Glossary of Historic Ceramic Terms
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
A tall pot or jar with a constricted neck that is used for
food storage and shipping, such as for potted fish.
A stoneware jug or bottle decorated with a molded bearded
human face molded onto the neck. Also called a "Bartmann
Bianco sopra bianco
A white on white decoration found on tin-glazed earthenware
A bulbous vessel with a narrow, cylindrical neck, used for
storing and serving liquids.
A large, cylindrical or slightly bulbous vessel, taller than
it is wide, used to store dairy products.
A pedestaled vessel that holds coals used to warm food.
A sturdy, handled vessel with a flat, flared rim, used as
a portable toilet.
A large flat dish with a diameter greater than ten inches,
often made for decorative use.
A blue pigment of cobalt oxide and alumina used for underglaze
An engraved wheel which is rolled over an unfired vessel to
create notching or other patterns.
A pan-shaped vessel with perforations on the bottom or sides
Dragging pointed instruments through wet slip bands in order
to create a zigzag pattern.
Molded bands encircling a vessel.
Cracking in the glaze that occurs when the glaze shrinks more
than the body after firing.
A small drinking vessel with or without a handle.
A large, flat serving vessel that can be shallow or somewhat
A cylindrical vessel for storing drugs, cosmetics, or condiments.
Also called a galley pot or apothecary jar.
Ceramics containing a low proportion of silica and fired at
low temperatures (900 – 1150o F). Earthenwares
are porous and must be sealed with a glaze to hold liquids.
A decorative technique where relief designs are cut into vessels
while in the leather hard stage by turning them on a lathe.
A coating of slip applied to the surface of a vessel for decorative
purposes or to cover up an imperfection in the vessel's surface.
The clay body or paste of a ceramic.
French tin-glazed ware similar to delftware and maijolica.
Shallow vessels such as dishes, platters, chargers, plates,
A substance added to ceramics and glazes which lowers their
melting point. Often used to fuse overglaze pigments to the
A thin coating applied to ceramic bodies for the purpose of
making them impervious to liquid absorption and for decorative
Small pieces of crushed pottery or fired clay sometimes added
to the primary fabric for strength or applied to a vessel's
surface as decoration.
Referring to porcelains which are composed of feldspathic
clay fired at a high enough temperature to vitrify them. Chinese
porcelains are true hard-paste porcelains, while many 18th century Continental and English porcelains are considered to be soft-paste.
Container forms such as tea and coffee pots, bowls, pans,
cups, jugs, jars, tankards, and pitchers.
Japanese porcelain or its Chinese imitations, decorated in
underglaze blue and overglaze red and gilding.
Decorative technique in which lines are scratched, either
mechanically or by hand, into the wet body of a ceramic.
A bulbous, handled vessel with a cylindrical neck, with or
without a spout, used for drinking or serving liquids.
A fine-grained white clay that is a major component of porcelain.
The oven in which ceramics are fired.
A standard glaze for earthenwares containing silica and alumina
and a lead oxide flux.
The stage in which unfired pottery is no longer in a plastic
or wet state, and can be handled without distortion to the
A decorative technique in which a vessel covered with bands
of wet slip is sharply twisted, causing the slip to run across
the piece and form abstract patterns.
The flat part of a plate bordering the rim.
A large pan with sloping sides used to cool dairy products,
as a wash basin, or for cooking.
A straight-sided, handled drinking vessel, taller than it
Painted colors applied on top of the glaze and lightly refired
at a low temperature.
Referring to the oxygen atmosphere inside a kiln during firing,
which causes color changes due to chemical reactions in the
glaze or body. For example, fine stoneware fired in an oxygen
atmosphere can be turned brick red, while the same clay fired
in a reducing atmosphere can be colored black.
The clays and other materials that constitute the body of
a vessel (see fabric).
A flat, round eating or serving vessel that is less than ten
inches in diameter, smaller than a charger.
A bulbous, handled vessel with a pouring lip.
An small, rod-handled earthenware cooking vessel, that often
has three legs.
A small, hemispherical, somewhat shallow vessel with one or
two handles, used for eating foods like soup or porridge.
A large, bulbous drinking vessel, often with multiple handles,
that is also referred to as as "loving cup".
A decorative technique, usually found on tin-glazed wares,
that is produced by sifting or sprinkling a powdered oxide
over areas of a vessel. This techniques is also known as "Dusting."
A vessel or vessel element (such as a handle or spout) which
was formed by pushing wet clay over a mold.
A drinking vessel with a hollow handle and at least three
spouts. A hole in the handle, and all but one of the
spouts, had to be sealed with fingers to avoid spilling the
liquids while drinking.
The absence of oxygen in the atmosphere of a kiln during firing.
The lack of oxygen can affect color in glaze or body.
A high temperature glaze which is formed by the addition of
common salt into the kiln when it is at the highest temperature.
The vaporized sodium combines with the silica on the surface
of the vessel to create a glossy, hard glaze. Salt glazes
are characterized by a pitted "orange peel" texture
and are only used on stonewares.
A decorative technique used on English white salt-glazed stoneware
and pearlware. Before firing, decorative motifs were incised
into the clay and filled with cobalt blue oxide. The excess
paint was wiped away leaving only the blue filled lines. Referred
to as Scratch Brown when a brown oxide is used.
From the Italian word for "scratched" – a decorative
technique involving the cutting away of a slip layer to reveal
the color of the paste beneath.
A liquid mixture of clay and water applied to vessel surfaces.
A manufacturing technique in which liquid clay is poured into
a vessel mold and then allowed to dry to the leather hard
stage. After opening the mold, the vessel form inside can
be trimmed, decorated, and fired.
Designs created by applying different colored slips to a vessel.
Porcelain paste composed of white clay mixed with various
additives, such as ground soapstone or frit (ground glass
that is partially vitrified). Eighteenth century English and
Continental porcelains are often soft-paste, while Chinese
porcelains are hard-paste, and fired at a higher temperature.
A decorative technique in which molded clay ornaments are
attached to a vessel before firing.
A decorative technique in which a die or other tool is used
to impress designs or manufacturer's marks onto unfired clay.
Non-porous ceramic paste in which there is enough silica content
that when fired at a high temperature (ca. 1200o C),
partial vitrification occurs.
Ceramic vessels such as plates, cups, saucers, dishes, tureens,
pitchers, or other pieces which are designed for serving or
consuming food and drink at the table.
A large, cylindrical or bulbous drinking vessel with a handle,
that is taller than a mug.
Ceramic vessels that are used specifically which is for serving
tea, including teapots, teacups, saucers, sugar bowls, slop
dishes, cream jugs, and tea caddies.
The manufacture of pottery by hand on a wheel.
A glaze to which tin oxide has been added to make it opaque
A decoration technique in which tubes are used to dribble
lines or dots of colored slip on a vessel surface.
A decorative technique developed in the 18th century, in which
an engraved copper plate is coated with ink and the pattern
is then transfered by a glue bat to the vessel being printed.
An improved method used thin sheets of tissue paper to transfer
A two-handled mug.
Painted decoration on leather hard or bisque vessel surfaces
added before applying a glaze.
A process whereby the silicate fragments in a clay body fuse
together when fired at high temperatures. Generally, the higher
the firing temperature, the greater the degree of vitrification.