotates this turntable by using a stick using their own foot power or now a days an electric motor. Through this process, the wheel rotates while the soft clay is pressed, squeezed and molded gently upwards and outwards into a hollow shape. There are five steps when creating apiece using the Pottery wheel:

  1. Centering, Pressing the ball of clay into perfect rotational symmetry,
  2. Opening, making the ball of clay hollow,
  3. Flooring, making flat or rounded bottom inside the pot,
  4. Throwing/Pulling. Drawing up the walls of the pot and creating an even thickness,
  5. Trimming/Turning. Removing excess clay.

A lot of skill and expertise is needed to successfully use the Potters Wheel, and due to its limitations your creativeness is restricted.  Other methods you can use are:

Granulate Pressing is shaping pottery by pressing clay in a semi-dry and granulated condition into a mould. This method is widely used in making ceramic tiles and plates.

Injection molding is a process that was adapted for the tableware industry and this method is used for the forming of thermoplastic and metal components. This method is great for mass production of complex pieces but is not as widely used as other shaping methods.

Jiggering and Jolleying are methods that are carried out on a Potter’s Wheel. Jiggering is when a shaped tool is brought into contact with plastic clay; this tool is set on a rotating plaster mould on the potter’s wheel. Jiggering is used for the creation of flat wares. Jollering is the named used for the same method but is used to make hollow objects such as cups. These methods are often automated and can be performed by semi- skilled workers.

Using a Roller Head Machine is another way to mass-produce pieces using semi skilled workers. This method uses a rotating mould to create pieces using a rotating shape.

With pottery there are many ways of decoration. You can use glazes, slips and impress surfaces. You can be as creative as you like with all these methods.

Pottery is a wonderful art form that is still practiced widely around the world and used in our everyday life. Have fun being creative and exploring the world of potter

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Decorating and Glazing in Pottery

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Pottery Decoration | Comments Off

Decorating and Glazing in PotteryOne way of decorating your pottery pieces is by a method known as Glazing. Glaze is a layer of glass like substance that has been fused to a ceramic piece. Glaze adds color; decoration to a ceramic piece and it also strengthens and waterproofs items. Glazing is a useful method to use on earthenware pieces, as they are unsuitable for holding liquids due to their porosity.  Glazing is used on stoneware and porcelain pieces as well.

Glaze on pottery pieces can have a variety of finishes, of gloss, matte and color. There are many ways to glaze your pieces. Most commonly pieces are dipped directly into the glaze, or you can dry dust the mixture over the clay, you can also pour the glaze over your piece or you can also spray it on with an airbrush.

Another method of glazing is Salt Glaze Pottery. In Salt Glaze Pottery, salt or soda is inserted in the kiln at high temperatures, which creates a sodium vapor that reacts with the aluminum sicilia oxides in the piece of clay, which forms and deposits the glass.

If you have decorated your pieces of pottery and then apply a glaze over the top then the decorations are known as under glaze.  If you decorate on the top of your glaze this is known as over glaze.

A fun ways of decorating your pottery pieces is to cut some sponges or soft foam into any shape that you desire. Using slip (slip is the liquefied suspension of clay particle in water), soak your cut out pieces and use them to decorate your pieces. You may wash your cut out foam to use different colors of slip.

Another way to decorate you piece is to leave impressions in the surface of the clay.  You can use a modeling tool to shape your clay and to make impressions on your damp clay pieces. To create impressions on your pieces you can use rubber stamps, rubber wheelies and also an odd, but very creative choice, is a pine cone that can make for very interesting impressions and designs.

Keeping with the plant theme branches and leaves can also be used to create artistic and interesting impressions.  Using twine to create impressions is another creative way, try the bottom of bottles or even baskets made of grass or whicker. You can be as creative as you want and use many objects that you can easily find around your home to create fantastic impressions on your pieces.

So there are many common ways to decorate your pieces, but you have an artistic license to get creative within each of these methods. Push the boundaries of your creativeness and have fun decorating your pottery pieces.  The best part about decorating your pottery is that it’s very relaxing. So you get to have a creative time and relax all at the same time.

photo credit: Sebastian Crump

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Ceramics Usage in Modern Technology

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Ceramics Usage in Modern TechnologyWhile you are at home today, have a look around and see how many electronic devices that would be unusable if it weren’t for the help of ceramics. In fact, a lot of what you see is ceramic based. It may not be apparent to the naked human eye, but ceramics plays an important role almost everywhere you look.  Next time you are looking out the windows of your house or out windows of your car that you drive, there are ceramic materials.

Don’t forget bricks, telephone and power insulators, tiles, crockery and toilet bowls. Every item listed requires the skills of a ceramic engineer to design and manufacture the materials that are required to perform their jobs. Another interesting fact is the bio-ceramics used on hip replacements and space shuttle tiles. Even during the war ceramics protected soldier. Being designed at the moment are ceramic engines that will be better for the environment and more fuel-efficient. So you can see how ceramics is being used in Modern Technology.

Functional ceramic materials that play roles in telecommunications and ultrasound imagery are piezoelectric materials. Piezoelectric are material substances that have the ability to be turned into mechanical signals (such as sound waves) into electrical signals, and vice versa. These qualities make them useful in the production of microphones, gramophone pickups, earphones, and also to create a spark for lighting gas flame.  These materials can be a number of items such as, crystals, some ceramics biological matter such as bones, proteins and DNA.

Ceramic Engineering is using science and todays technology to create gadgets from non-organic and non-metal materials. The process of ceramic engineering is either the process of heat or by using lower temperature to produce reactions from pure chemicals. The ceramic process follows this sequence.

  • Milling- this is the process of making larger sized materials into smaller sized material. Machinery usually performs milling.
  • Batching- this part of the process is sorting the oxides to recipes, in preparation for mixing and drying.
  • Mixing- this is a part of the process that is also done by machine, and is mixing the materials together.
  • Forming- this is the part of creating shapes from the   mixed materials.  Shapes like toilet bowls and even spark plugs are created.
  • Drying- this is the removal of the water and binder.  Tunnel dryers can be used or also can be dried by spray dryers.
  • Firing- this is the final part of the process when the dry pieces pass through a controlled heating process.  This is a process called sintering or bonding and is the chemical changes in Oxides.

From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep your day is filled with applications that require ceramics. It is intertwined in to our lives way more than most people have the knowledge of.

photo credit: Andrew “FastLizard4″ Adams

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How Blog Members Delivered Beautiful Ceramic Plant Pots

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 in Pottery Decoration | Comments Off

How Blog Members Delivered Beautiful Ceramic Plant Pots

As you know, this blog is dedicated to all things ceramics and in this blog post I want to talk about how excited I was to receive about three boxes of ceramic plant pots from my favorite retailer, Plantozoid through their blog members. It didn’t take long for the plant pots to be delivered and once I received them, I got right to planting my vegetable and herb seeds with my teenage daughter’s help. The ceramic plant pots came in a variety of patterns ranging from floral to animal print, and I ordered ceramic plant pots of different sizes since I wanted to plant tall and short plants in my hard along with small herb plants in the kitchen.

We First Started With The Tomatoes

The first thing we planted using the new ceramic plant pots were our Roma tomatoes. We fertilized and watered the tomatoes over a period of weeks and then we transferred the plant from the pots to the ground. A few weeks later, I went out in the yard to check on the Roma tomatoes and I saw the abundant harvest of them on the vines. My teenage daughter took plenty of photos of the newly planted tomatoes. We collected the tomatoes and spent the rest of the day making tomato preserves and canning them.

Moving On To The Green Onions

We then got a few of the beautiful ceramic pots that were delivered by the blog members and my teenage daughter is crazy about green onions since she started learning to cook entire meals by herself. She painted the outside of the plant pots in geometric shapes then we patted down the soil and added some water and fertilizer before adding in the green onion seeds. Within months we harvested about four bags of green onions to last us through part of next year.

Ceramic Plant Pots Are Not Just For Gardening

Flower Pot

These plant pots are also great for other purposes besides gardening. Since it was close to Easter, my teenage daughter and I laid some artificial grass in the bottoms of the plant pots and then we laid down pieces of dyed cloths before adding some packaged candies. Another thing we did was use the pots as storage for our garden supplies and it made for a less cluttered yard.

Check this video for some tips on how to make a ceramic flower pot. This is the same technique as we used.

Conclusion

Ceramic plant pots are sturdy, durable and can be used to plant just about anything. I use them for outdoor and indoor planting and these plants inspired my daughter to do more gardening of her own during the summer. The pots can be painted or marked on for decorative purposes and they are of high quality. With these pots we can also create crafts and I even gave a few extra plant pots away to neighbors who were planting for the first time. The ceramic pot plants are affordable and I buy them in bulk a few times a year. Finally, I enjoy them a lot and it makes my gardening more efficient.

 

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The Spirit of Traditional African Pottery

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Spirit of Traditional African PotteryJust recently I was lucky and privileged enough to be invited to attend the opening night of an exhibition on African pottery. This exhibition was being held at the Land Museum. It was a lovely evening and the art and company were incredible. I felt very blessed to have the opportunity to be one of the first people to experience the wonderful display of African Pottery.

The Museum itself is a work of art, and the wonderful attractive piece of architecture is erected on the side of the river. So the view while you walk around look at the numerous exhibitions it holds, is just as exciting and fun to enjoy as the art you are witnessing.

This most recent exhibition I attended was a wonderful display of African Pottery.   I was definitely impressed with the artist as it was the first time I had seen any of their work. I found it to be a very personal portrayal of African style of life.  I feel as though the story that the artist was trying to achieve was easily obtainable and not so abstract that it gave you a headache trying to work out.

From an Afro-American point of view, the spirit of the whole event was very grounding. The artists really captured the spirit of Africa and from my own personal point of view, were the best display of African culture in the modern art world.

I wasn’t the only guest in attendance that felt the same about the amazing art. Anybody that I spoke to, whether they were themselves an art expert, or they had visited Africa or were African themselves s all commented on how brilliant the exhibition was.  I was fortunate to have a conversation with a pottery hobbyist who was visiting from interstate and she happened to work for Citrus Data Center as a project manager.

She also loved the exhibition so much, she is even thinking of having a special piece commissioned by the artist. She is hoping to also purchase a piece of the African Pottery as she commented on how perfect it would go in her lounge room.  It was definitely an exhibition that will be talked about for sometime to come, and I know that I will pop back a couple of more times before it closes. There is just so much to take in and admire I really don’t want to let the opportunity of experiencing it again pass me by.

photo credit: Cliff

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Spirit of Ancient Greek Pottery

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Spirit of Pottery | Comments Off

Spirit of Ancient Greek PotteryAncient Greek Pottery is a very famous and one of the most studied forms of pottery.  Pieces of Ancient Greek Pottery that hails from c.1000 – c. 450 BC has very instinctive shaped vases but also diverse representation of Greek traditions and cultural beliefs.  Pieces of pottery from Ancient Greek times were painted with both abstract and realistic murals of everyday living in Greece and of course of the many Greek Gods and Goddesses.

The State of Art

The durable composition of the Greeks pieces has allowed the art to survive in tact and some in pieces for thousands and thousands of years. This is unlike the paintings and structures that didn’t last as well as the pottery pieces.  Often pottery provides us the most truthful look at Ancient Greece and the way they lived in those times.  Pottery was very important to the Greek way of life, they used it as a storage for items such as wine and wheat.

Really large jugs known as an Amphora were used for wine and fish oil, while smaller jugs known as Lekythos were used for smaller more home-style oils etc.  Due to the high iron content in the clay that surrounded Athens, the Greek pieces turned red when fired.  But the locals learnt by painting they could create other colors and designs. There were four main styles of pottery in Ancient Greece, geometric, Corinthian, red figure and black figure.

Nice Gift

My colleague and fellow author recently received as a gift an Ancient Greek vase that contains a fighting scene of men’s’ freestyle wrestling. Fantastically, this resembles the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - form of martial arts that he attends. He said it was a very beautiful, personalized gift.

It’s very soothing to see that things that were once used in past are still relevant today: this is a common thing for both pottery and martial arts, which stood the test of time.

Godlike

My colleague, who received the ancient piece of pottery, felt that the piece is such a sentimental gift that she won’t use it as it is so special. She has high places in house, so no kids will bump it, but in a spot that’s very visible. As soon as you enter the living room, the vase takes over your vision. It looks down on you in a Godlike position. She loves it and says that she can sit and stare at it for hours. I’m safe to say that it was a well received present.

photo credit: Dan Diffendale

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