Pottery is the process by which an individual uses clay fired at high temperatures to create durable figures and vessels. These can be of any shape or size with varying functions.
Pottery has acted as a doorway into the past for us to learn about history and prehistory of mankind. The durability of the materials used for pottery have stood the test of time and carry the stories from past millennia, giving us a snapshot of how people lived and the general view of civilizations over time. Pottery plays such an important role in learning about the past that many archeological sites and ancient civilizations are recognized by the name of the pottery itself.
Heating the clay at different temperatures will give you a different final result, with the lowest temperatures giving you earthenware, mid-temperatures, resulting in stoneware and high temperatures for porcelain. Early civilizations used fire pits with low temperatures, so most ancient artifacts that are found are hand-shaped earthenware.
Earthenware was the earliest form of pottery from the Neolithic era and is still seen today. It is created at temperatures as low as 600˚C and can be made using a variety of different clays, including terracotta. Earthenware is mostly seen unglazed and usually undecorated.
Stoneware is fired at high temperatures in a kiln; temperatures can go up to 1200˚C. The results are a lot less porous than earthenware, meaning the finished product could be used to hold liquids and as tableware. This method was first seen in China, but carried through to Europe starting in Germany and making its way across the continent post the Renaissance.
Porcelain, which is also produced in kilns with temperatures of 1400˚C, was first discovered as part of the Tang Dynasty in China between the 7th and 8th century. This type of pottery was so popular that it was exported to all parts of the world until the 18th century when it was finally able to be produced outside of East Asia.
Pottery today is made with all sorts of materials, with a variety of tools and fired up at different temperatures. The uses of pottery, nowadays, range from elaborately-decorated pieces for homes to simple tableware.
Author: Amita Vadlamudi, https://amitavadlamudiblog.com