My burning question when I think of pottery and ceramics, what’s the difference? Yes, that’s how uninformed I am. If you already know, you can skip this paragraph! Pottery is actually a type of Ceramic. The term ‘Ceramic’ refers to anything made with clay and the slow chemical process of clay being heated to 600 degrees C/1112 degrees F causing it to lose its chemically bound water molecules and its ability to be broken down by water. Once this change occurs it can’t be reversed. So, Pottery as we know it is actually a type of Ceramic, as is Earthenware, Terracotta, Porcelain and Stoneware…and technically bricks, bathroom fixtures, electric insulators, tiles, sculptures etc.
So, on to the history lesson.
The earliest pottery discovered dates back to the 11th millennium BC and was found in
|An ancient Egyptian amphora from the later part of the 18th Dynasty. Located inthe Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.|
Image Courtesy of Kallie Szczepanski, Asian History Guide
The potter’s wheel dates back roughly to 3000 BC. When a piece is hand formed it is impossible to create a perfectly round vessel or plate. The solution to this problem is the potter’s wheel, the invention of which was a turning point in the history of ceramic. The true date of the potter’s wheel is unknown. Archeologists believe the development of the potter’s wheel has been a slow progression beginning with a platform the potter was able to turn to easily reach all sides of a piece, rather than walking around it. Discoveries in what was
Mesopotamia date a simple revolving wheel in the midst of potter’s equipment back to 3000 BC. This is the first recorded potter’s wheel.
|Platoons of clay soldiers buried with China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, to accompany him during his eternal rest|
Photographby O. Louis Mazzatenta from NationalGeographic.com
|Ancient Greek pottery krater, a vessel used to mix water into wine, in the calyx, or flower-shaped, form |
Image Courtesy of Henri Sivonen ©2007
Clearly, the creation and use of ceramic is a commonality shared by the human species on a global scale. Without knowledge or sharing of technology, all of these various cultures developed the concept of combining clay with heat to create ceramic. White porcelain-like ceramic dating back to 1100 AD has been found in
Iran and Turkey. Gray stoneware has been found in tombs of the Silla dynasty (300-900 AD) in Korea. Terracotta figures found in Africa date from 400 BC. And south American pottery dates from 3200 BC while Mayan ceramics date to 1500-1000 BC.
In North America the Mound Builders of the
produced painted, modeled and incised ware in the 1st millennium BC. In the Southwestern US, fin pottery was made by the ancestors of the Mississippi Valley Pueblo peoples, notably the red-on-buff ware of the Hohokam and the polychrome ware of the Anasazi, both adorned with human and animal figures. The ancient tradition has been carried on into modern Pueblo pottery, notably in the work of Maria Martinez, who is widely known for her burnished black ware.
There is a strong tradition of studio artists working in ceramics in the
|Beatrice Wood, Vessel, 1972-73, |
Stoneware, glazed, 5½in. x 4in. x 4in.,
Gift of Donald and Bernice McKenna
|Robert Arneson, Casualty in the Art Realm|
Palm Springs Desert Museum
Palm Springs, CA
Throughout the month of April we will introduce you to some amazing AP Team and Etsy ceramic artists. We will explore the different types of clay, the process of throwing a pot (not against the wall), hand shaping, firing, glazing and so much more.
If you're curious and would like to learn more about the terminology of ceramics and pottery, check out Ken Turner Pottery Glossary of Ceramic Terms.