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Top 5 Types of Clay for Pottery Making 2022

Clay is one of the significant elements in pottery productions. Being a base element, its choice must be precise and concise in terms of quality, usage, and practical binding of pots. It mixes up with different metal oxides and other organic matter to provide a fine finish to the pottery.  There are versatile types of clay for ceramics, but the selection of the class depends upon the usage and requirement.

Different clay has different functions that make it superior for additional clay items. Before getting into pottery, it is essential to know about the basic types of clay. 

On average, when we explicitly consider the types of potters’ clay, there are five primary types, i.e., fire clay, Porcelain, earthenware, ball clay, and stoneware. Each of them has different concepts of modeling that regulate the design of the pottery items. 

In this guide, I am making an overview of different types of sculpting clay. The outline will cover all the aspects like where it will be used and the temperature considerations of the clay types. 

Classification of Clay Types Basis on Material

Clay is the ground form of hard rocks lined with organic matter and metal ions. It has a delicate and sustained texture when mixed with a considerate amount of water. By making a clay pottery mixture, the potters will shape it into a desirable clay item.  

The right choice makes a cohesive mixture that quickly fits into the design mold. The molding capacity is essential in the quality and nature of the clay. There has been a wide range of classifications on discussing types of clay for crafts

This classification is majorly based on characteristics and temperature bearing angle. It is a very noteworthy point to what extent the clay can fired with heat. It clearly explains which clay is suitable for which kind of object matter ceramics. 

Three transparent distribution of clay bodies

  1. High-Fire Stoneware 
  2. Mid-Fire Stoneware 
  3. Earthenware Clay 

They are majorly reliable for making interactive designs and styles. These clay bodies include various additives along with water addition. 

These additives play an essential role in molding the clay for achieving desirable and wanted design shapes. On the whole, types of pottery also differ based on these clay distributions.

How many different types of clay are there for pottery?

There are five types of clay that use to make various kinds of pottery. Those are the (Ceramic, Earthenware, Stoneware, Kaolin, Ball and Fire Clay). Each clay has advantages and disadvantages. Some of them are used for basic projects, but others require you to understand their qualities and select them depending on the project requirements for better result.

Furthermore, for a better understanding, experts divide these clays into three categories (High-Fire Stoneware, Mid-Fire Stoneware, and Earthenware Clay). For your convenience, I have explained these five clays in detail below.

Types of Clay – Explained

Now, We know that there are 5 types of clay. Lets discuss each of the different kinds of clay separately in detail. 

1. Earthenware clay

Earthenware clay
Earthenware clay

It is one of the earlier clay forms being used by potters. It is prevalent because of its easy-to-handle activity. The earthenware clay absorbs water and gets sticky according to the requirements. The featural aspects include the high bearable capacity and its plasticity. 

This feature lets the clay be more versatile for the pottery styles.  

It’s Impurities

As stated above, the low-fire clay bodies, so Earthenware clay also falls in the same considerable sections. It contains certain impurities, including iron and some other mineral options. 

This impurity also gives them a hardened perspective even at the lower temperature. When the required results can be attained at a low temperature, putting the pottery items in high-temperature ranges is unnecessary.

Earthenware Temperature Guide

Earthenware clay can withstand the temperature ranges of almost 950-1100 C, nearly 1745-2012 F. Its definition strongly agrees and works well with the kiln authentications.  

On a biological basis, earthenware clay has versatile shades.  These shades include orange, red, yellow, and most of all, naturally the light gray color. Whereas when it comes to the perspective of a bit changes. These colors went with buff, medium gray, brown-red and white shades. 

The clay firing shows specific differences in different colors due to impurities. These impurities work as a barrier for the clay to resist everyday horizon interactions.  

The earthenware further has a lot of versatility in its working. Out of all, the terracotta clay firing temperature is more considerable. It is more used in the Indian regions for decoration and cooking pots. 

Apart from terracotta, there is another popular option available, which is tin-glaze earthenware. This type of clay has a scope in interactive decoration designs. 

2. Stoneware Clay

Stoneware Clay
Stoneware Clay

This clay falls in the high-fire clay category. It usually withstands the kid to high fire ranges and imposes significant inputs. Stoneware ceramics definition can be found somewhere from the temperature range of 1100 to 1300 C, which is relatively higher than the earthenware options. 

It’s Colors

On the whole, the different colors of this clay vary in most of the gray contrasts. These gray shades include light to buff and the medium gray differences further. Like the earthenware, it also gets nonaligned while firing in the kiln. 

Stoneware Effects

Moreover, the fire majorly affects the nature and effectiveness of the pot clays. It is one of the most versatile clays with all kinds of temperature-bearing activity. It presents a sheen look after clay firing. 

Strength of Stoneware Clay

On the other hand, the stoneware is a less porous clay option than all others. That provides it a more significant advantage of being more functional in its use. When it comes to the usability aspects, the dinner set and vase collection have the most common use of stoneware.  

Because it provides excessive strength and support to the ceramics material, it is the biggest reason it is less exposed to breakage and all other types of cracks and disruption issues.  

There are Different types of clay for pottery are available, but out of them, stoneware is popular in presenting a smooth and flawless fine finish to the items for which it is being used.  

In addition to all this, the potters who work with their hands for the pottery making activity are more likely to choose stoneware because it has a speckled appearance. It does contain impurities in it, but on the whole, the impurities can be restored by the addition of a grog in it. 

Grog is also a type of clay that grinds into the granular structure. Its addition would be beneficial because it prevents cracking and disruption issues.

3. Kaolin/Porcelain Clay

Kaolin-Porcelain Clay
Kaolin-Porcelain Clay

 The most common name for kaolin clay is Porcelain. These clays are incredibly light in colors, and due to the high involvement of the impurities, this is most generally used for Porcelain.

It’s Color Guide

Moreover, Porcelain clay has multiple colors, but all color considerations are light in contrast. When it gets moist, it shows the gray faints, but sometimes it might turn white during the clay firing action. 

But the white aspects occur primarily due to the excessive temperature. Buying porcelain clay is not much appreciated because it is pretty hard to tackle. Unlike other clay options, Porcelain is less plastic and does not give that much fine finish to endure.

Firing and Temperature Guide for Kaolin Clay

The firing action of the kiln is also much directed. It should go with a proper temperature management authentication. If the temperature gets out of the standard horizon, the bloating activity will ruin the intricate design. 

The Porcelain got fired and matured till 1800 C. this is quite a big deal to adhere to. For effective performance, it’s directed to kix up the porcelain and kaolin clay, with another type of clay available. 

The mixing action would manage the feature by implementing the quality of other clays in it. On the whole, Porcelain is the partial substitute of the material, including ball clay kaolin. 

4. Ball Clay

Ball Clay
Ball Clay

Earthenware, stoneware, and Porcelain are the most popular kinds of clay. Because they are the most widely used forms in pottery and ceramics items. But there have been various other options also.

Ball clay is the same as raw options of the clay, that it is most commonly available and provided in the powdered form. It is not a complete clay option. It acts as an additive for the clay types, and this maintains clay’s possibility to sustain its texture and mixture demands. 

Benefits of Ball Clay

In other words, ball clay is a performance enhancer element for the different clays. One crucial fact that makes it highly known is that it is effectively very plastic, which is limited to its alone usage and adds the same characteristics to the clays in which it gets added. 

Moreover, Kaolinite is another beneficial ingredient for ball clay. This material is also a part of other clay options. It is a highly refined option that contains extremely small-sized clay crystals and clay particles.

It’s Temperature Guide and Challenges

But apart from all this, the ball clay might face specific responding challenges. It does not get dry quickly. The kiln should face the utmost temperature fire. But on the other hand, the forced pressure might subject it to crack and breakage.  

It is one of the most basic formats of secondary sedimentary clay that delivers highly effective results for the designed pottery items. 

5. Fire Clay

Fire Clay
Fire Clay

It is a subordinated clay with many natural variations, characteristics, and working. Along with this, fire clay temperature is considerable, around 1500 C; it gets fully stable at this temperature. 

As the maturation temperature of fire clay is very considerate so it worthy of adding it as an additive in other types of clay. Especially in stoneware, its addition is much acknowledged because it maintains a balance in the maturation scenario of the temperature variation of pottery. 

On an advantage basis, fire clay is an option that is free from a wide range of mineral impurities. It can withstand high degrees of temperature because it contains alumina content. The alumina is a flammable oxide, and when silica gets a combination with alumina, it attains the exact headstrong nature. 

Fire clay behaves as an additional additive for other kinds of clay. Thus, the plasticity will increase significantly, making the ceramic item and element strong. 

Guide for Choosing a Clay

Ceramic Clay has no specific differences, whereas it has the same specified purposes to be used. It is also know as pottery clay. The types of clay introduce versatile clay ceramic ideas that create an interactive sort of attraction for the people. Thus they perform a kind of experiment with these pottery clay. 

In addition to the specifications of the clay types, it is also worthy of firing this clay at considerate temperature. The clay firing action has an arrangement in the specified kiln ovens. There are unique shelves over which clay pots fit in these ovens. 

This temperature consideration is the source that converts the clay design into complex and delicate still designs. After this, the clay items can effectively be referred to as ceramic design materials.  


Kiln Wash Recipe

Considering the Temperature Gaps in Clay

The heat level is the main thing that distinguishes the clay from one type to another. There is a particular clay option that can withstand more than average fire conditions, and there appear no distortion and cracks in the clay design. These call options are termed to be high-fire clays. 

But some clay designs are not suitable for these high waves of the fire. Thus they fall in the category of low–fire clays. The temperature ranges from high to average and further to the standard fire approaches. 

On exposure to the heat and fire element, the ceramic clays might show a change and discrimination like clay in terms of its color. Natural clay colors get changed on the extreme heat exposures. In certain situations, the clay pot might cause bloat out, and thus it disrupts the design and manipulates it.

Notably, At certain temperature edges, the clay gets melted due to the excessiveness of its bearing range.  These all are the general informational approaches to the clay for pottery.

Wrapping Up

If a person is thinking of starting ceramics, the first thought goes for the clay. But the people face difficulty due to the clay variation. Do the potters quickly determine which clay type they should go for?

Here I have tried to cover up 5 types of potters clay. Also, I have discussed various temperature gaps and clay firing phenomena for your interest. Have a concise conception of the content given above and make up your mind to choose the right clay type. Hope now you have got a better understanding of Clays. Thanks for reading.


Check more about Clay on Wikipedia

Types, Geologic origins of clay by glendale.edu in pdf

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Jennie Deckow

Jennie Deckow is a renowned Professional in making Pottery and Ceramics. She has Followed her Childhood passion for making Potteries. Nowadays, she is a creative part of the potterycrafthub Team.

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