Glossary of ceramics

Bisque or bisque fired – A piece that has been fired to the first lower temperature firing usually in preparation for glazing.

Burnish – to rub the surface of clay with a smooth object like a spoon or pebble to seal the surface before firing for the first time.

Ceramic – what clay transforms into after firing in the kiln.

Coiling – building in clay using long coils of rolled out clay.

Earthenware – lower firing range 1040C- 1160C

Figurative – easily recognisable as something.

Firing – heating clay in the kiln to transform it into ceramic.

Glaze – the coating that is placed on the surface of ceramic to seal and decorate it.

Greenware – Pieces made of clay before they are fired in the kiln for the first time.

Hand building – all the techniques to make in clay that don’t use any large pieces of equipment or machinery including pinch pots, slab building and coiling.

Kiln – purpose built equipment like an oven that can reach extremely hot temperatures needed to fire ceramics. Can be electric, gas or wood fired.

Mocha – a decorative slip technique that uses ph differences to create tiny fingers of colour in slips.

Oxides – decorative mediums/pigments made from metal oxides, carbonates etc usually in powder form.

Oxide wash – an application of oxide to the surface of a bisque fired piece that is then washed off to leave the oxide in the deeper marks highlighting texture.

Pinch pots – creating pieces from clay by pinching out from the centre of a round shape.

Porcelain – smooth, white, high firing clay with translucent qualities.

Raku – Japanese firing technique that uses a gas kiln that means pieces are removed from the kiln at the top temperature and then treated in different ways depending on the decoration wanted.

Slab building – building in clay using flat slabs.

Slip – watered-down clay that is used to stick clay together.

Slips (decorating or coloured) – coloured liquid clay used for decorating pieces made of clay.

Smoke fire – putting bisque fired pieces in a container and lighting a fire around them so that the piece absorb some of the carbon from the smoke to produce a decorative finish.

Stoneware – medium firing range 1180C – 1260C

Terra-siglata – very fine slip made from just the finest particles of clay that don’t settle in water used for burnishing to an extremely smooth surface.

Throwing – creating pieces in clay on a wheel.

Underglaze – pigments in a liquid or pencil medium that can be used to apply colour to greenware or bisque pieces that has a transparent glaze placed over the top to seal them.