The History of Pottery Making


Pottery making is the process of turning raw clay into a bowl, plate, cup, pitcher or other vessel. The process of making pottery requires several steps and has transformed over the years as newer pottery tools and techniques have been discovered. Pottery is one of the oldest art forms and was even depicted in hieroglyphic images.


The art of making pottery began as early as 6000 B.C. and was used as a process for making practical, necessary items that aided in everyday life. Pottery vessels were created to gather and transport grains, berries and nuts, to carry water, and to eat out of. Practical uses eventually transformed into the use of pottery as an art form, with pictures being depicted on the vessels to share stories. In modern times pottery pieces are used as decorative accents, dinnerware, vases, and other useful items.


In primitive times, clay for use in pottery making had to be gathered as a raw material and then sifted through for twigs, pebbles and other hard substances. Though modern potters still use raw clay to make pottery pieces, it is more common that they purchase powdered clay to mix with water as necessary. Clay powder comes in shades of gray or white and red.


The first pieces of pottery were made by pushing holes into balls of clay to shape the piece or by rolling coils of clay and then wrapping the coils continuously around and up to make a vessel. The first pottery pieces were earthenware, or pieces simply hardened by being dried out. Earthenware pieces could be easily broken and turned into powder, or watered excessively to turn back to soft clay. People later invented the potter's wheel for easier formation of pottery pieces, although many pottery artists in the present day still create pieces by hand. The exact time that pottery wheels were created is unknown although Egyptian hieroglyphics depict the use of such wheels as early as 2500 B.C.


Eventually ancient peoples would discover that placing clay in the high temperatures produced by fire would result in hardened clay, or stoneware, that could not be as easily broken and not be returned to soft clay and reformed into another pottery piece. Archeologists theorize that this discovery may have happened accidentally as ancient people tried to cook in clay pots, or dropped pottery pieces into fires. Whether accidental or intentional, ancient Egyptians depicted kilns in hieroglyphics that date back as far as 2500 B,C.


The invention of lead pottery glass is dated at about 700 A.D. in West Asia. The experimenting potters discovered they could make ordinary pottery pieces to appear white and shiny to resemble the coveted porcelain pieces made of the white clay found in regions of China. In modern pottery making various kinds of glazes can be used to make the finished product take on different colors. Non-lead-based glazes allow us to use modern pottery for consumable items.

Keywords: pottery history, pottery tools, history of pottery

About this Author

Stephanie Daniels is a freelance writer residing in Louisa, Kentucky. Daniels focuses on parenting, children, gardening and home decor articles. She was the manager of Home Decor for Home Depot for 4 years. Daniels has written for many online publications and enjoys ghostwriting.

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