Intro to Ceramics: Understanding the Types & How to Learn

Intro to Ceramics: Understanding the Types & How to Learn

Intro to Ceramics: Understanding the Types & How to Learn

Traditional ceramics are ubiquitous to our everyday life and overall development as humankind. Archeologists trace ceramic origins back thousands of years, from marking history with artistic figurines to more practical uses like storing grains in ceramic vessels. Here, we will walk you through the history of ceramics, its practical uses, different types, and how to learn ceramics.

What is ceramics, anyway?

Ceramic objects are made by combining naturally occurring raw materials, such as clay, earthen minerals, and water, and shaping them into forms using handbuilding, wheel-throwing, or mold casting techniques. Once shaped, the object is fired in a kiln at a high temperature. Firing ceramics make them hardened and heat resistant. Ceramic objects are used as building materials, functional dinnerware, decorative sculpture, and more.

“Ceramic” can be used as an adjective, or as a noun to describe the clay object once it has been fired. There are a number of techniques used in ceramics, depending on the final project you have in mind. Ceramic objects can be built by hand using slab, coiling, and pinching techniques. Potters also use wheel throwing to create symmetrical pottery and slip casting to create multiples of one object.


Traditional types of ceramic pottery

Common examples are earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, and bone china. Clay is one of the widely available raw materials for creating ceramic objects. Different types of clay and combinations of clay with different variations of silica and other minerals result in different types of ceramic pottery.


Earthenware is pottery that has not been fired to vitrification, which is the process of crystalline silicate compounds bonding into noncrystalline glass compounds. This makes the pottery more porous and coarser to the touch. Earthenware pottery was the most common type of ceramics until the 18th century. Terracotta, a clay-based and unglazed ceramic, is a common type of earthenware. Today, we commonly see planters made from terracotta, along with bricks, water pipes, and more.