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Ceramics Vocabulary


Hand Building Terms

Wedging- Method of kneading clay to make it homogenous; ridding the clay of all air pockets.

Hand Building - This term refers to the one of several techniques of building pots using the only the hands and simple tools rather than the potters wheel. The term used for creating pottery using the potter's wheel is "throwing".

Pinch - "Pinch" in ceramics is a method of shaping clay by inserting the thumb of one hand into the clay and lightly pinching with the thumb and fingers while slowly rotating the ball in the palm of the other hand. Pots made in this manner are called "pinch pots".

Coil - This is the technique of building ceramic forms by rolling out coils, or ropes, of clay and joining them together with the fingers or a tool.

Slab - A method in which forms are created by joining flat pieces of clay; the pieces are thinned and flattened with a rolling pin or slab roller.

Slip - Slip is liquid clay. The easiest way to make slip is to gradually sift or spoon dry, powder clay into a small cup of water. Stir well as you add because it will tend to thicken up after it sits for a minute or two. You want it to be about the consistency of thick cream.

Score & Slip - Score and slip refers to a method of joining two pieces of clay together. First, score the clay; this means that you make scratches in the surfaces that will be sticking together. Then you slip it; that is you wet the surface with some slip, using it like glue. Next, you press the two pieces together. It is very important to always score and slip clay that is leather hard. If you do not, the pieces will likely pop apart when they are fired.

Molding - In this technique, flat slabs of clay are pressed into molds in order to create various shapes or forms.

Stages of Dryness - When speaking of clay, we refer tothree basic stages of dryness: wet, leather hard and bone dry.

Leather Hard - Clay which is dried sufficiently to be stiff, but which is still damp enough to be joined to other pieces.

Firing Processes and Terms Dealing with Firing

Firing - This is the process of heating the pottery to a specific temperature in order to bring about a particular change in the clay or the surface.
Bisque - The term bisque refers to ceramic ware that has been fired once without glaze.

Greenware - Unfired pottery that is bone-dry, a state in which clay forms are the most fragile.

Glaze - A glass-like surface coating for ceramics that is used to decorate and seal the pores of the fired clay.

Parts of a Pot

Mouth - The opening at the top of a vase.

Neck - The (usually) narrower part that leads from the body of the vase to the mouth.

Body - This is the main part of the vase. It is usually the largest part.

Foot - This is the part of the vase that meets the floor.