Beginner’s Guide to Pottery Art

For an amateur, pottery can look complicated and too sophisticated. Creating artful objects out of clay looks intimidating to some. But with the right information, one will quickly fall in love with this art and practice it with ease. Pottery is one of the oldest inventions of humans, and it has been practiced before the Neolithic Era as pottery objects stretching back in time as far back as 29,000 BCE have been found. 

In the pre-historic days, pottery was confined to the lower echelons of the society, but in the 21st century, that is changing rapidly as many consumers are making demands. Analysts agree that the future of pottery never looked better than now. This piece is going to examine the remarkable history behind pottery art.  

History of Pottery

It is believed that the invention of the first potter’s wheel happened in Mesopotamia in the period between 6,000 and 4,000 BCE. The advent of the wheel truly revolutionized pottery and the way people fashioned clay. With the wheel, potters did not need to use their hands whille molding the clay. Therefore, they were able to experience with new designs and styles. 

Even though pottery had always possessed inherent artistic characteristics, the potter’s wheel improved everything and made these features a lot more advanced and detailed. Rather than using the pottery products for just household and other tasks, the products started serving artistic and aesthetic purposes. 

Although archaeologists discovered the oldest kinds of pottery items were unglazed and hand-made clay cylinders with no decorations, by 6,000 BCE, regions like India, China, Middle East, and even Europe had already crafted several styles and designs for their pottery projects. 

From the colorful and elaborate pots from Egypt to the intricate clay bowls complete with animal figure designs, ceramists could achieve excellent ability levels, unlike what was procured in the past – all thanks to the advent of the potter’s wheel. 

Getting Started – What is Pottery? 

Pottery is a form of art in which clay or other ceramic materials are used to form vessels, containers, and other projects. To increase their hardness and durability, these objects are subjected to high temperatures. The main kinds of pottery are stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware. It is also essential to point out that the potter works area is referred to as pottery. Hence, the name of the art and the location where it is practiced bear the same name. 

How is Pottery Done?

Before any art piece can be considered pottery, the clay-containing ceramic ware must have been subjected to high temperatures during processing. Before a potter creates this artwork either using the old hand method or a potter’s wheel, the clay body or ceramic must be formed first – that is the initial stage, and everything else is based on it.

After that, it is subjected to very high temperatures inside a kiln. The essence of this is to get rid of water from the clay. Once this is done, it becomes possible for the molded item to be transformed. This maximizes the durability and strength while also fixing the shape permanently. 

At this point, the potter can then decide to decorate the body or postpone the decoration until after the firing is done. But in some other techniques, the clay has to be adequately prepared before everything can be complete.

The next step is Kneading – a process through which the clay is pressed, folded, and massaged with the hands. By kneading, the remaining water in the clay is evenly spread all through the bulk. Once kneading is done correctly, then the clay is ready to be worked upon. 

After the kneading stage is complete, the next thing is the process known as de-airing. This can be done using a vacuum machine. The machine is connected to a pugmill and operated. Those who do not have a vacuum machine can use their hands to do the de-airing, which is known as wedging. Once the clay has undergone de-moisturizing and de-airing, it can then be formed into all kinds of shapes, and it is then dried and subjected to firing. 

Kinds of Pottery

In pottery, it is vital to know the type of clay used. Overall, clay can be grouped into stoneware, porcelain, or earthenware. Baked clay is used in crockery production, and the finishing is typically done in a glaze. As it is porous, earthenware pottery can develop cracks when subjected to heat or water, like when placed inside dishwashers. 

As for stoneware, it is one of the most well-known clay materials in use, and many tableware items are made from it. This is mainly because of its resistance to heat and water. It is also of several colors, like red, tan, white, or even speckled. The composition of stoneware can be varied depending on how the potter wants it. Smooth stoneware is the one that has the least quantity of impurities, while rough stoneware is the one that has a lot of additives. When you touch the bottom of a pot and feel the texture, you will get this point. 

Porcelain pottery is the one that shares a lot of features with glass. It is done using precise firing temperatures, and it is so complicated that it is reserved only for the most skilled potters. Porcelain pottery is not recommended for an amateur to begin with. The person can start with either stoneware or earthenware and become excellent with them before using porcelain. Advanced training is needed before one can become truly proficient with porcelain. 

Equipment Needed for Pottery

Amateur potters also needed to know the principal equipment they are going to need to create pottery. These are as follows: 

  • Kiln: This is very important, and it is used to fire and bake the glazes onto the pottery. Kilning is crucial as it is the process that changes the clay into a durable item. It is even more critical for pottery items that will be used, like cups, tableware, or vases. Kilns today can be wood-based, electricity-driven, or gas-based. 
  • Pottery Wheel: For those who want to do intricate designs with ceramic, a potter’s wheel is indispensable. There are manual types, and some others use electricity. For an amateur, it is good to start with the compact and portable pottery wheel. 
  • Pottery Modeling Stand: It is not obligatory, but it helps with forming the clay mold. 

Apart from these listed, other tools that a novice will need for pottery include sponges, wire, ribs, aprons, towels, fettling knives, chamois leather, potter’s needles, and brushes. Others are ribs, scrapers, throwing sticks, wooden ribs, and calipers. With all this information and tools, you are now a lot more confident to take on pottery’s artistic world. 

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