Pottery is the process of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made by a potter is also called a pottery (plural "potteries"). The definition of pottery used by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products." In archaeology, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, "pottery" often means vessels only, and figures etc. of the same material are called "terracottas". Clay as a part of the materials used is required by some definitions of pottery, but this is dubious.
Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, originating before the Neolithic period, with ceramic objects like the Gravettian culture Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine discovered in the Czech Republic dating back to 29,000–25,000 BC, and pottery vessels that were discovered in Jiangxi, China, which date back to 18,000 BC. Early Neolithic pottery artefacts have been found in places such as Jōmon Japan (10,500 BC), the Russian Far East (14,000 BC), Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.
Pottery is made by forming a ceramic (often clay) body into objects of a desired shape and heating them to high temperatures (1000-1600°C) in a kiln and induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing the strength and solidity of the object's shape. Much pottery is purely utilitarian, but much can also be regarded as ceramic art. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing.
Clay-based pottery can divided in three main groups: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. These require increasingly more specific clay material, and increasingly higher firing temperatures. All three are made in glazed and unglazed varieties, for different purposes. All may also be decorated by various techniques. In many examples the group a piece belongs to is immediately visually apparent, but this is not always the case. The fritware of the Islamic world does not use clay, so technically falls outside these groups. Historic pottery of all these types is often grouped as either "fine" wares, relatively expensive and well-made, and following the aesthetic taste of the culture concerned, or alternatively "coarse", "popular" "folk" or "village" wares, mostly undecorated, or simply so, and often less well-made.
All the earliest forms of pottery were made from clays that were fired at low temperatures, initially in pit-fires or in open bonfires. They were hand formed and undecorated. Earthenware can be fired as low as 600°C, and is normally fired below 1200°C. Because unglazed biscuit earthenware is porous, it has limited utility for the storage of liquids, and even eating off. However, earthenware has a continuous history from the Neolithic period to today. It can be made from a wide variety of clays, some of which fire to a buff, brown or black colour, with iron in the constituent minerals resulting in a reddish-brown. Reddish coloured varieties are called terracotta, especially when unglazed or used for sculpture. The development of ceramic glaze which makes it impermeable makes it a popular and practical form of pottery. The addition of decoration has evolved throughout its history.
Stoneware is pottery that has been fired in a kiln at a relatively high temperature, from about 1,100°C to 1,200°C, and is stronger and non-porous to liquids. The Chinese, who developed stoneware very early on, classify this together with porcelain as high-fired wares. In contrast, stoneware could only be produced in Europe from the late Middle Ages, as European kilns were less efficient, and the right sorts of clay less common. It remained a speciality of Germany until the Renaissance.
Stoneware is very tough and practical, and much of it has always been utilitarian, for the kitchen or storage rather than the table. But "fine" stoneware has been important in China, Japan and the West, and continues to be made. Many utilitarian types have also come to be appreciated as art.
Porcelain is made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). This is higher than used for the other types, and achieving these temperatures was a long struggle, as well as realizing what materials were needed. The toughness, strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.
Although porcelain was first made in China, the Chinese traditionally do not recognise it as a distinct category, grouping it with stoneware as "high-fired" ware, opposed to "low-fired" earthenware. This confuses the issue of when it was first made. A degree of translucency and whiteness was achieved by the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–906), and considerable quantities were being exported. The modern level of whiteness was not reached until much later, in the 14th century. Porcelain was also made in Korea and in Japan from the end of the 16th century, after suitable kaolin was located in those countries. It was not made effectively outside East Asia until the 18th century.
Before being shaped, clay must be prepared. Kneading helps to ensure an even moisture content throughout the body. Air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished either by a machine called a vacuum pug or manually by wedging. Wedging can also help produce an even moisture content. Once a clay body has been kneaded and de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques. After it has been shaped, it is dried and then fired.
There are several materials that are referred to as clay. The properties which make them different include: Plasticity, the malleability of the body; the extent to which they will absorb water after firing; and shrinkage, the extent of reduction in size of a body as water is removed. Different clay bodies also differ in the way in which they respond when fired in the kiln. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Prior to some shaping processes, clay must be prepared. Each of these different clays are composed of different types and amounts of minerals that determine the characteristics of resulting pottery. There can be regional variations in the properties of raw materials used for the production of pottery, and this can lead to wares that are unique in character to a locality. It is common for clays and other materials to be mixed to produce clay bodies suited to specific purposes. A common component of clay bodies is the mineral kaolinite. Other minerals in the clay, such as feldspar, act as fluxes which lower the vitrification temperature of bodies. Following is a list of different types of clay used for pottery.
Pottery can be shaped by a range of methods that include:
Pottery may be decorated in many different ways. Some decoration can be done before or after the firing.
Glaze is a glassy coating on pottery, the primary purposes of which are decoration and protection. One important use of glaze is to render porous pottery vessels impermeable to water and other liquids. Glaze may be applied by dusting the unfired composition over the ware or by spraying, dipping, trailing or brushing on a thin slurry composed of the unfired glaze and water. The colour of a glaze after it has been fired may be significantly different from before firing. To prevent glazed wares sticking to kiln furniture during firing, either a small part of the object being fired (for example, the foot) is left unglazed or, alternatively, special refractory "spurs" are used as supports. These are removed and discarded after the firing.
Some specialised glazing techniques include:
Firing produces irreversible changes in the body. It is only after firing that the article or material is pottery. In lower-fired pottery, the changes include sintering, the fusing together of coarser particles in the body at their points of contact with each other. In the case of porcelain, where different materials and higher firing-temperatures are used, the physical, chemical and mineralogical properties of the constituents in the body are greatly altered. In all cases, the reason for firing is to permanently harden the wares and the firing regime must be appropriate to the materials used to make them. As a rough guide, modern earthenwares are normally fired at temperatures in the range of about 1,000°C (1,830 °F) to 1,200 °C (2,190 °F); stonewares at between about 1,100 °C (2,010 °F) to 1,300 °C (2,370 °F); and porcelains at between about 1,200 °C (2,190 °F) to 1,400 °C (2,550 °F). Historically, reaching high temperatures was a long-lasting challenge, and earthenware can be fired effectively as low as 600°C, achievable in primitive pit firing.
Firing pottery can be done using a variety of methods, with a kiln being the usual firing method. Both the maximum temperature and the duration of firing influences the final characteristics of the ceramic. Thus, the maximum temperature within a kiln is often held constant for a period of time to soak the wares to produce the maturity required in the body of the wares.
The atmosphere within a kiln during firing can affect the appearance of the finished wares. An oxidising atmosphere, produced by allowing an excess of air in the kiln, can cause the oxidation of clays and glazes. A reducing atmosphere, produced by limiting the flow of air into the kiln, or burning coal rather than wood, can strip oxygen from the surface of clays and glazes. This can affect the appearance of the wares being fired and, for example, some glazes containing iron-rich minerals fire brown in an oxidising atmosphere, but green in a reducing atmosphere. The atmosphere within a kiln can be adjusted to produce complex effects in glaze.
Kilns may be heated by burning wood, coal and gas, or by electricity. When used as fuels, coal and wood can introduce smoke, soot and ash into the kiln which can affect the appearance of unprotected wares. For this reason, wares fired in wood- or coal-fired kilns are often placed in the kiln in saggars, ceramic boxes, to protect them. Modern kilns powered by gas or electricity are cleaner and more easily controlled than older wood- or coal-fired kilns and often allow shorter firing times to be used. In a Western adaptation of traditional Japanese Raku ware firing, wares are removed from the kiln while hot and smothered in ashes, paper or woodchips which produces a distinctive carbonised appearance. This technique is also used in Malaysia in creating traditional labu sayung.
In Mali, a firing mound is used rather than a brick or stone kiln. Unfired pots are first brought to the place where a mound will be built, customarily by the women and girls of the village. The mound's foundation is made by placing sticks on the ground, then:
[...]pots are positioned on and amid the branches and then grass is piled high to complete the mound. Although the mound contains the pots of many women, who are related through their husbands' extended families, each women is responsible for her own or her immediate family's pots within the mound.
When a mound is completed and the ground around has been swept clean of residual combustible material, a senior potter lights the fire. A handful of grass is lit and the woman runs around the circumference of the mound touching the burning torch to the dried grass. Some mounds are still being constructed as others are already burning.
A great part of the history of pottery is prehistoric, part of past pre-literate cultures. Therefore, much of this history can only be found among the artifacts of archaeology. Because pottery is so durable, pottery and shards of pottery survive from millennia at archaeological sites, and are typically the most common and important type of artifact to survive. Many prehistoric cultures are named after the pottery that is the easiest way to identify their sites, and archaeologists develop the ability to recognise different types from small shards.
Before pottery becomes part of a culture, several conditions must generally be met.
Pottery may well have been discovered independently in various places, probably by accidentally creating it at the bottom of fires on a clay soil. All the earliest vessel forms were pit fired and made by coiling, which is a simple technology to learn. The earliest-known ceramic objects are Gravettian figurines such as those discovered at Dolní Věstonice in the modern-day Czech Republic. The Venus of Dolní Věstonice is a Venus figurine, a statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BC (Gravettian industry).
Sherds have been found in China and Japan from a period between 12,000 and perhaps as long as 18,000 years ago. As of 2012, the earliest pottery found anywhere in the world, dating to 20,000 to 19,000 years before the present, was found at Xianrendong Cave in the Jiangxi province of China.
Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16,000 BC, and those found in the Amur River basin in the Russian Far East, dated from 14,000 BC.
The Odai Yamamoto I site, belonging to the Jōmon period, currently has the oldest pottery in Japan. Excavations in 1998 uncovered earthenware fragments which have been dated as early as 14,500 BC. The term "Jōmon" means "cord-marked" in Japanese. This refers to the markings made on the vessels and figures using sticks with cords during their production. Recent research has elucidated how Jōmon pottery was used by its creators.
It appears that pottery was independently developed in Sub-Saharan Africa during the 10th millennium BC, with findings dating to at least 9,400 BC and in South America during the 10,000s BC. The Malian finds date to the same period as similar finds from East Asia – the triangle between Siberia, China and Japan – and are associated in both regions to the same climatic changes (at the end of the ice age new grassland develops, enabling hunter-gatherers to expand their habitat), met independently by both cultures with similar developments: the creation of pottery for the storage of wild cereals (pearl millet), and that of small arrowheads for hunting small game typical of grassland. Alternatively, the creation of pottery in the case of the Incipient Jōmon civilisation could be due to the intensive exploitation of freshwater and marine organisms by late glacial foragers, who started developing ceramic containers for their catch.
In Japan, the Jōmon period has a long history of development of Jōmon Pottery which was characterized by impressions of rope on the surface of the pottery created by pressing rope into the clay before firing. Glazed Stoneware was being created as early as the 15th century BC in China. A form of Chinese porcelain became a significant Chinese export from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–906) onwards. Korean potters produced porcelain as early as the 14th century AD. Koreans brought the art of porcelain to Japan in the 17th century AD.
In contrast to Europe, the Chinese elite used pottery extensively at table, for religious purposes, and for decoration, and the standards of fine pottery were very high. From the Song dynasty (960–1279) for several centuries elite taste favoured plain-coloured and exquisitely formed pieces; during this period true porcelain was perfected in Ding ware, although it was the only one of the Five Great Kilns of the Song period to use it. The traditional Chinese category of high-fired wares includes stoneware types such as Ru ware, Longquan celadon, and Guan ware. Painted wares such as Cizhou ware had a lower status, though they were acceptable for making pillows.
The arrival of Chinese blue and white porcelain was probably a product of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) dispersing artists and craftsmen across its large empire. Both the cobalt stains used for the blue colour, and the style of painted decoration, usually based on plant shapes, were initially borrowed from the Islamic world, which the Mongols had also conquered. At the same time Jingdezhen porcelain, produced in Imperial factories, took the undisputed leading role in production, which it has retained to the present day. The new elaborately painted style was now favoured at court, and gradually more colours were added.
The secret of making such porcelain was sought in the Islamic world and later in Europe when examples were imported from the East. Many attempts were made to imitate it in Italy and France. However it was not produced outside of the Orient until 1709 in Germany.
Pottery was in use in South Asia dating back to prehistoric times, including areas now forming Pakistan and northwest India, during the Mehrgarh Period II (5,500–4,800 BC) and Merhgarh Period III (4,800–3,500 BC), known as the ceramic Neolithic and chalcolithic. Pottery, including items known as the ed-Dur vessels, originated in regions of the Saraswati River / Indus River and have been found in a number of sites in the Indus Civilization.
Despite an extensive prehistoric record of pottery, including painted wares, little "fine" or luxury pottery was made in the subcontinent in historic times. Hinduism discourages eating off pottery, which probably largely accounts for this. Most traditional Indian pottery vessels are large pots or jars for storage, or small cups or lamps, often treated as disposable. In contrast there are long traditions of sculpted figures, often rather large, in terracotta.
The earliest history of pottery production in the Fertile Crescent can be divided into four periods, namely: the Hassuna period (7000–6500 BC), the Halaf period (6500–5500 BC), the Ubaid period (5500–4000 BC), and the Uruk period (4000–3100 BC). By about 5000 BC pottery-making was becoming widespread across the region, and spreading out from it to neighbouring areas.
Pottery making began in the 7th millennium BC. The earliest forms, which were found at the Hassuna site, were hand formed from slabs, undecorated, unglazed low-fired pots made from reddish-brown clays. Within the next millennium, wares were decorated with elaborate painted designs and natural forms, incising and burnished.
The invention of the potter's wheel in Mesopotamia sometime between 6000 and 4000 BC (Ubaid period) revolutionized pottery production. Newer kiln designs could fire wares to 1,050 °C (1,920 °F) to 1,200 °C (2,190 °F) which enabled new possibilities and new preparation of clays. Production was now carried out by small groups of potters for small cities, rather than individuals making wares for a family. The shapes and range of uses for ceramics and pottery expanded beyond simple vessels to store and carry to specialized cooking utensils, pot stands and rat traps. As the region developed, new organizations and political forms, pottery became more elaborate and varied. Some wares were made using moulds, allowing for increased production for the needs of the growing populations. Glazing was commonly used and pottery was more decorated.
In the Chalcolithic period in Mesopotamia, Halafian pottery achieved a level of technical competence and sophistication, not seen until the later developments of Greek pottery with Corinthian and Attic ware.
The early inhabitants of Europe developed pottery in the Linear Pottery culture at about the same time as in the Near East, circa 5500–4500 BC. In the ancient Western Mediterranean elaborately painted earthenware reached very high levels of artistic achievement in the Greek world; there are large numbers of survivals from tombs. Minoan pottery was characterized by complex painted decoration with natural themes. The classical Greek culture began to emerge around 1000 BC featuring a variety of well crafted pottery which now included the human form as a decorating motif. The pottery wheel was now in regular use. Although glazing was known to these potters, it was not widely used. Instead, a more porous clay slip was used for decoration. A wide range of shapes for different uses developed early and remained essentially unchanged during Greek history.
Fine Etruscan pottery was heavily influenced by Greek pottery and often imported Greek potters and painters. Ancient Roman pottery made much less use of painting, but used moulded decoration, allowing industrialized production on a huge scale. Much of the so-called red Samian ware of the Early Roman Empire was in fact produced in modern Germany and France, where entrepreneurs established large potteries.
Pottery was hardly seen on the tables of elites from Hellenistic times until the Renaissance, and most medieval wares were coarse and utilitarian, as the elites ate off metal vessels. Imports from Asia revived interest in fine pottery, which European manufacturers eventually learned to make, and from the 18th century European porcelain and other wares from a great number of producers became extremely popular.
Early Islamic pottery followed the forms of the regions which the Muslims conquered. Eventually, however, there was cross-fertilization between the regions. This was most notable in the Chinese influences on Islamic pottery. Trade between China and Islam took place via the system of trading posts over the lengthy Silk Road. Islamic nations imported stoneware and later porcelain from China. China imported the minerals for Cobalt blue from the Islamic ruled Persia to decorate their blue and white porcelain, which they then exported to the Islamic world.
Likewise, Islamic art contributed to a lasting pottery form identified as Hispano-Moresque in Andalucia (Islamic Spain). Unique Islamic forms were also developed, including fritware, lusterware and specialized glazes like tin-glazing, which led to the development of the popular maiolica.
Most evidence points to an independent development of pottery in the Native American cultures, starting with their Archaic Era (3500–2000 BC), and into their Formative period (2000 BC – AD 200). These cultures did not develop the stoneware, porcelain or glazes found in the Old World. Maya ceramics include finely painted vessels, usually beakers, with elaborate scenes with several figures and texts. Several cultures, beginning with the Olmec, made terracotta sculpture, and sculptural pieces of humans or animals that are also vessels are produced in many places, with Moche portrait vessels among the finest.
In 2007, Swiss archaeologists discovered pieces of the oldest pottery in Africa at Ounjougou in Central Mali, dating back to at least 9,500 BC. The relationship of the introduction of pot-making in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa with the spread of Bantu languages has been long recognized, although the details remain controversial and awaiting further research, and no consensus has been reached.
Ancient Egyptian pottery begins after 5,000 BC, having spread from the Levant. There were many distinct phases of development in pottery, with very sophisticated wares being produced by the Naqada III period, c. 3,200 to 3,000 BC. During the early Mediterranean civilizations of the fertile crescent, Egypt developed a non-clay-based ceramic which has come to be called Egyptian faience.[note 1]. A similar type of body is still made in Jaipur in India. During the Umayyad Caliphate of Islam, Egypt was a link between early centre of Islam in the Near East and Iberia which led to the impressive style of pottery.
It is, however, still valuable to look into pottery as an archaeological record of potential interaction between peoples, especially in areas where little or no written history exists. Because Africa is primarily heavy in oral traditions, and thus lacks a large body of written historical sources, pottery has a valuable archaeological role. When pottery is placed within the context of linguistic and migratory patterns, it becomes an even more prevalent category of social artifact. As proposed by Olivier P. Gosselain, it is possible to understand ranges of cross-cultural interaction by looking closely at the chaîne opératoire of ceramic production.
The methods used to produce pottery in early Sub-Saharan Africa are divisible into three categories: techniques visible to the eye (decoration, firing and post-firing techniques), techniques related to the materials (selection or processing of clay, etc.), and techniques of molding or fashioning the clay. These three categories can be used to consider the implications of the reoccurrence of a particular sort of pottery in different areas. Generally, the techniques that are easily visible (the first category of those mentioned above) are thus readily imitated, and may indicate a more distant connection between groups, such as trade in the same market or even relatively close proximity in settlements. Techniques that require more studied replication (i.e., the selection of clay and the fashioning of clay) may indicate a closer connection between peoples, as these methods are usually only transmissible between potters and those otherwise directly involved in production. Such a relationship requires the ability of the involved parties to communicate effectively, implying pre-existing norms of contact or a shared language between the two. Thus, the patterns of technical diffusion in pot-making that are visible via archaeological findings also reveal patterns in societal interaction.
Pottery has been found in archaeological sites across the islands of Oceania. It is attributed to an ancient archaeological culture called the Lapita. Another form of pottery called Plainware is found throughout sites of Oceania. The relationship between Lapita pottery and Plainware is not altogether clear.
The Indigenous Australians never developed pottery. After Europeans came to Australia and settled, they found deposits of clay which were analysed by English potters as excellent for making pottery. Less than 20 years later, Europeans came to Australia and began creating pottery. Since then, ceramic manufacturing, mass-produced pottery and studio pottery have flourished in Australia.
The study of pottery can help to provide an insight into past cultures. Pottery is durable, and fragments, at least, often survive long after artefacts made from less-durable materials have decayed past recognition. Combined with other evidence, the study of pottery artefacts is helpful in the development of theories on the organisation, economic condition and the cultural development of the societies that produced or acquired pottery. The study of pottery may also allow inferences to be drawn about a culture's daily life, religion, social relationships, attitudes towards neighbours, attitudes to their own world and even the way the culture understood the universe.
Chronologies based on pottery are often essential for dating non-literate cultures and are often of help in the dating of historic cultures as well. Trace-element analysis, mostly by neutron activation, allows the sources of clay to be accurately identified and the thermoluminescence test can be used to provide an estimate of the date of last firing. Examining fired pottery shards from prehistory, scientists learned that during high-temperature firing, iron materials in clay record the exact state of Earth's magnetic field at that exact moment.
Although many of the environmental effects of pottery production have existed for millennia, some of these have been amplified with modern technology and scales of production. The principal factors for consideration fall into two categories: (a) effects on workers, and (b) effects on the general environment. Within the effects on workers, chief impacts are indoor air quality, sound levels and possible over-illumination. Regarding the general environment, factors of interest are fuel consumption, off-site water pollution, air pollution and disposal of hazardous materials.
Historically, "plumbism" (lead poisoning) was a significant health concern to those glazing pottery. This was recognised at least as early as the nineteenth century, and the first legislation in the United Kingdom to limit pottery workers' exposure was introduced in 1899. While the risk to those working in ceramics is now much reduced, it can still not be ignored. With respect to indoor air quality, workers can be exposed to fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide and certain heavy metals. The greatest health risk is the potential to develop silicosis from the long-term exposure to crystalline silica. Proper ventilation can reduce the risks, and the first legislation in the United Kingdom to govern ventilation was introduced in 1899. A more recent study at Laney College, Oakland, California suggests that all these factors can be controlled in a well-designed workshop environment.
The English city of Stoke-on-Trent is widely known as "The Potteries" because of the large number of pottery factories or, colloquially, "Pot Banks." It was one of the first industrial cities of the modern era where, as early as 1785, two hundred pottery manufacturers employed 20,000 workers. For the same reason, the largest football club in the city is known as "The Potters."
Cardium pottery or Cardial ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk formerly known as Cardium edulis (now Cerastoderma edule). These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the "Cardial culture".
The alternative name impressed ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb. Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed ware is found in the zone "covering Italy to the Ligurian coast" as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal. The sequence in prehistoric Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed "epi-Cardial". However the widespread Cardial and Impressed pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.Ceramic art
Ceramic art is art made from ceramic materials, including clay. It may take forms including artistic pottery, including tableware, tiles, figurines and other sculpture. Ceramic art is one of the arts, particularly the visual arts. Of these, it is one of the plastic arts. While some ceramics are considered fine art, as pottery or sculpture, some are considered to be decorative, industrial or applied art objects. Ceramics may also be considered artefacts in archaeology. Ceramic art can be made by one person or by a group of people. In a pottery or ceramic factory, a group of people design, manufacture and decorate the art ware. Products from a pottery are sometimes referred to as "art pottery". In a one-person pottery studio, ceramists or potters produce studio pottery.
The word "ceramics" comes from the Greek keramikos (κεραμικος), meaning "pottery", which in turn comes from keramos (κεραμος) meaning "potter's clay". Most traditional ceramic products were made from clay (or clay mixed with other materials), shaped and subjected to heat, and tableware and decorative ceramics are generally still made this way. In modern ceramic engineering usage, ceramics is the art and science of making objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials by the action of heat. It excludes glass and mosaic made from glass tesserae.
There is a long history of ceramic art in almost all developed cultures, and often ceramic objects are all the artistic evidence left from vanished cultures, like that of the Nok in Africa over 2,000 years ago. Cultures especially noted for ceramics include the Chinese, Cretan, Greek, Persian, Mayan, Japanese, and Korean cultures, as well as the modern Western cultures.
Elements of ceramic art, upon which different degrees of emphasis have been placed at different times, are the shape of the object, its decoration by painting, carving and other methods, and the glazing found on most ceramics.Chinese ceramics
Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. The first pottery was made during the Palaeolithic era. Chinese ceramics range from construction materials such as bricks and tiles, to hand-built pottery vessels fired in bonfires or kilns, to the sophisticated Chinese porcelain wares made for the imperial court and for export. Porcelain was a Chinese invention and is so identified with China that it is still called "china" in everyday English usage.
Most later Chinese ceramics, even of the finest quality, were made on an industrial scale, thus few names of individual potters were recorded. Many of the most important kiln workshops were owned by or reserved for the Emperor, and large quantities of Chinese export porcelain were exported as diplomatic gifts or for trade from an early date, initially to East Asia and the Islamic world, and then from around the 16th century to Europe. Chinese ceramics have had an enormous influence on other ceramic traditions in these areas.
Increasingly over their long history, Chinese ceramics can be classified between those made for the imperial court, either to use or distribute, those made for a discriminating Chinese market, and those for popular Chinese markets or for export. Some types of wares were also made only or mainly for special uses such as burial in tombs, or for use on altars.Earthenware
Earthenware is glazed or unglazed nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below 1200°C. Porcelain, bone china and stoneware, all fired at high enough temperatures to vitrify, are the main other important types of pottery.
Earthenware comprises "most building bricks, nearly all European pottery up to the seventeenth century, most of the wares of Egypt, Persia and the near East; Greek, Roman and Mediterranean, and some of the Chinese; and the fine earthenware which forms the greater part of our tableware today" ("today" being 1962). Pit fired earthenware dates back to as early as 29,000–25,000 BC, and for millennia, only earthenware pottery was made, with stoneware gradually developing some 5,000 years ago, but then apparently disappearing for a few thousand years. Outside East Asia, porcelain was manufactured only from the 18th century AD, and then initially as an expensive luxury.
After it is fired, earthenware is opaque and non-vitreous, soft and capable of being scratched with a knife. The Combined Nomenclature of the European Communities describes it as being made of selected clays sometimes mixed with feldspars and varying amounts of other minerals, and white or light-colored (i.e., slightly greyish, cream, or ivory).Faience
Faience or faïence ( or ; French: [fajɑ̃s]) is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a buff earthenware body, at least when there is no more usual English name for the type concerned. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip of a lead glaze, was a major advance in the history of pottery. The invention seems to have been made in Iran or the Middle East before the ninth century. A kiln capable of producing temperatures exceeding 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) was required to achieve this result, the result of millennia of refined pottery-making traditions. The term is now used for a wide variety of pottery from several parts of the world, including many types of European painted wares, often produced as cheaper versions of porcelain styles.
English generally uses various other terms for well-known sub-types of faience. Italian tin-glazed earthenware, at least the early forms, is called maiolica in English, Dutch wares are called Delftware, and their English equivalents English delftware, leaving "faience" as the normal term in English for French, German, Spanish, Portuguese wares and those of other countries not mentioned (it is also the usual French term, and fayence in German). The name faience is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna near Ravenna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.
Technically, lead-glazed earthenware, such as the French sixteenth-century Saint-Porchaire ware, does not properly qualify as faience, but the distinction is not usually maintained. Semi-vitreous stoneware may be glazed like faience. Egyptian faience is not really faience, or pottery, at all, but made of a vitreous frit, and so closer to glass.Islamic pottery
Medieval Islamic pottery occupied a geographical position between Chinese ceramics, then the unchallenged leaders of Eurasian production, and the pottery of the Byzantine Empire and Europe. For most of the period it can fairly be said to have been between the two in terms of aesthetic achievement and influence as well, borrowing from China and exporting to and influencing Byzantium and Europe. The use of drinking and eating vessels in gold and silver, the ideal in ancient Rome and Persia as well as medieval Christian societies, is prohibited by the Hadiths, with the result that pottery and glass were used for tableware by Muslim elites, as pottery (but less often glass) also was in China, but was much rarer in Europe and Byzantium. In the same way Islamic restrictions greatly discouraged figurative wall-painting, encouraging the architectural use of schemes of decorative and often geometrically-patterned tiles, which are the most distinctive and original speciality of Islamic ceramics.
The era of Islamic pottery started around 622. From 633, Muslim armies moved rapidly towards Persia, Byzantium, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt and later Andalusia. The early history of Islamic pottery remains somewhat obscure and speculative as little evidence has survived. Apart from tiles which escaped destruction due to their use in architectural decoration of buildings and mosques, much early medieval pottery vanished.
The Muslim world inherited significant pottery industries in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa (African Red Slip) and later other regions. Indeed, the origin of glazed pottery has been traced to Egypt where it was first introduced during the fourth millennium BCE. However most of these traditions made heavy use of figurative decoration, which was greatly reduced, though not entirely removed, under Islam. Instead Islamic pottery developed geometric and plant-based decoration to a very high level, and made more use of decorative schemes made up of many tiles than any previous culture.Japanese pottery and porcelain
Pottery and porcelain (陶磁器, tōjiki) (also 焼きもの yakimono, or 陶芸 tōgei), is one of the oldest Japanese crafts and art forms, dating back to the Neolithic period. Kilns have produced earthenware, pottery, stoneware, glazed pottery, glazed stoneware, porcelain, and blue-and-white ware. Japan has an exceptionally long and successful history of ceramic production. Earthenwares were created as early as the Jōmon period (10,000–300 BCE), giving Japan one of the oldest ceramic traditions in the world. Japan is further distinguished by the unusual esteem that ceramics holds within its artistic tradition, owing to the enduring popularity of the tea ceremony.
Japanese ceramic history records distinguished many potter names, and some were artist-potters, e.g. Hon'ami Kōetsu, Ogata Kenzan, and Aoki Mokubei. Japanese anagama kilns also have flourished through the ages, and their influence weighs with that of the potters. Another characteristically Japanese aspect of the art is the continuing popularity of unglazed high-fired stoneware even after porcelain became popular. Since the 4th century, Japanese ceramics have often been influenced by Chinese and Korean pottery. Japan transformed and translated the Chinese and Korean prototypes into a uniquely Japanese creation, and the result was distinctly Japanese in character. Since the mid-17th century when Japan started to industrialize, high-quality standard wares produced in factories became popular exports to Europe. In the 20th century, a modern ceramics industry (e.g., Noritake and Toto Ltd.) grew up.
Japanese pottery is distinguished by two polarised aesthetic traditions. On the one hand, there is a tradition of very simple and roughly finished pottery, mostly in earthenware and using a muted palette of earth colours. This relates to Zen Buddhism and many of the greatest masters were priests, especially in early periods. Many pieces are also related to the Japanese tea ceremony and embody the aesthetic principles of wabi-sabi ("austerity-rust/patina"). Most raku ware, where the final decoration is partly random, is in this tradition. The other tradition is of highly finished and brightly coloured factory wares, mostly in porcelain, with complex and balanced decoration, which develops Chinese porcelain styles in a distinct way. A third tradition, of simple but perfectly formed and glazed stonewares, also relates more closely to both Chinese and Korean traditions. In the 16th century, a number of styles of traditional utilitarian rustic wares then in production became admired for their simplicity, and their forms have often been kept in production to the present day for a collectors market.Jōmon period
The Jōmon period (縄文時代, Jōmon jidai) is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000–300 BCE, recently refined to about 1000 BCE, during which Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American scholar Edward S. Morse, who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated it into Japanese as jōmon. The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of Jōmon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay and is generally accepted to be among the oldest in East Asia and the world.The Jōmon period was rich in tools and jewellery made from bone, stone, shell and antler; pottery figurines and vessels; and lacquerware. It is often compared to pre-Columbian cultures of the North American Pacific Northwest and especially to the Valdivia culture in Ecuador because in these settings cultural complexity developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context with limited use of horticulture.Jōmon pottery
The Jōmon pottery (縄文土器, Jōmon doki) is a type of ancient earthenware pottery which was made during the Jōmon period in Japan. The term "Jōmon" (縄文) means "rope-patterned" in Japanese, describing the patterns that are pressed into the clay.Kintsugi
Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery"), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, "golden repair"), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.Linear Pottery culture
The Linear Pottery culture is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing c. 5500–4500 BC. It is abbreviated as LBK (from German: Linearbandkeramik), and is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture of V. Gordon Childe.
The densest evidence for the culture is on the middle Danube, the upper and middle Elbe, and the upper and middle Rhine. It represents a major event in the initial spread of agriculture in Europe. The pottery after which it was named consists of simple cups, bowls, vases, and jugs, without handles, but in a later phase with lugs or pierced lugs, bases, and necks.Important sites include Nitra in Slovakia; Bylany in the Czech Republic; Langweiler and Zwenkau in Germany; Brunn am Gebirge in Austria; Elsloo, Sittard, Köln-Lindenthal, Aldenhoven, Flomborn, and Rixheim on the Rhine; Lautereck and Hienheim on the upper Danube; and Rössen and Sonderhausen on the middle Elbe.
Two variants of the early Linear Pottery culture are recognized:
The Early or Western Linear Pottery Culture developed on the middle Danube, including western Hungary, and was carried down the Rhine, Elbe, Oder, and Vistula.
The Eastern Linear Pottery Culture flourished in eastern Hungary.Middle and late phases are also defined. In the middle phase, the Early Linear Pottery culture intruded upon the Bug-Dniester culture and began to manufacture musical note pottery. In the late phase, the Stroked Pottery culture moved down the Vistula and Elbe.
A number of cultures ultimately replaced the Linear Pottery culture over its range, but without a one-to-one correspondence between its variants and the replacing cultures. The culture map, instead, is complex. Some of the successor cultures are the Hinkelstein, Großgartach, Rössen, Lengyel, Cucuteni-Trypillian, and Boian-Maritza cultures.Mogollon culture
Mogollon culture is an archaeological culture of Native American peoples from Southern New Mexico and Arizona, Northern Sonora and Chihuahua, and Western Texas, a region known as Oasisamerica.The Mogollon culture is one of the major prehistoric Southwestern cultural divisions of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. The culture flourished from the archaic period, c. 200 CE, to either 1450 or 1540 CE, when the Spanish arrived.Neolithic
The Neolithic ( (listen), also known as the "New Stone Age"), the final division of the Stone Age, began about 12,000 years ago when the first development of farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world.
The division lasted until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic from about 6,500 years ago (4500 BC), marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In Northern Europe, the Neolithic lasted until about 1700 BC, while in China it extended until 1200 BC. Other parts of the world (including the New World) remained broadly in the Neolithic stage of development, although this term may not be used, until European contact.
The Neolithic comprises a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of domesticated animals.The term Neolithic derives from the Greek νέος néos, "new" and λίθος líthos, "stone", literally meaning "New Stone Age". The term was coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 as a refinement of the three-age system.Porcelain
Porcelain () is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures. Though definitions vary, porcelain can be divided into three main categories: hard-paste, soft-paste and bone china. The category that an object belongs to depends on the composition of the paste used to make the body of the porcelain object and the firing conditions.
Porcelain slowly evolved in China and was finally achieved (depending on the definition used) at some point about 2,000 to 1,200 years ago, then slowly spread to other East Asian countries, and finally Europe and the rest of the world. Its manufacturing process is more demanding than that for earthenware and stoneware, the two other main types of pottery, and it has usually been regarded as the most prestigious type of pottery for its delicacy, strength, and its white colour. It combines well with both glazes and paint, and can be modelled very well, allowing a huge range of decorative treatments in tablewares, vessels and figurines. It also has many uses in technology and industry.
The European name, porcelain in English, come from the old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) because of its resemblance to the surface of the shell. Porcelain is also referred to as china or fine china in some English-speaking countries, as it was first seen in imports from China. Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, toughness, whiteness, translucency and resonance; and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.
Porcelain has been described as being "completely vitrified, hard, impermeable (even before glazing), white or artificially coloured, translucent (except when of considerable thickness), and resonant". However, the term "porcelain" lacks a universal definition and has "been applied in an unsystematic fashion to substances of diverse kinds which have only certain surface-qualities in common".Traditionally, East Asia only classifies pottery into low-fired wares (earthenware) and high-fired wares (often translated as porcelain), without the European concept of stoneware, which is high-fired but not generally white or translucent. Terms such as "proto-porcelain", "porcellaneous" or "near-porcelain" may be used in cases where the ceramic body approaches whiteness and translucency.Pottery of ancient Greece
Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it (over 100,000 painted vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum), it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society. The shards of pots discarded or buried in the 1st millennium BC are still the best guide available to understand the customary life and mind of the ancient Greeks. There were several vessels produced locally for everyday and kitchen use, yet finer pottery from regions such as Attica was imported by other civilizations throughout the Mediterranean, such as the Etruscans in Italy. There were various specific regional varieties, such as the South Italian ancient Greek pottery.
Throughout these places, various types and shapes of vases were used. Not all were purely utilitarian; large Geometric amphorae were used as grave markers, kraters in Apulia served as tomb offerings and Panathenaic Amphorae seem to have been looked on partly as objets d’art, as were later terracotta figurines. Some were highly decorative and meant for elite consumption and domestic beautification as much as serving a storage or other function, such as the krater with its usual use in diluting wine.
Earlier Greek styles of pottery, called "Aegean" rather than "Ancient Greek", include Minoan pottery, very sophisticated by its final stages, Cycladic pottery, Minyan ware and then Mycenaean pottery in the Bronze Age, followed by the cultural disruption of the Greek Dark Age. As the culture recovered Sub-Mycenaean pottery finally blended into the Protogeometric style, which begins Ancient Greek pottery proper.The rise of vase painting saw increasing decoration. Geometric art in Greek pottery was contiguous with the late Dark Age and early Archaic Greece, which saw the rise of the Orientalizing period. The pottery produced in Archaic and Classical Greece included at first black-figure pottery, yet other styles emerged such as red-figure pottery and the white ground technique. Styles such as West Slope Ware were characteristic of the subsequent Hellenistic period, which saw vase painting's decline.Red-figure pottery
Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural Greek vase painting.
It developed in Athens around 520 BC and remained in use until the late 3rd century BC. It replaced the previously dominant style of black-figure vase painting within a few decades. Its modern name is based on the figural depictions in red colour on a black background, in contrast to the preceding black-figure style with black figures on a red background. The most important areas of production, apart from Attica, were in Southern Italy. The style was also adopted in other parts of Greece. Etruria became an important centre of production outside the Greek World.
Attic red-figure vases were exported throughout Greece and beyond. For a long time, they dominated the market for fine ceramics. Only few centres of pottery production could compete with Athens in terms of innovation, quality and production capacity. Of the red figure vases produced in Athens alone, more than 40,000 specimens and fragments survive today. From the second most important production centre, Southern Italy, more than 20,000 vases and fragments are preserved. Starting with the studies by John D. Beazley and Arthur Dale Trendall, the study of this style of art has made enormous progress. Some vases can be ascribed to individual artists or schools. The images provide evidence for the exploration of Greek cultural history, everyday life, iconography, and mythology.Sherd
In archaeology, a sherd, or more precisely, potsherd, is commonly a historic or prehistoric fragment of pottery, although the term is occasionally used to refer to fragments of stone and glass vessels, as well.Occasionally, a piece of broken pottery may be referred to as a shard. While the spelling shard is generally reserved for referring to fragments of glass vessels, the term does not exclude pottery fragments. The etymology is connected with the idea of breakage, from Old English sceard, related to Old Norse skarð, "notch", and Middle High German schart, "notch".A sherd or potsherd that has been used by having writing painted or inscribed on it can be more precisely referred to as an ostracon.
The analysis of sherds is widely used by archaeologists to date sites and develop chronologies, due to their diagnostic characteristics and high resistance to natural, destructive processes. Some characteristics of sherds useful to archaeologists include temper, form, and glaze. These characteristics can be used to determine the kinds of resources and technologies used at the site.Terracotta
Terracotta, terra cotta or terra-cotta (pronounced [ˌtɛrraˈkɔtta]; Italian: "baked earth", from the Latin terra cocta), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous. Terracotta is the term normally used for sculpture made in earthenware, and also for various practical uses including vessels (notably flower pots), water and waste water pipes, roofing tiles, bricks, and surface embellishment in building construction. The term is also used to refer to the natural brownish orange color of most terracotta, which varies considerably.
This article covers the senses of terracotta as a medium in sculpture, as in the Terracotta Army and Greek terracotta figurines, and architectural decoration. Asian and European sculpture in porcelain is not covered. Glazed architectural terracotta and its unglazed version as exterior surfaces for buildings were used in Asia for some centuries before becoming popular in the West in the 19th century. Architectural terracotta can also refer to decorated ceramic elements such as antefixes and revetments, which made a large contribution to the appearance of temples and other buildings in the classical architecture of Europe, as well as in the Ancient Near East.
In archaeology and art history, "terracotta" is often used to describe objects such as figurines not made on a potter's wheel. Vessels and other objects that are or might be made on a wheel from the same material are called earthenware pottery; the choice of term depends on the type of object rather than the material or firing technique. Unglazed pieces, and those made for building construction and industry, are also more likely to be referred to as terracotta, whereas tableware and other vessels are called earthenware (though sometimes terracotta if unglazed), or by a more precise term such as faience.Wedgwood
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, commonly known as Wedgwood, is a fine china, porcelain, and luxury accessories company founded on 1 May 1759 by English potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood. In 1987, Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Ireland-based luxury brands group. The main assets of Waterford Wedgwood were purchased in 2009 by KPS Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, and the group became known as WWRD Holdings Limited, an abbreviation for "Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton". In July 2015, it was acquired by Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish consumer goods company.
Pottery and claywork
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|Main types, by body|
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|History of pottery|