The art of pottery making dates all the way back to the Neolithic revolution.
Hunters and gatherers were becoming settlers and farmers, and planted crops and domesticated animals were becoming the norm.
However, there was a need for a tool that could transport water easily to the fields. Being cheap and overly abundant in the area, farmers turned to clay.
Placing clay rings on top of one another, the earliest known pots were formed and fired in the ground. These were undecorated and easily expendable, proving useful only in function and nothing more.
Pottery becomes an art form
Early pottery was created using a variety of techniques and materials, but most were crafted through hand-molding, like pinching and cooling.
Bonfires acted as kilns, creating the high temperatures needed to make these items. And at this point, the type of clay used was irrelevant and the majority of vessels made went unglazed.
It wasn’t until the Greeks shed some light on the artistic side of pottery, making it into the art form we have today.
Though still used to hold liquids for drinking and eating, the Greek craftsmen, as they were then known, decorated their pottery with concepts from Greek mythology and were the first to implement color into their work using clay and other natural ingredients.
The origin of the potter’s wheel
Years after potter’s had been crafting items with only their hands, the potter’s wheel was invented.
There were two types of wheels that existed: the slow wheel and the fast wheel.
- The slow wheel was a moveable platform that allowed potters to turn the pot throughout the process.
- The fast wheel featured the same platform, except it was able to spin on its own upon an axle.
Give it a good push or kick and potters were able to work efficiently, creating more items in a shorter amount of time.
This invention was a huge breakthrough for this art form, shifting its purpose from strictly utilitarian to artistic, as well.
Potters were able to experiment with their creative freedom on the wheel and start to really explore the art form.
There are three main categories of pottery types: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
Earthenware: As the earliest form of pottery, earthenware was often left undecorated. Due to its porous nature, this type of pottery will absorb water if not glazed and is usually fired at a lower temperature.
Stoneware: Quite the opposite, stoneware is normally fired at a higher temperature and does not absorb water, so it does not require a glaze.
Porcelain: Made from a china clay and china stone, porcelain boasts a white, delicate body. There are three types: hard-paste, soft-paste, and bone china.
Pottery making today
In this modern era, we are lucky to have such freedom with this art form.
The pottery we are able to create is not only allowing us to express our creative freedom and passions, but it also allows us to honor and celebrate the art form and where it all began.
And with so many technological advancements, we have so many opportunities to create and experiment in this art form.
Interested in learning more about the art of pottery?
At Kissimmee River Pottery, we offer an eight-week course that allows us to dive in to the art form, exploring the foundations of pottery and the many techniques that have evolved over the years.