What Makes ‘Ceramic Clay’ Ceramic?

There seems to be a bit of confusion on this issue recently, especially with the addition into the marketplace of Laguna’s Air Dry Clay which does not need a kiln in order to harden.

It’s clay …right?

So if the material is clay, then it must be ceramic … right? 

It’s not ceramic unless certain conditions are met, and these conditions can only be met with the addition of heat.  Why? Because heat makes the clay crystallize. Ceramic clay when fired form opaque crystals.  I would never call ceramic clay “glass”, or even “opaque glass” — even though technically it is the same material as ‘glass’.  Why?  Because it would be misleading to do so.

Sometimes customers purchase polymer and glass beads which mimic a ‘stoneware ceramic bead’. Fantastic!  And they are glad to know which medium they are truly purchasing.  I’ve seen some gorgeous beads which mimic stoneware ceramic clay.

AND anyone who knows me, also knows that I value every kind of medium for creating beads: paper, metal, wood, seeds, glass, resin, plastic, polymer etc ….  If a customer types in the search term “clay bead”, they may be fooled into thinking an air dry clay bead is made from ceramic clay. That would be a shame.

Why can’t the term ‘ceramic’ be interpretive?” or “What does it matter, anyway?”   The answer is because the term ‘ceramic’ is a scientific term describing a scientific process.  If a clay can go through these six stages, it may be called ‘ceramic’:

Condensed from “Pottery.about.com/od/temperatureandmaturation/tp/tempclay.htm”

“First Stage: Atmospheric Drying (212 degrees)
Second Stage: Burn Off of Carbon and Sulfur (572-1470 degrees)
Third Stage: Chemically Combined Water Driven Off (660-1470 degrees)
Fourth Stage: Quartz Inversion Occurs (1060 degrees)
Fifth Stage: Sintering (1650 degrees) — it is a fusing process

Bisque firing usually is done at about 1730⁰F (945⁰C), after the ware has sintered but is still porous and not yet vitrified. This allows wet, raw glazes to adhere to the pottery without it disintegrating.

Sixth Stage: Vitrification and Maturity
Vitrification is a gradual process during which the materials that melt most easily do so, dissolving and filling in the spaces between the more refractory particles. The melted materials promote further melting, as well as compacting and strengthening the clay body.

It is also during this stage that mullite (aluminum silicate) is formed. These are long, needle-like crystals which acts as binders, knitting and strengthening the clay body even further.

It is also imperative to note that different clays mature at different temperatures, depending on their composition. A red earthenware contains a large amount of iron which acts as a flux. An earthenware clay body can fire to maturity at about 1830⁰F (1000⁰C) and can melt at 2280⁰F (1250⁰C). On the other hand, a porcelain body made of pure kaolin might not mature until about 2500⁰F (1390⁰C) and not melt until over 3270⁰F (1800⁰C). “

SOLUTION:  Feel free to ask the artist:”Is this clay one of those air dry clays?”

From My Heart To Yours

Found these sweet heart beads in my stash, decided to photograph them.  I wonder if I have more? I don’t think so …. I believe this was a combination of two glazes (one with blue crystals) because I had a bit left in each jar and was curious as to how they would turn out.  I wonder what the name of those two glazes are?  I wonder if I was smart enough to record it in my glazes book. Hmmmmmm 

Here’s the link to see them in my store:  Click here

Marbled Sprig Beads

This is one of my favorite things to do: take porcelain and stoneware clay and marble them together, then add sprigs and coat with a single glaze.  The mix of clays end up shining in a variety of colors.  Find this one here.

Handpainted with Iron Oxice Designs

After I scrolled thick black lines on this bead, I applied my hand-drawn lacy iron oxide decal and re-fired.  I found it in a bowlful of beads which was sitting in my living room and thought I’d offer it for sale. Find it here.

Button Pattern on a Ceramic Bead

One of my favorite ways to add texture to a bead is to impress it with a patterned button.  That’s what I did with this bead, and the glaze settled in the recesses in a wonderful glazy way. 

Ginger Ceramic Nugget Bead

I’m thinking of renaming this to ‘golden’ nugget, but it’s more brown than gold. This glaze came out unexpected on this bead. I was expecting more of a caramel color…it might have something to do with how I dipped the bead into a watery mixture of black undergaze before the caramel glaze I applied. If it was that … my memory is poor.  I think if I wanted to make another bead that color I would fail because now that I think about it, I’m not really sure which glaze I used.

On the other hand, my granddaughter toddled into the room where I keep my beads to photograph and she squealed, “BEADS!”  Because yes, there was a whole bucket full of beads that I had gathered from every area of my house (trying to get organized you know…).  Ironic that I think I have just as many in my studio, but at least those are sorted in containers. These just got bagged (well, some of them) and placed in this bucket for later. And this, my fellow bead hoarders, is what happens when I take beads out of the kiln and decide to keep them around a while so I can stare at them a bit longer.

…. and yet I still have some beads half-glazed ready to fire in my studio….

My sweet granddaughter scooped out some choice beads and petted them, “Pretty,” she cooed, then ran to show them to her mama.

Can’t wait until she’s old enough to help me around the studio. Maybe she will be a whiz at photography and help me to get all of these online, lol

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. 

Winter Bead

Is it cold and wintery where you are?  Well, it is very cold and wintery here in North Central Texas.  Right now the snow outside from yesterday is slowly melting, but not much because it is so incredibly cold.  It is in that vein that I offer this snowflake bead, to honor those who are going through this winter of 2014.  See it in my store here.

Stoneware Sprig Rose Decal Mug

I handthrew this mug and added small curved feet to the bottom, ribbon sprigs with pressed roses, glazed them, fired the mug in a clear glossy glaze and later added small rose decals to further make it girly.  It’s comfortable to hold.  I just renewed it in my Etsy shop.

Owl Ceramic Bead

I had to play around and make a ceramic owl. I actually made a few, so if you want more than one, let me know.  I put this one in my etsy store this morning.

Iron Oxide Orchid Nugget Beads

I was surprised to find these had 26 views since uploading them late last week.  They were originally this lovely purple shade and I added some original homemade iron oxide decals of my own drawings and refired them.  The decals came out perfectly and I am very happy with them.  I wasn’t expecting to get so many views and so many folk ‘favort-ing’ them either. What a nice surprise.  Find them here.