The general public tends to think of ceramics as one thing and pottery as another. I believe this idea comes from the ceramic shops that used to be common, where one could purchase a greenware figurine, sand it, have it bisque fired, and the brush glazes on it and have it glaze fired.
Actually, what the ceramic shops were providing was technically slipware. Slip is liquid clay… clay that has been watered down to the point it is like a very thick cream. This slip was then poured into plaster molds to produce the figurines. Ceramics, as I’ll reveal below, is much broader than this.
And these ceramic shops are still popular today, they’ve just changed and adapted to the times. They are no longer called ceramic shops with figurines, but are “paint your own pottery” shops. The pieces one can purchase are still slipware, they are just providing bowls, mugs and plates instead of figurines. And the process is the same as with the figurines.
So how is this different from pottery? The general notion is that pottery is formed by hand with clay, either on the potter’s wheel and by some hand building technique such as coil building. Yes, pottery is made that way, but that’s not necessarily a defining difference from ceramics.
Ceramics pretty much means, “anything dealing with clay.” So the slipware at the ceramics shop is ceramics, and the mugs and bowls at the “paint your own pottery” shop is ceramics, and the stuff a potter makes on the potter’s wheel is ceramics, along with a whole host of other things. The tiles that made up the heat shield on the space shuttles were ceramics. The new super conductors are ceramic. Bathroom tiles, porcelain lamp parts, and even some course sand papers are ceramic.
All this means that it’s not really Pottery VS Ceramics, as pottery is one aspect of a broad field known as ceramics.
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