Although mankind has been making pottery since prehistoric times when we were not yet even recording our history, pottery is just as amazing today as it always has been. Not only does your collection of beautiful pottery provide a thread connecting you to the artisans of thousands of years ago, it is also a testament to the rules governing geology, physics, and art.
The Pottery Medium
The medium of pottery is clay. Clay is pulled from the earth. In fact, it is the earth, which means that when you make pottery, eat off of it, or simply place it on your shelf you are doing something that should be just as relaxing, comforting and grounding as is digging your toes into the sand at the edge of the continent.
However, not all of the earth is clay. The earth that quality pottery is formed from is special being made up of decomposing rocks whose small bits and pieces are able absorb water and then bind with one another so that it can hold a shape for thousands of years when properly dried and protected.
The Qualities of the Best Pottery Clay
In addition to being able to absorb water, quality pottery clay also must have plasticity and strength. The plasticity is what allows the artist to throw or otherwise shape the clay into a cup, plate, or vase. Without this flexibility, the clay would not be workable.
The downside to the clay’s plasticity is that the more flexible it is, the weaker it will become. To combat this, quality clay needs to be made up of from eight to 10 percent of strength-providing fine sand and other coarse particles.
Drying and Protecting Pottery
The final steps to producing quality pottery is not just about making it beautiful, though it does do just that, it is also about making it durable. The firing of the pieces in a kiln removes the rest of the water from the clay to turn it into something that is no longer flexible but instead rock-hard. A final coating of color waterproofs the pottery.