A potter at work in Morena, India

Pottery is the process of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made by a potter is also called a pottery (plural "potteries"). The definition of pottery used by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products."[1] In archaeology, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, "pottery" often means vessels only, and figures etc. of the same material are called "terracottas". Clay as a part of the materials used is required by some definitions of pottery, but this is dubious.

Pottery from Székely Land, Romania, on sale in Budapest.

Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, originating before the Neolithic period, with ceramic objects like the Gravettian culture Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine discovered in the Czech Republic dating back to 29,000–25,000 BC,[2] and pottery vessels that were discovered in Jiangxi, China, which date back to 18,000 BC. Early Neolithic pottery artefacts have been found in places such as Jōmon Japan (10,500 BC),[3] the Russian Far East (14,000 BC),[4] Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

Pottery is made by forming a ceramic (often clay) body into objects of a desired shape and heating them to high temperatures (600-1600 °C) in a bonfire, pit or kiln and induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing the strength and rigidity of the object. Much pottery is purely utilitarian, but much can also be regarded as ceramic art. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing.

Clay-based pottery can be divided into three main groups: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. These require increasingly more specific clay material, and increasingly higher firing temperatures. All three are made in glazed and unglazed varieties, for different purposes. All may also be decorated by various techniques. In many examples the group a piece belongs to is immediately visually apparent, but this is not always the case. The fritware of the Islamic world does not use clay, so technically falls outside these groups. Historic pottery of all these types is often grouped as either "fine" wares, relatively expensive and well-made, and following the aesthetic taste of the culture concerned, or alternatively "coarse", "popular" "folk" or "village" wares, mostly undecorated, or simply so, and often less well-made.

Main types

Earthenware pottery from the Neolithic Longshan culture, China, 3rd millennium BC


All the earliest forms of pottery were made from clays that were fired at low temperatures, initially in pit-fires or in open bonfires. They were hand formed and undecorated. Earthenware can be fired as low as 600 °C, and is normally fired below 1200 °C.[5] Because unglazed biscuit earthenware is porous, it has limited utility for the storage of liquids, and even eating off. However, earthenware has a continuous history from the Neolithic period to today. It can be made from a wide variety of clays, some of which fire to a buff, brown or black colour, with iron in the constituent minerals resulting in a reddish-brown. Reddish coloured varieties are called terracotta, especially when unglazed or used for sculpture. The development of ceramic glaze which makes it impermeable makes it a popular and practical form of pottery. The addition of decoration has evolved throughout its history.


15th-century Japanese stoneware storage jar, with partial ash glaze

Stoneware is pottery that has been fired in a kiln at a relatively high temperature, from about 1,100 °C to 1,200 °C, and is stronger and non-porous to liquids.[6] The Chinese, who developed stoneware very early on, classify this together with porcelain as high-fired wares. In contrast, stoneware could only be produced in Europe from the late Middle Ages, as European kilns were less efficient, and the right sorts of clay less common. It remained a speciality of Germany until the Renaissance.[7]

Stoneware is very tough and practical, and much of it has always been utilitarian, for the kitchen or storage rather than the table. But "fine" stoneware has been important in China, Japan and the West, and continues to be made. Many utilitarian types have also come to be appreciated as art.


Chantilly porcelain teapot, c. 1730, with chinoiserie decoration in overglaze enamels

Porcelain is made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). This is higher than used for the other types, and achieving these temperatures was a long struggle, as well as realizing what materials were needed. The toughness, strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.

Although porcelain was first made in China, the Chinese traditionally do not recognise it as a distinct category, grouping it with stoneware as "high-fired" ware, opposed to "low-fired" earthenware. This confuses the issue of when it was first made. A degree of translucency and whiteness was achieved by the Tang dynasty (AD 618–906), and considerable quantities were being exported. The modern level of whiteness was not reached until much later, in the 14th century. Porcelain was also made in Korea and in Japan from the end of the 16th century, after suitable kaolin was located in those countries. It was not made effectively outside East Asia until the 18th century.[8]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Töpferei
العربية: فخار
aragonés: Alfarería
asturianu: Alfarería
azərbaycanca: Dulusçuluq
Bân-lâm-gú: Khaⁿ-á
башҡортса: Көршәк яһау
беларуская: Ганчарства
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ганчарства
български: Грънчарство
bosanski: Grnčarija
brezhoneg: Poderezh
català: Terrissa
čeština: Hrnčířství
Cymraeg: Crochenwaith
Deutsch: Töpferei
eesti: Savinõu
español: Alfarería
Esperanto: Ceramiko
euskara: Eltzegintza
فارسی: سفالگری
Fiji Hindi: Pottery
français: Poterie
Gaeilge: Potaireacht
Gaelg: Pasheydys
galego: Olaría
贛語: 陶器
ગુજરાતી: માટીકામ
한국어: 도예
हिन्दी: मृद्भाण्ड
hrvatski: Lončarstvo
Ilokano: Damdamili
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: ওলারিয়া
Bahasa Indonesia: Tembikar
isiZulu: Ukhamba
íslenska: Leirkeragerð
עברית: קדרות
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಮಡಿಕೆ
ქართული: მეთუნეობა
Kiswahili: Ufinyanzi
Кыргызча: Карапачылык
Latina: Opus fictile
latviešu: Podniecība
Lëtzebuergesch: Aulegeschir
lietuvių: Puodininkystė
magyar: Fazekasság
मराठी: कुंभार
Bahasa Melayu: Tembikar
Nederlands: Pottenbakken
नेपाल भाषा: पॉटरी
日本語: 陶芸
norsk: Pottemaker
norsk nynorsk: Pottemakeri
occitan: Terralha
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Kulolchilik
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਪੌਟਰੀ
پنجابی: پانڈے بنانا
Patois: Pachri
polski: Garncarstwo
português: Olaria
română: Olărit
Scots: Pottery
Simple English: Pottery
SiSwati: Ludziwo
slovenščina: Lončarstvo
کوردی: گۆزەکەری
српски / srpski: Грнчарство
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Grnčarija
suomi: Keramiikka
svenska: Krukmakeri
Türkçe: Çömlekçilik
українська: Гончарство
Tiếng Việt: Đồ gốm
walon: Potreye
Winaray: Pagdaba
吴语: 陶器
ייִדיש: טעפעריי
粵語: 陶器
中文: 陶器