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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Fortnum

What are the stages of turning clay into ceramic?

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

When you first create something out of clay it can take minutes hours or even days to make, at this stage the clay is still wet and malleable, its shape can be completely changed. While your piece has been made and it is still wet and it is called green ware.

Once your piece is finished it can then dry out ready for firing, but it has to go through a few stages beforehand...

Once left for a couple of hours the clay becomes drier and much more rigid, water is escaping from the clay making it stiffer. When the clay is at this stage it is called Leather hard.

At leather hard you can still work on your clay piece, you can attach leather hard pieces together e.g. stiffened slabs to create a piece such as a box or complete decorative techniques to your finished piece.

After several days (or weeks depending on the size of your piece and the atmosphere you choose to dry it in) all the moisture escapes from the clay, the clay colour will become lighter as the water evaporates and it will become dry and brittle, this is called bone dry. At this stage the piece is extremely delicate and must be handled with great care.

The next stage is bisque firing your clay piece, once it is at bone dry all the moisture has left the clay and it is safe to go into the kiln. If you try to fire a clay piece which is still wet, the moisture can make the piece explode during firing!

After the bisque firing is complete your piece has gone through the transformation of turning clay into ceramic.

A ceramic item will last forever! Ceramic will never degrade so even if it is smashed up it will still exist in thousands of years, your piece could be excavated many years into the future.

Keep popping back each month for more information on different ceramic topics, look out for building techniques, decorating techniques,

technical know how and more!

Is there anything you'd like to know? Get in touch with your suggestions. :)

If you'd like to learn more about ceramics and the processes involved book onto one of my workshops and explore the exciting world of clay!

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