Short Guide to Pottery

Short Guide to Pottery

John Tabari

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact timeline of how pottery came about, because the word includes so many different definitions. Can we include the prehistoric figurines or does ‘pottery’ only refer to pots and bowls? How about clay structures that have been dried but not fired? Here we’ll look at the origins of pottery in all its forms.

pottery guide

Where and when was pottery discovered?

The oldest known examples of ceramics appear to date back to anywhere between 29 and 24,000 BC. A notable discovery was a female figurine in the modern Czech Republic. Early examples include figures and shapes made out of clay. Not the pots and bowls we would use to define the art of ‘pottery’ today. Historians believe that these figurines had ceremonial uses.

Other archeological discoveries place the invention of pottery closer to 18 to 14,000 BC. As excavators found clay tiles in India and Mesopotamia dating back to this period. This is because not everyone considers the early figurines to be examples of ‘pottery’.

The jury is also out on where pottery originated. Some say China, some say Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America. Prehistoric examples of clay molding have been found in all those places. It’s likely that people from all over discovered pottery at different moments.

 

Ancient uses for pottery

No one can know how the first humans came to discover that mixing clay and water, then molding and heating the mixture would cause it to hold that shape. Some historians believe that people would line their wooden baskets with clay, when collecting water, to stop any leakage. Then, when they emptied the water out and left the baskets in the sun, they found that the clay dried out and retained the shape and markings of the basket. Others think that early humans made the discovery in clay fire pits.

Ancient methods of firing clay were similar to modern bonfires. Back in the Medieval age, people would mix sand with their clay so that they could fire it over an open flame. In ancient Egypt, people would use kilns to fire clay into pottery. This is how we distinguish between two types of pottery; ‘Earthenware’ and  ‘Stoneware’. The former is usually fired at temperatures up to 1,200 degrees and the latter around 1,100 degrees or higher. There is also ‘Porcelain’, made from kaolin clay and fired at temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 degrees. This particular type of clay and the higher temperatures are what give porcelain its translucent quality.

Around 9 to 10,000 BC, it’s thought that pottery was first used for storing food and other goods. Since its beginnings, pottery has had diverse uses including transportation, storage and decoration. We can guess that the earliest functional uses were transporting and storing fish and grain. Then, seeing how well these creations transported and stored produce, people likely began using them to cook and serve their food.

 

Invention of the Pottery Wheel

Historians can agree that the invention of the pottery wheel is much more recent. Evidence suggests that it dates to roughly 4,000 BC. The pottery wheel seems to have evolved from potters using the coiling method on a mat or large leaf. The pottery maker would roll their clay into long strips and stack them on top of one another. But instead of walking around the pot to join the ends, they would rotate the mat or leaf.

From there, people constructed hand manipulated wheels, and later, rotating wheels. The latter refers to a wheel that rotates on its own using speed built up from pushing or kicking it. Again, historians are unable to pinpoint exactly where this practice started. Evidence of wheel-thrown pottery has been found dating back to Mesopotamia, ancient China, Europe and Egypt.

We do know that the potter’s wheel, as we know it today, most likely originated in Egypt. It's there that workers developed a structure which resemble the modern appearance. Including the addition of a flywheel which makers would kick to keep it moving.

One thing we know for sure is that pottery is incredibly durable and lasting. These findings have been invaluable in giving us clues about preliterate cultures. Where we have been unable to find documentation about life so long ago, we can get a window into these early societies through pottery. Its compositions, the shapes, markings and colours all show us important aspects of prehistoric life.

 

Recent History

Jumping forward in time to the first millenium (in the Gregorian calendar), China began exporting porcelain. At the same time, they started producing it for decorative purposes. As the Modern Industrial era began in the 16th Century, the mass-production of pottery began. Most notably, the English city of Stoke-on-Trent was home to one of the first example of industrialisation of ceramic production. Around 200 factories dedicated to making ceramics employed roughly 20,000 workers.

 




Pottery workshops

Make Your Own Teapot Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Bundeena

1 to 10

label $129 - $149

4.9 (37)

Introduction to Pottery Wheel Throwing Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Bundeena

1 to 6

label $129 - $149

4.9 (31)

Introduction to Pottery Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Rose Bay

1 to 2

label $170 - $220

5.0 (26)

Beginners Pottery Classes

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Crows Nest

1 to 30

label $180

4.9 (19)

2k

Beginner's Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Brisbane

4 to 10

label $130

3k

Beginner's Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Albert Park

4 to 10

label $130

3k

Mindful Gold Pottery Restoration Kintsugi Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Marrickville

2 to 6

label $100 - $110

5.0 (2)

Beginner's Kintsugi Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sydney

1 to 6

label $120

5.0 (51)

Learn Wheel Throwing for Beginners

date_range Runs regularly

location_on St Peters

1 to 2

label $130

4.8 (10)

1k

Clay Hand Building Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Fortitude Valley

6 to 30

label $75

19k

Beginners Clay Hand Building

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Kew

10 to 20

label $100

Adult Pottery Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Croydon

1 to 15

label $140 - $175

5.0 (1)

Ceramic Molding Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Croydon

1 to 15

label $50

Ceramics Mark Making Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Marrickville

6 to 10

label $145

2k

Traditional Kintsugi Weekend Intensive Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sydney

1 to 6

label $385

5.0 (1)

Kids Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Croydon

10 to 15

label $180

Mindful Ceramic Workshop

date_range Thu 10 Oct at 10am

location_on Fremantle

6 to 10

label $249

23k

Beginners' and Intermediate Ceramics Courses

date_range 16 Oct, 20 Oct

location_on Croydon

3 to 4

label $300

4.7 (3)

Ceramic Slip Casting Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Marrickville

1 to 7

label $270

25k

Pottery Handbuilding Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Balcatta

12 to 45

label $175

11k

Beginner's Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Perth

4 to 10

label $130

3k

Clay Hand Building Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Thornbury

10 to 20

label $120

28k

Slab Platters Ceramics Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Burswood

5 to 14

label $95

2k

"potter-y" Themed Ceramic Painting Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Burswood

6 to 15

label $30

2k

Pinch Pot Ceramics Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Burswood

5 to 14

label $95

2k

Date Night Clay Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Tugun

1 to 10

label $100

2k

Private Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Tugun

1 to 2

label $149

2k

Pottery and Sculpture Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Perth

1 to 6

label $163

5.0 (1)

Paper Clay Sculpture Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Perth

1 to 6

label $127

Kintsugi Golden Joinery Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Marrickville

4 to 8

label $120

2k

Masterful Mess Themed Ceramic Painting Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Burswood

6 to 14

label $30

2k

Galaxy Themed Ceramic Painting Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Burswood

6 to 14

label $30

4.0 (1)

2k

Ceramic Painting Workshop

date_range Sun 22 Sep at 10am

location_on Burswood

6 to 14

label $20

2k

Beginner's Adult Pottery Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Ballarat Central

1 to 15

label $40

5.0 (1)

1k

Mobile Group Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

10 to 20

label $50

1k

Kintsugi Makie Painting Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Marrickville

1 to 3

label $85

Kintsugi Accessory Workshop for Beginners

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sydney

1 to 8

label $88 - $143

5.0 (8)

Introduction to Wheel Throwing Pottery Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Kilsyth South

1 to 15

label $95

5.0 (3)

Kids Pottery Workshop

date_range Thu 3 Oct at 1pm

location_on West Footscray

6 to 30

label $30

7k

3k+

Ceramics Surface Design Course

date_range Thu 7 Nov at 6pm

location_on West Footscray

1 to 8

label $380 - $420

7k

3k+

Porcelain Slip Casting and Mould Making Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Marrickville

4 to 10

label $180

1k

Traditional Kintsugi Basic Course

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sydney

1 to 6

label $385

5.0 (2)

Mindful Clay Hand Building Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Fremantle

6 to 10

label $139

23k

Stoneware Ceramics Workshop

date_range Contact for details

location_on Windsor

8 to 20

label $165

8k

Introduction to Ceramics Class

date_range 10 Nov, 27 Nov

location_on West Footscray

1 to 30

label $90 - $110

3k+

7k

Team Building Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Kilsyth South

8 to 15

label $120

Pop Up Kintsugi Workshop

date_range 8 dates available

location_on Potts Point

1 to 4

label $100

5.0 (4)

Beginner's Kintsugi Workshop (Melbourne)

date_range 23 Nov, 24 Nov

location_on Melbourne

1 to 8

label $120

4.9 (15)

Traditional Kintsugi 2days Intensive Course (Mel)

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Melbourne

1 to 8

label $385

5.0 (2)

Introduction to Pottery Wheel Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Marrickville

1 to 2

label $95

1k

Clay Hand Building Class

date_range Sun 13 Oct at 10am

location_on Mordialloc

4 to 8

label $100 - $130

2k

Basic Ceramic Glazing Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

4 to 30

label $100 - $110

7k

3k+

Beginner's Wheel Throwing Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Fremantle

4 to 10

label $85

1k+

Beginner's Pottery Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Canberra

4 to 10

label $130

3k

Pottery Salad Bowl & Jug Making

date_range Sat 28 Sep at 10am

location_on Applecross

4 to 6

label $165

2k

Pottery Serving Platters and Dishes Workshop

date_range 06 Oct, 24 Nov

location_on Applecross

1 to 8

label $145

2k

Pottery Mug or Tumbler Set Making Workshop

date_range 20 Oct, 16 Nov

location_on Applecross

1 to 8

label $145

2k

Pottery Wheelwork Workshop (Wheel Throwing)

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Applecross

1 to 6

label $135

5.0 (1)

2k

Pottery Workshop Incense Holder and Jewellery Dish

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Applecross

4 to 3

label $105

2k

Pottery Vase & Planter Workshop

date_range Sat 12 Oct at 10am

location_on Applecross

4 to 8

label $145

2k

Wheel Throwing & Wine Night

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Applecross

1 to 6

label $145

2k

Adults Wheel Throwing Course

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Mordialloc

1 to 10

label $320

5.0 (1)

2k

Build a Pot for a Plant Pottery Workshop

date_range Sun 10 Nov at 10am

location_on Mordialloc

1 to 40

label $120

2k

Kids Pottery Class (7-16 Years)

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Mordialloc

1 to 8

label $240

2k

Wheel Throwing Workshop

date_range 19 Oct, 17 Nov

location_on Mordialloc

1 to 10

label $65

5.0 (2)

2k

Hand Build a Ceramic Pot Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on O'Connor

5 to 20

label $120

2k

Beginners Pottery Course

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

6

label $180

1k

Introductory Kintsugi Art Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Marrickville

1 to 6

label $100 - $120

5.0 (2)

Pottery and Plonk Hand Building Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

10 to 15

label $85

1k

Group Kintsugi Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

5 to 10

label $150

5.0 (2)

Kintsugi- Golden Ceramic Mending Workshop (Mobile)

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Comes to you

5 to 10

label $150

5.0 (2)

Private Pottery Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Bondi

8 to 20

label $100

Handmade Overgrazed Teacup & Saucer

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Rosebery

1 to 6

label $110

Make Your Own Garden Olla Pottery Workshop

date_range Wed 13 Nov at 6pm

location_on Ballarat Central

1 to 10

label $90

1k

Ceramic Painting Workshop for Adults

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

10 to 30

label $50

1k

Private Live Sculpting Party

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

10 to 30

label $60 - $75

1k

Corporate Clay Sculpting Workshop

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Cammeray

10 to 30

label $55

1k

Basic Japanese Handmade Pottery Course

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Artarmon

1 to 10

label $180

Introduction to Handmade Japanese Pottery Course

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Artarmon

1 to 10

label $270

5.0 (1)

Introductory Wheel Throwing Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sheldon

1 to 5

label $70

5.0 (1)

1k

Introductory Pottery Glazing Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Sheldon

1 to 25

label $70

1k

Intermediate Wheel Throwing Class

date_range Your choice of time

location_on Sheldon

4 to 5

label $180

1k

Wheel Throwing Course

date_range Tue 28 Jan at 10am

location_on Sheldon

1 to 5

label $880

1k

Hand Building Pottery Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Marrickville

1 to 10

label $98

1k

Sip and Paint Christmas Ceramics Class

date_range Sat 2 Nov at 5:30pm

location_on Cammeray

1 to 30

label $75 - $85

1k

Christmas Ceramic Painting Class

date_range Sun 24 Nov at 2:30pm

location_on Cammeray

1 to 30

label $50

1k

Hand Building with Clay Workshop

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Fitzroy

1 to 50

label $140

30k

19k+

Beginners Pottery Wheel Throwing Workshop

date_range Sat 9 Nov at 1pm

location_on Ballarat Central

1 to 6

label $120

1k

Ceramic Hand Building Class

date_range Runs regularly

location_on Fitzroy

1 to 40

label $140

30k

19k+

Pottery Course: Make Some Magic

date_range Mon 28 Oct at 10am

location_on Bondi

1 to 7

label $399


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