Handmade Pottery – More than a Decoration

There are a few collectors today that will never use pottery other than for decoration. However, some people also use handmade ceramics and pottery for their intended use.

Remember, awesome handmade ceramics and pottery pieces are usually sturdy, food safe, microwaveable, and dishwater safe. It is really made to be last with daily use.

Good uses for pottery

Everyday uses with Alewine Pottery from Alewine Pottery on Vimeo.

Ceramics is actually used quite often in the modern age. You can find ceramics in NASA space shuttles, modern dentistry, and even computers.

But let’s not talk about that. What you’d rather want to know, I think, is how pottery and ceramics can be used in your daily life.

1. Storage – During ancient times pottery was used to store whatever ancient people want to store during those times. Well, even if we live in 2014 we still need something to store our stuff in. Pottery is a practical and stylish way to organize and keep toys, kitchen utensils, and even power tools in the house.

2. Serving food – Yeah, even if we don’t live in the British isles we can still enjoy an afternoon of brisket and a cup of tea, right? Serving these food stuff in gorgeous ceramic bowls and tea cups will make your afternoon more relaxing and enjoyable. Plus you’ll definitely impress your high-brow friends.

3. Cooking – I already said that ceramics and pottery are sturdy. But I forgot to tell you that it is also heat resistant which makes it awesome for cooking. Don’t blame me if your cooking tastes bad. Don’t blame your ceramic cookware either. Hey, at least you are cooking in style, right?

4. Pottery gifts – Put some exotic coffee and biscuits in your pottery piece. Put it in colorful gift wrapper. Tie it with a red ribbon. Boom! Instant unique gift idea that the coffee drinker in your life will appreciate. If you want to gift a kid, just put candies and some egg surprise toys in there.

This is going to be one of those fluffy passages


balancing pottery

There was a time when pottery was the only thing we had as containers

Yes, this part of the article will be fluffy. I want to say that the uses for pottery and ceramics are limited only by your imagination.

But really, is that true? Of course not.

See, can you use pottery to grow egg plants in your backyard? Well, this is actually a bad example ‘coz you really can use pottery to grow plants. But you know what I mean.

That said, if you want to know about new way to use pottery, I don’t think I can teach you anything else than what is written above. Pottery is such a simple and elegant piece that it was made to address such specific but primitive problems.

Obviously there are a lot of things that can do things better than pottery. However, there is just something unique and awesome about handmade pottery.

There seems to be an unexplainable energy in this thing that makes it beautiful and most wanted. Regardless of that, pottery and ceramics will last long even after most modern conveniences go away.

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Looking for the Best Handmade Pottery Mugs

Handmade pottery have been popular for centuries and still used to today.

Much better designed but very relevant none the less.

They were among the first utensils used by humans to cook and eat food and there is a mystery and beauty with handmade pottery.

If you don’t have one, or never made one for yourself, you should consider getting one and seeing what the fuss is about.

You’ll then understand why it’s a century old art.

Now getting to handmade pottery mugs, the final type of mug that you get will depend on the type of clay that is used, the nature of kiln, and the temperatures used to fire the clay.

Why Consider Getting a Handcrafted Pottery Mug

handmade pottery mug

handmade pottery mugs

There are many factors that will inspire you to buy a handmade ceramic mug.

You can mugs anywhere and at any price, depending on the needs that you have, but a handmade ceramic cup will give you a combination of all the best properties you may be looking for.

The mugs keeps the temperature right 

Because it is made of clay, it keeps your drink warm or cold.

Ceramics adapt to the temperature to keep your drink the perfect drinking temperature as long as possible.

If your drink is piping hot, you need to be careful about burning your tongue, because the mug will definitely be hot.

Just don’t drink a hot drink with a straw.

That’s a very dangerous and dumb thing to do.

Longevity for every mug 

Pottery does not rust or go bad.

It may break but if you take good care of it, it lasts for centuries.

Archaeologists are still digging and finding pottery from the stone ages. It lasts forever if you look after it.

If you want a mug that you can pass onto to your children which also has sentimental value, going for unique handmade mugs is the way to go.

Easy to Clean and Maintain

With just a little effort, ceramic mugs are easy to clean and maintain.

Unlike plastic or metal cups that either stain, rust or corrode over time, mugs like porcelain and stoneware does not.

To clean, you just have to hand wash it. Most ceramic mugs are safe for the dishwasher but if yo want to keep it in the best shape possible, quick rinse by hand will do.

Lots of ceramics nowadays have delicate and detailed paintings on them so be sure to take care of it.

It’s an investment after all.

Safe to Use

Most pottery mugs from individual studios are safe to use because ceramicists take pride and precaution if the materials that they use.

The problem is with mass produced mugs like in China or other 3rd world countries.

As long as they can make a profit, they won’t care about safety precautions and doing things the proper way.

Aesthetics value

Beautiful Mugs

Beautiful Mugs

Handmade mugs are beautiful. They come in various different colors and you never know how the glaze will come out.

It has aesthetics values both in looks and by virtue of its development process. There is a beautiful story behind every mug.

That gives the mug an aesthetic value.

It can be your prized trophy as well as a good-looking decoration in the house. 

Authenticity in every mug

Potter Hand

Potter Hand

There is nothing better than enjoying a drink in a mug that you prize and it 100% unique.

The fact that it was created lovingly by a person’s hands makes it that much more enjoyable.

Not only is it functional, but if you are able to pay a little more, you can get one that is truly an art.

Paintings, images, decorations etc.

These are extras that you can pay for by being selective.

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The Differences Between Porcelain and Stoneware

Trying to differentiate and understand the differences between ceramics is a challenging task.

Especially when you need to buy some new dinnerware.

For most people, the choice of a household crockery is determined by the design and utility rather than quality and durability of the pieces.

However, it is very important to note that mugs, plates, bowls and the like are made from different materials which posses different attributes/ properties.

Two most common types of ceramics are stoneware and porcelain and I’ll explain how to tell the difference between the two.

Differences between Porcelain and Stoneware

Stoneware Dinnerware

Stoneware Dinnerware

1. Type of clay and firing temperature

Stoneware is made from unrefined clay (i.e. clay that hasn’t been processed to remove impurities or unwanted elements such as sand).

It’s oil that you dig up from the ground. You can’t simply just it. The gas you put in your car is refined oil.

Now stoneware is not like this. It’s the raw clay from the ground.

Stoneware is normally fired at temperatures of about 2185 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because it’s fired at this high temperature, it produces durable and chip resistant goods.

Stoneware is commonly used to make cooking dishes because it can persevere high oven temperatures.

Ceramic mugs are also made from Stoneware material.

Porcelain on the other hand is made from pale refined clay (i.e. clay that has been processed to remove impurities).

The color of the clay is white it is made up of Kaolin clay which remains white when fired.

Other elements such as granite, glass, feldspar and water can also be added into the clay.

Porcelain is usually fired at a temperature higher than that of stoneware – about 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s what helps it result in a smooth but hard surface.

2. Consider Vitrification

A ceramic ware is regarded “vitrified” if takes up 0.2 percent or less of its weight.

This typically means that the surface is even and glass like, thus creating a hard, super durable surface.

If it’s kitchen ware that you are after, the kitchen pieces are dish-washable, microwavable and resistant to chipping and breakage.

Very durable indeed.

Porcelain is generally more vitrified than the stoneware. Porcelain is vitrified during the 2nd firing (2nd firing is generally hotter than the 1st firing) step of a two-fire process.

Compare that to Stoneware which undergoes only a single filing and has to be vitrified during this single fire.

The temperature of the firing is also lower than porcelain.

As a result stoneware tends to be come out of the kiln with warmer colors compared to porcelain.

The easiest way of differentiating stoneware from porcelain is to turn them upside down.

Hold it up to the light and look at the bottom of the cup.

Porcelain will be white and many times, it will be see through to some degree. Not 100%, but maybe about 50% opaqueness.

3. Color of Both Porcelain and Stoneware

white porcelain

white porcelain

This one is obvious.

Porcelain is white in color and stoneware on the other hand tends to be gray although it may come in a wide range of colors depending solely on the clay used and the type of glaze to finish the ceramic.

4. Money!

Porcelain is the most expensive and most durable of the two types of pottery when you make your own and it’s made from very high quality clay.

Because porcelain clay is very refined, it is more expensive.

Think of it like this, 24k gold is more expensive than 8ct gold. The more pure something becomes, the more expensive it is.

In this case, the clay is becoming more and more pure. There are other quality grades as well, but that’s for another time.

Stone ware on the other hand is less expensive and less durable compared to porcelain.

What About Earthenware?

Earthenware is ok..

Earthenware is ok..

Earthenware, is a third common type of ceramic.

It’s not used for dinnerware because it’s porous and it absorbs water.

Earthenware is also fired at the lowest temperature so it is the weakest and also has the highest chance of having lead.

Earthenware is generally lighter in weight as compared to Stoneware and does not possess the vitreous and translucent qualities of Porcelain.

It feels chalky when touched because of its porous nature so if you want a good looking earthenware, it has to be glazed for the colorful and shiny look.

Least durable and cheapest of the bunch.

Best used as a decorative bowl or for plant pots.

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How to Wedge Clay like a Pro

A combination of creativity, imagination and reality is the driving force behind all innovations and creation of new and better products.

In ceramics, the art of creativity has led to designing good looking products by hand. There are lots of very fine and detailed ceramic pieces from Asian Pottery such as this adorable ceramic tea light holder.

It takes tons of practice doing the same thing over and over again to make it into an art.

Only then will you get an excellent and good looking product that you can sell.

To prepare clay for use, you’ll have to properly wedge your clay.

It’s a tedious but necessary step.

Let’s go over how how to wedge clay into a soft dough before using it.

Soon you’ll be a pro.

What is clay wedging?

Clay Wedging

This is How You Wedge Clay

Just like any other soil that is porous with lots of different textures, clay is the same.

That’s why before you can mold anything with the  clay, wedging must be done.

Wedging is where the clay is kneaded into a fine and uniform dough like manner.

It’s not going to be as soft, but you get the idea.

The process will remove the air bubbles from the clay and make it ready to be thrown on the potter’s wheel.

Wedging is what helps prevent the final product from breaking or exploding while being fired.

A simple task like remove air pockets can do wonders for your final product. A quality ceramic master piece all starts before anything is even made.

I’ve appraised hundreds of ceramic art and one of the easiest ways to identify fakes and low quality items is by looking really hard all over the surface to see if there are any air pockets or air lumps.

Wedging the clay also ensures that the clay has the right amount of moisture. It’s not too dry and not too wet.

It also makes the clay easy to work with.

Here are some ways you can wedge clay.

Wedging clay with the cutting method

Wire Cut Wedging

Wire Cut Wedging

Use a straight cutting wire and then use it to cut the clay in half.

You do this by using the wire like a floss and pulling it on the clay to create a clean slice.

Then slap the two pieces together with great impact to form a whole lump of clay again.

The process of cutting the clay has to be repeated continuously until all the parts of the clay is cut through.

This process of slicing and slapping together will ensure all the air particles are released and the clay remains fine and smooth.

You’ll need practice to do it well without introducing more air into the clay.

Cone wedging method

Looks like a cone

Looks like a cone

Another method of wedging clay is to use what’s called a cone wedging method.

Here, the idea is to form the clay into a baseball sized ball.

Then you form a cone shape by placing it on a flat surface rolling it mainly on one side.

Ensure that the cone side faces to the right and the thick base side to the left.

Using your right hand, press the clay downwards and try pushing it away, the left hand stays at a right angle with the surface.

This will leave some clay projecting from the cone side on the right hand.

Using the left hand the clay is pressed down and towards the person wedging making it to roll on the projection left this in turn forms a cone shape to the left hand.

Repeat this cycle of clay coning about 40 times and it will ensure that there is no air left in the clay.

Cylinder wedging

Can you see the cylinder?

Can you see the cylinder?

This method resembles the process of preparing wheat flour dough for a cake.

I’m sure you’ve done some baking in your life.

Place a ball of clay on the flat surface and using both hands on the edge of the clay lump.

Press down and slightly inward.

This will make the clay to spread across the surface making it necessary to push it back and slap it back to form a shorter cylinder.

This process is repeated over and over until a smooth cylindrical shape is achieved and the clay is free of air pockets.

Conclusion

The ability to master the art of how to wedge clay properly is the key behind any successful ceramic production process.

The art is simple and no need of spending too much energy and force during the process.

It’s just practice, practice, practice.

Not only will the wedging process eliminate air from the clay it will also make it smooth and easy to work with.

You’ll make better final ceramic pieces and your skills will improve when you start off correctly.

Now you can go onto making pottery and then glazing your pottery to finish it all off.

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How to Make Pottery

There’s nothing as good as having something of sentimental value in your home that you spent time creating.

While at times you may have a hard time coming up with something that you would find useful that you can make yourself, you can start with pottery.

The good thing is this applies to a variety of things and you can even use it to place the flowers that you receive from friends and loved ones.

In the event that you have not done pottery before here is a step by step guide on how to do pottery.

Visualize Your Creation

Visualize Your Final Work

Visualize Your Final Work

It is practically impossible to work on something that you do not have the slightest idea on how you want it to look like.

Other things that you should have in mind while coming up with the design of your pottery include the size, color, purpose and even the details that you would like to have on the pottery.

This proves very easy for you when considering other things like the type of clay that you would want to use which is next.

Choosing Your Clay

Choosing Your Clay

Choosing Your Clay

Ideally, there are three types of clay that you can choose from.

There are the oven bakes, air dry and polymer clays.

Knowing the type of pottery that you want definitely makes the process of choosing the clay that is better suited for your creation much simpler.

For the oven bakes, there are two types of clays that you can get. The low fire which is ideal for bright colors and also for those that would want something that has detailed decoration.

However, their weakness is that they are not the best in holding water so you have to use the proper glaze in the even that you decide you’re going for this. The High-fire clays are the opposite of low fires.

They are great in water, easy to texturize but its glazes may move hence blurring the details.

With that you know which clay will better fit your project.

Find the Right Method for Your Project

Pottery Techniques

Pottery Techniques

Depending on the nature of your project, there are a number of methods that you can use to make your creations.

However, they all depend on the initial nature of the project. This is why it is very important that you think about the product comprehensively.

Potter’s wheel method

If you have some experience using the potter’s wheel, then you’re lucky. It is best used for larger symmetrical objects and you’ll require to kiln your work thereafter.

However, it can be unforgiving if you make mistakes when starting the process.

Pinching

This is a great method for those that are starting or if the desired object is small in nature and is quite straightforward.

It also helps you to stay in control of your creation since you can work at your own speed.

String making

If you’re looking to make something that is asymmetrical and hollow, then this could be the method that is most ideal for you.

It is also ideal if you’re looking to create some texture.

All you have to do in this method is pile up coils into your preferred shape.

Slab making

If your creation is flat sided, then this method that utilizes slabs is the best and allows you to form the sides of the creation as the clay dries.

Firing Your Ceramic

Fire Your Ceramics

Fire Your Ceramics

After you have selected your preferred method of forming and you’re done forming, the next phase is firing.

Here you will need an electric kiln.

The goal is to get rid of the chemical and physical of water to make your creation stronger.

Start by placing the piece in the kiln and then raise the temperature to 850 degrees over 12 hours and after that let the temperature drop and remove the pottery in 48 hours.

Glazing and Decoration

Make it Pretty with Glazing

Make it Pretty with Glazing

After the firing you can then glaze the creation to give it that luster and after the glaze has dried you can then decorate by painting.

If the piece has some rough edges, you can use sand paper to smoothen it. Once you have completed the glazing and decoration and you have let the piece dry you need to reheat it again.

This is a bit more technical and the temperature will depend on the type of clay used and the size of the object.

Start in the low range for two hours adding about 2000 F each hour then the next two hours in the mid-range adding 3000 F each hour and finally in the high range adding 4000 F per hour for another two hours.

Finishing Your Pottery

Admire Your Fine Handmade Pottery

Admire Your Fine Handmade Pottery

Once your new creation has left the kiln, you have to file the bottom.

However, this only applies if you notice the pot is sitting awkwardly or is not stable.

This is because it may have been placed in the kiln in the wrong position.

Once that is done, you can now admire your new piece of pottery.

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Glazing Pottery Tips and Techniques

Pottery glazing is one of the most crucial part, if not most important part of making pottery.

You need to do it in the most effective manner to avoid breaking a good pot.

This article provides you with a comprehensive guideline on how to do the glazing in the most effective way because if you’ve spent so much time to get your ceramic ready to be fired, you don’t want your effort to be wasted.

Check and Double Check Your Bisqueware is Clean

Keep it Clean

Keep it Clean

First, something very basic.

Keep your pottery clean.

You need to make sure that your hands are clean of any oils and lotions. These substances can cause “resist” spots on the surface of your ceramic where the glaze adheres unevenly or it fails completely.

To make this easy, simply handle bisqueware with clean gloves.

If you think the surface has been touched with dirty hands, chemicals or somebody else, you need to bisque it once more otherwise you risk a crawling glaze defect. 

Work in a Clean Environment. Eliminate Dust.

No Dust Please

No Dust Please

It is important that you remove all the dust before starting the glazing process.

All forms of dust including, studio dust, bisque dust or even the dust from your shoes and home should be removed using an air compressor.

You can get it cheaply from office depot or even Walgreens.

Spray your pottery with the air can to remove the dust.

For safety purposes, make sure you remove the dust in a well ventilated place because the bisque dust can be dangerous for the health of your lungs. 

Smooth Out Rough Spots

Rough Surfaces are a No No

Rough Surfaces are a No No

No pottery is perfect. So you will need to smooth out any rough spots using a soft sandpaper before the firing process.

To do this effectively, place your work on a piece of foam to ensure no chipping occurs. Never place the your ceramic that you are working on a hard surface.

Place it on a soft surface to reduce potential impacts.

After sanding, use a damp sponge to get rid of all traces of sanding dust.

Use a damp sponge rather than rinsing. In case you rinse, keep it to a minimal level.

Mix the Glaze Well. Very Important.

Mix Your Glaze

Mix Your Glaze

The glazes must be mixed well.

If you have sore wrists or don’t have the strength to mix large amounts of glaze, get a long paddle or a stick and stir the bucket or whatever holds the glaze.

Or if you have a large drill, attach a small paddle or paint paddle to the end and let the drill do the work.

In case you find dry glaze caked on the sides of the bucket, make sure you use something like spatula to mix it in well.

By mixing it properly, you will get excellent colors and a nice even coat.

Now the Glazing

Glazing Expert

Glazing Expert

When glazing pottery, glaze the inside and then the outside.

Start by pouring the glaze in and then roll it around to ensure that your entire pot is covered.

If you have complex pieces that need several glazing steps, you should glaze the inside a day earlier in order to have a drier surface to work, especially when you are brushing.

Keep the amounts of glaze controllable. You don’t want to go overboard and create uneven surfaces.

Removing Unwanted and Excess Pottery Glaze

When it comes to removing of any unwanted glaze, scrape off as much as you can using a small metal scraper or a dental tool to have a sharp line.

If there is some remaining glaze, you can use a damp sponge.

However, make sure you keep the glaze at a minimum. 

Clean Up the Your Glaze Drips

Yucky Drips

Yucky Drips

You should use hard brush to clean up the glaze drips out of texture.

For dipping glazes, choose a correct container for the work you have.

You can use different sizes of shallow bowls that are good to dipping the sides or any other container you find appropriate.

It is advisable to use large shallow bowls that allows you to see all what you are doing. 

Brushing Techniques

Use Proper Brushes

Use Proper Brushes

In case you cannot pour or dip, you need to brush.

As you brush make sure you watch your bisque. Note that glaze is wet and shiny when it is applied first.

Afterwards, it becomes matte as the bisque absorbs all the water.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s not working properly and applying more.

If you are unsure, test it out on a small surface or on another piece of pottery that you have lying around to see how it work.

If you decide to recoat after a short period over wet coat, move the foundation layer instead of imparting a second coat.

As you brush, consider gravity and hold the pot to make sure the glaze moves where you want it to and prevent it from running where it is not required to run. 

You should not brush the glaze from a big glaze container.

Not only will you contaminate the glaze, but it is bad and inefficient practice.

All you need to do is to pour a small amount into a cup, then stir it briskly periodically to ensure proper mixing.

Make sure you have a large, damp sponge nearby to keep the handle on the brush clean.

When wiping away glaze in areas you cannot reach using a sponge, make use of a small compact brush. 

When doing glazing pottery that does not have a clear bottom or foot, push them across sandpaper.

The sandpaper helps in removing some of the glaze from the contact area, showing you where you need to wipe off the remaining glaze.

A Quick Video on Pottery Glazing

Before sending you off, here’s a video that shows you how it’s done.

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  • 43
    Handmade pottery have been popular for centuries and still used to today. Much better designed but very relevant none the less. They were among the first utensils used by humans to cook and eat food and there is a mystery and beauty with handmade pottery. If you don't have one, or never made one for yourself,…
    Tags: pottery, ceramic, width, caption, id="attachment, align="aligncenter, clean, ceramics
  • 37
    Art is fascinating. Especially the wide variety of art that comes from ceramics and pottery. This site is named crackleART because of the dedication it takes to perfect something as "simple" as crackle or crazing on ceramics. It's an age old technique passed down for generations. It doesn't get much recognition and that's why I…
    Tags: ceramics, ceramic, pottery
  • 35
    A combination of creativity, imagination and reality is the driving force behind all innovations and creation of new and better products. In ceramics, the art of creativity has led to designing good looking products by hand. There are lots of very fine and detailed ceramic pieces from Asian Pottery such as this adorable ceramic tea…
    Tags: ceramics, pottery, making
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