Pottery for beginners: the basics. Types of clay.

posted on September 16th 2019 in Arts & pottery with 0 Comments

Several white pots aligned on a wooden shelf

If you are new like me to pottery it can feel a bit intimidating, as there are so many tools and technical terms to get your head around. So I’ve decided to write about my journey learning pottery in case it can be useful for any other person out there starting with this craft.

First things first: what clay to use

The first thing I’ve learnt is the different types of clay, which are basically determined by the firing temperature of each one – which will also determine what sort of kiln you need. Broadly speaking clay can be classified as earthenware, stoneware or porcelain.

  • Earthenware is the lowest firing clay, this means it matures in the kiln at a low temperature (approx. 1,000°C). Earthenware is more porous than other types of clay, making it unsuitable for use in dishwashers and microwaves. Water absorbed in the clay can cause cracks during heating. However, glazed earthenware is perfectly safe for food use but it will need to be hand washed.
  • Stoneware is a middle temperature range clay (approx. 1,200°C). There are many types which vary in the exact temperature they mature at. It is available in colours from almost white to buff (tan), red or speckled. Stoneware fired to maturity is usually suitable for use in dishwashers and microwaves.
  • Porcelain is the highest firing clay (approx. 1,400°C). Porcelain is a beautiful fine ceramic which can be translucent when thin due to its purity. It is also very expensive, around twice the cost of other clay.

I will mostly be working with stoneware during my internship, so some of the upcoming content may only apply to that type of clay.

Photo by Norris Packer on Unsplash

Leave a Reply