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Pottery Play: Making Gifts for Special Occasions

Ceramics and pottery are commonly found in homes and businesses around the world. Items can include servingware such as plates, bowls, and mugs as well as decorative objects like vases and tile. Pottery is an ancient art, with ceramics made of materials that include clay, animal fat, and bone ash dating as far back as 24,000 B.C. It's believed that these first ceramic items were not used for any functional purpose due to the types of items, which included human figurines and balls, that were found. Later, around 14,000 B.C., India and Mesopotamia are believed to have manufactured ceramic tiles. It wasn't until approximately 9,000 B.C. that pottery for the storage of food and water was first made and used. Around the mid-1800s came the first use of ceramic and ceramic materials as electrical insulation. In the 1900s, ceramic materials would further contribute to the creation of components necessary for engines, televisions, and eventually computers; however, ceramics, and pottery in general, are still created by professionals and novices alike for practical and decorative purposes as well. People ranging from children to teenagers and adults can learn to create pottery or ceramic items for themselves or for others.

Pottery Basics

When learning pottery, there are certain basics that one should know. This includes learning about the different types of pottery and how they are made. In general, pottery includes things made of clay that are shaped and then baked. When pottery is fired at high temperatures, 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit or higher depending on the clay used, it changes chemically and goes through a process called vitrification. This process partially glassifies the clay and helps make it harder and stronger. Clay is a ceramic material, and the resulting products of high-heat firing are known as ceramics. There are many different types of pottery, some of which can be identified by the form of clay that's used, such as earthenware, porcelain, or stoneware.

Earthenware is a type of pottery that is fired at lower temperatures than stoneware and porcelain. Additionally, it is generally less expensive, more porous, and not as strong. It should also be glazed to help prevent leakage and make it more waterproof. Porcelain is made using a type of white clay that is fired at high temperatures. Glazing is optional on this very strong and hard pottery. In terms of color, porcelain is typically glossy white or blue-white. Stoneware is between earthenware and porcelain when it comes to firing temperature and hardness. It is made of vitreous or semi-vitreous, non-refractory clay that is fired at medium or medium-high temperatures. The resulting pottery is hard and slightly porous. Most often, it is glazed after firing.

Pottery Play

People participate in pottery as a relaxing and creative hobby or as their profession. For those who enjoy it as a hobby, they can do so at home or, depending on their needs, at a pottery studio or workshop. Some pottery workshops even host parties for groups of adults or children so they can make pottery when celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday or enjoying a creative night out with friends. Pottery can be used around one's home or made specifically as a gift. Gift ideas can include items such as mugs, plates, and teacups. As it takes time, effort, and attention to detail to create, a gift of pottery is one that is often highly appreciated and valued by those who receive it.