5 Awesome Things You Probably Didn't Know About Pottery

Whether you’re already a pottery student with a fierce hunger for knowledge or everything you know about pottery comes from the movie “Ghost,” there are lots of fun facts floating around about pottery. Check these out, learn something new and if it sparks your interest, come on out to our Intro to Pottery Wheel Throwing or Intermediate Pottery classes.

  • Pottery has been around for a

    long time and is found in nearly every civilization in some form. The potter’s wheel was invented in Mesopotamia between 6000 and 4000 BCE, bringing pottery to the next level as potters could craft their wares more quickly and efficiently, with more symmetrical and even shapes. Evidence of ancient pottery is found on 6 of the 7 continents from virtually every civilization. Pottery has served both practical purposes, like building materials, jugs and plates, and aesthetic purposes like sculpture.

  • Know your clay — earthenware, stoneware and kaolin. The most common kind of clay is earthenware, which may have minerals, small bits of rock or sand in it. It has been transported by moving water and is found far from its source, so it picks up minerals and impurities before it settles in a riverbed. This clay melts and a lower temperature and is usually white or gray after firing. Stoneware is a durable and harder clay that fires at a slightly higher temperature than earthenware and has natural colors that range from gray or tan to dark brown. It was historically used for jugs or crocks but in modern times it is mainly used to craft dishes. Finally, kaolin clay or china clay is the purest clay because it’s found nearest to its source (it doesn’t travel far by water like earthenware clay). Because of its purity, it’s used to make porcelain. It fires at the highest temperature and once fired, it’s hard and translucent so it doesn’t need a glaze to finish.
  • It’s not pottery until you bring the heat. Because clay is a natural material that began as essentially mud, if you don’t apply extreme heat to your fully dried piece of pottery and it comes into contact with water, it will dissolve back into mud. When you cook dried pottery at the correct temperature, or fire it, it changes the chemical bonds of the piece causing the material to become permanent and waterproof.
  • Ancient Egyptians used pottery during the embalming process. Egyptians used jars, sometimes ceramic and sometimes wood or stone, to hold the organs of the departed after they were embalmed. They believed the person would need their organs in the afterlife, so the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver were all stored in canopic jars. Frequently these jars were blue or green glazed porcelain and were decorated with the gods Anubis or the four sons of Horus.
  • Traditional Japanese pottery takes up to a week to fire. For thousands of years traditional Japanese clay art has been fired in chambered wood kilns called anagama (one chambered kiln) or noborigama (multi-chambered kiln). The fire is kept burning 24 hours a day for as long as a week and then left to cool for several more days. The process is so labor intensive potters often only fire their work once a year.

For our pottery students, we have the facilities to fire many different kinds of projects. We work with low fire white earthenware for our kids’ crafts, introductory projects and brightly colored underglaze projects. We work with high fire stoneware for our wheel throwing class. Our intermediate to advanced class works with porcelain (kaolin clay) and terracotta (kiln or smoke firing). We build pottery with three building techniques in our classes — coil, slab and wheel throwing. Come check out our classes today and see what you can create!