Is there a difference between ceramics and pottery?

Ceramics and pottery are both made in the same manner so physically there is no difference between the two. Both go through the identical manufacturing process; the clay is formed, then fired at high temperatures in a kiln, glazed and finally re-fired to set the design. Although technically ceramic coffee mugs and pottery coffee mugs are the same, there is a tendency for people to give each term a different meaning. Ceramics tend to be thought of as fine china that has been created with visual appeal while pottery is thought of as being something which is used every day and treated as such.

It would appear that the definitions that are commonly used for ceramics and pottery spring from the art world. Pottery, in the eyes of those involved in the arts is seen as something which is of lesser quality whereas ceramics are thought of as pieces of high quality fine art. Because of the different perception, professional sculptors will refer to their work as ceramics instead of pottery.

There are actually three types of pottery and ceramics; earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. Generally speaking earthenware is considerably more fragile than either stoneware or porcelain as it is quite porous. Stoneware is frequently used to make dinnerware but it is also a choice for artistic pieces. Porcelain is more opaque than stoneware and as such often appears translucent under a light source.

The process of making pottery and ceramic coffee mugs all begins with the mixing of clay. Artists do not dig the clay out of the ground; the clay they use consists of different ingredients. After the clay has been mixed properly is formed into the desired shape. When mass produced dinnerware is being made the clay is formed in molds which allow each piece to be identical in shape, size and form. When the clay is used by an artist, it is made into the desired shape on a rotating pottery wheel or free-formed. Once the artist is satisfied with the creation it is fired in a kiln so that any final décor can be applied.

Regardless of whether the object is made from pottery or ceramics, both are extremely beautiful and exotic pieces can be seen in some of the world’s finest museums and art galleries.

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