No matter how delicate or ornate, all ceramics come from the same stuff: highly refined dirt. Like all clay, the clay used in ceramics is essentially waterlogged soil made of mineral particles, which bond on a molecular level when baked at a certain temperature. The practice of ceramics is the art of turning this raw material into an array of pieces, sometimes with the most basic tools: two hands and some clay are all one needs to shape a pinch pot or simple figurine. Whether molded with fingers alone (called handbuilding) or shaped on a potter’s wheel to create round forms (called throwing), each piece is bisque fired.
Coiled pots are constructed by gradually stacking and joining coils of clay one on top of the other. The coils can be left visible or can be smoothed away depending on your desired aesthetic end result.
Producing pinch pots is the most direct method people have of interacting with clay. We push, and the clay responds. We pinch, and again the clay responds. Through this process, we more easily learn to rely on our fingers to tell us the information about clay. We can develop a kinetic awareness of form and of the thickness of walls and floors. This tactile awareness will enhance our pottery kills across the board. Through creating pinch pots, we can continually refine our ability to work by touch rather than by sight.
Hand-building pottery using slabs of clay is an exciting way to create shapes that could never be produced using a potter's wheel or that would be difficult to achieve even with coiling. These soft slabs can be formed into lovely, flowing structures often reminiscent of leather. They can be used with slump molds or draped over hump molds to create repeatable forms, leaving the potter to concentrate more on finishing the form with surface textures, decorations or firing effects.
In ceramics, a potter's wheel is a machine used in the shaping of round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during the process of trimming the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of color. The entire process of forming a pot out of clay on the potter's wheel is generally called throwing. When people talk about throwing pottery, they generally mean the process from the time the clay touches the wheel to the time the wheel is stopped. In a more general sense, throwing is the entire activity of shaping the clay on the potter's wheel.
Pottery glazes are complex mixtures that fuse to pottery when placed in a kiln at high temperatures. Glazes are responsible both for decorating the pottery and for creating an attractive glossy surface that protects the pottery from wear and water. While glazing can be a long and involved process, it is not too hard to learn, and results will improve with practice.