In a typical home, there are likely to be more objects made of ceramics – earthenware, stoneware and porcelain – than any other material category. Most will be from the 1900s and 2000s, a fair proportion will be late Victorian and perhaps a few pieces will be earlier. Oriental ceramics have a far richer history than those in the west. Fine porcelain was made in China in the 800s and started reaching Europe around the 1600s. Despite their inherent fragility, many early Chinese pieces survive and are keenly collected.
The earliest ceramics made by humans were pottery objects (pots or vessels) or figurines made from clay or mixed with other materials like silica, hardened and sintered in the fire. Later, ceramics were glazed and fired to create smooth, coloured surfaces, decreasing porosity through glassy, amorphous ceramic coatings on top of the crystalline ceramic substrates. Typical examples are earthenware, porcelain, and brick. We will look at the long and rich history. brick. We will look at the long and rich history.
Ceramics are generally made by mixing clay, earthen elements, powders, and water and shaping them into desired forms. Once the ceramic has been shaped, it is fired in a high-temperature oven known as a kiln. Often, ceramics are covered in decorative, waterproof, paint-like substances known as glazes. In this section, we will examine some ceramic manufacturers and their long rich ceramic history.