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The Difference Between Ceramics and Pottery: Article or Project

Just what IS Ceramic?

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Is there a difference between ceramics and pottery? No, not really. Now, before you get all huffy, read on.

According to Webster’s, this is the definition of Ceramics:



…of or relating to the manufacture of any product (as earthernware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (as clay) by firing at a high temperature; also, of or relating to such a product


plural noun: ceramics
1. pots and other articles made from clay hardened by heat.
"handmade pottery and imaginative ceramics for the table"
synonyms: pottery, pots, china, terra cotta More

o the art of making ceramic articles.
"sculpting, drawing, ceramics, and fiber art"
the material from which ceramic articles are made.


Made of clay that has been heated to a very high temperature so that it becomes hard.

As you can see, the description fits both pottery and ceramics cast from molds. So, why there a gap between the two aspects of ceramics? I believe it has to do with misplaced pride and a bit of snobbery on the part of most ‘potters’ who feel that pottery is a creative art and ceramics is just a craft. Oh, I know I’m going to make some folks angry with this remark, but after over 50 years in my chosen field of ‘ceramics’, I have encountered many ‘verbal’ potters who make that claim.

There has long been a rivalry between the two camps of individuals who work with clay. On one side, you have the potters, sculptors and others who build with clay; then there is the side with those who begin or work with molded forms. The first are referred to as potters or sculptors and the latter are referred to as ceramists.

In truth, both are an art form, both are or can be creative expressions and both are limitless in their possibilities.

A creative person will choose that aspect of working with clay in which they have the most interest. Some like working more with the clay itself - from the ground up so-to-speak, and others may have more interest in the multitude of finishing techniques. Then there are those who love to combine the two to create more challenging works of art.

If you examine both sides, you will see there is a great cross-over between the two. Indeed, with advancing technology, you will find that techniques which were previously exclusive to potters, such as Raku, are now being done with ceramic cast items. Potters will use press molds to create shapes to affix to their basic thrown pot, and the ceramist will carve designs, affix clay shapes, modify the cast item and in many ways make it individual. In fact, even the glazes and paints now cross over between the two procedures.

Potter – Ceramist, Ceramist - Potter. It is rather like toe-ma-toe and tah-mah-toe. Besides, we all have mud in our blood. I hope to see the day when there is no longer disdain affixed to either side of the wonderful world of Se’ramix.


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