Buy handmade ceramics direct from artists in the UK. Ceramics are made with clay and other materials hardened by heat, in a process called firing. The firing temperature depends on the type of clay. For example, earthenware clay is generally fired at 1000 to 1200°c. Whereas, stoneware and porcelain is fired higher, usually above 1200°c. Clay can be moulded and shaped in a variety of ways. These techniques include pinching, sculpting, coiling, slab building and throwing. This last one requires the use of a pottery wheel. Alternatively, liquid clay (called slip) can be poured into moulds. This is how ceramics are mass produced. This process is not considered to be hand-made but the decoration applied may still display artistic skill. Freehand painterly decoration helps to create a more original piece of work. Ceramic art may be functional or simply decorative. When you buy handmade ceramics it's important to check with the artist that your intended use will be suitable. For example, the artist may intend a vase to hold flowers but not to hold drinking water. Not all glazes are safe for food and drink. Clay is a versatile medium and can be used to make various forms. This includes decorative yet functional items (jugs, bowls etc), as well as sculptures, house plaques and jewellery. Ceramic decoration is as diverse as the form itself. Decoration is sometimes applied using paints. These are applied after the clay has been fired to its maturing temperature. More often decoration is applied using coloured glazes. Glazes are heat treated and fuse with the ceramic body. Some ceramic artists make their own glazes. They can spend months or even years perfecting their own unique recipes. A ceramic item can go through several ‘firing’ processes before the final piece is complete.
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