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Crafts: Ceramics

The term ‘ceramics’ is traditionally used for objects made from clay. Ceramic is very hard and has therefore been used throughout history for making many household objects.

There are many ways of making ceramic objects. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection contains a large variety of ceramic items.

Hand Moulding

Before the invention of the potter’s wheel, clay was moulded into the desired shape by hand. A bowl or a jug was built up from layers. A piece can also be shaped by hand around a wooden core.

Hand Moulding

Throwing a Pot

A ball of clay is thrown on to a wheel, which is spun very fast; a shape can then be formed with two hands: the thumbs in the middle, the other fingers on the outside.

Throwing a Pot

Casting

Porcelain and some other types of clay are cast in a mould, usually made of plaster. The clay has to be almost liquid. Within a few minutes a layer of clay builds up on the walls of the mould as the moisture is drawn from the clay in contact with the mould. The excess liquid clay is then poured out of the mould, leaving behind a thin layer that will continue to harden. Finally the ‘leather-hard’ piece is taken out of the mould and fired in a kiln.

Casting

Majolica, Faience or Tin Glaze Pottery

A piece of pottery is fired once. Then a layer of white tin glaze is applied. When this has dried it can be painted with various colours and motifs. Afterwards the piece is fired again in a kiln at a slightly lower temperature. Some colours cannot withstand these high temperatures. These colours are sometimes only applied after a second firing and consequently they abrade more quickly. Delftware and tiles have been decorated like this since the 17th century.

Tin Glaze Pottery

Painting Tiles

Drawings for the designs painted on tiles were made on thick paper. Holes were pricked in the lines of the drawings at regular intervals. The stencil this created was placed on a tile that had been fired once and coated with tin glaze. Pulverised charcoal or ‘pounce’ was then dusted over the stencil, transferring the design to the tile. The painter took this dotted outline as his starting point. A stencil could be reused many times.

Tiles

Slip Trailing

Liquid clay – known as slip – is poured through a straw, a thin tube or, in the past, through a cow’s horn with a hole in it, on to an object that has been fired once. It is rather like icing a design or lettering on a cake. The piece is then fired again.

Slip Trailing

Incising

Designs can be carved into the leather-hard – unfired – piece with a sharp knife. The relief necessarily has to remain shallow. Traditional incised work patterns are based on interlinked circles.

Incising

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