All pottery begins as clay. After the clay has been shaped, it is then fired in a kiln. Depending on the ingredients added to the clay, the firing temperature varies and produces different products. There are three basic classes of pottery after firing. They are earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. Earthenware and stoneware have lower firing temperatures than porcelain. This is one reason porcelain tends to be more expensive. The heat and time it takes to fire porcelain costs much more to produce.
No matter the category of the pottery, there are several steps that must be taken to make the pieces. It must first be shaped. This can be done by throwing it on a potter’s wheel or hand shaping it. The piece is then fired in a kiln once it has dried sufficiently. After the first firing, it is generally decorated and glazed. It then goes back into the kiln for the final firing. Pottery pieces are complete after they have been fired the second time.
Shaping a pottery piece is an art in itself. The person who does the shaping must understand how to judge the thickness of each part of the piece. If the piece is too thick, it may break during the firing process. Pottery that is too thin may develop gaps or holes when the piece shrinks during drying and firing. It is not an easy process and takes training and experience before most pottery pieces survive the kiln. This is only the first part of the art of making pottery that can survive to be used in everyday life.
The second important part of pottery creation is adding decoration. A pattern can be painted on a piece by using either stains, ceramic decals or ceramic transfers. A person with artistic training will generally stain the piece by hand, but the decals are a fast and easy method for applying the same pattern for a large order. Glazing takes little time and the piece is ready for the kiln. Firing in the kiln is a time-consuming process, but it is used to strengthen the piece while adding the decorative layer.