eMuseum Southeast Asia Ceramics

Glossary

WordDefinition
AntefixOrnament which terminates the covering tiles of the roof and conceals the joints between tiles.
AppliquéPiece of moulded clay stuck onto a ceramic vessel to form ornamental motifs.
AssemblageA collection of things made by grouping found objects.
BalusterA tall pot or jar with a constricted neck.
BiscuitAnother term for bisque, designating fired unglazed pottery.
BurnishedHighly polished.
CalciningTo reduce, oxidise, or remove all moisture with strong heat.
CarinateHaving a keel-like ridge. In ceramology, it refers to a shape where the joints of a  vessel’s body meet sharply to form a ridge.
CavettoRefers to the concave area of the face of a ceramic vessel.
CeladonRefers to pottery made with a translucent green glaze, often with a grey or a blue tint, and less frequently with a yellow hue.
CeramicA manufactured article made from combining clay and water into a soft, malleable paste which can then be formed into any shape desired and is finally hardened by heat. See also pottery.
CeramologyThe study of ceramics.
CobaltA chemical element with the atomic number 27 and symbol Co. The pigment produced from it gives a distinctive blue tint and has been used since ancient times on jewellery, glass and pottery. In Asia, it first made its appearance during the Tang Dynasty (618-906) on the famous Tang sancaiware. The Chinese made these with the cobalt imported from the Middle East, until the early 15th century, when local supplies were discovered as near as Yunnan in southern China. (Brown 1988: 76)
CoilingA technique where a piece of ceramic ware is made by coiling a long strip of clay onto a flat base then fashioned upwards, by pinching and beating the clay into a desired shape.
Cord-cutRefers to the use of a length of cord to remove a piece of formed clay from the base on which it is made.
CrazedHaving a network of fine cracks on the surface.
Cross-draftFuel-burning kiln, usually down-draft, where heat enters at floor level at one side of ware chamber and exits at floor level at opposite side of chamber. The primary draft or airflow through the kiln is from side to side. The burner, or firebox, is on one side. The flue (a duct for smoke and gases) is on the opposite end of the kiln. This is unlike downdraft kilns where the flue is in the centre.
DowndraftDowndraft (adjective) refers to the circulation of the air inside a kiln while it is firing. In a downdraft kiln, the air moves from a firebox at the base of the kiln upward into area where the ceramics are stacked (stack area), then swirls back downward to exhaust through a chimney opening at the base of the kiln. Downdraft kilns are designed to force the flame and heated air to circulate through the kiln. Flame is introduced at the bottom of the kiln and naturally flows upward. The construction forces the flame back downward, to exhaust at the bottom of the kiln. Downdraft (noun) is also often used by potters as a shortened form of “downdraft kiln”.
EarthenwarePottery made of clay, fired to a porous state. It can then be made impervious by the use of glaze. Usually refers to ceramic vessels and containers whereas terracotta can be applied to figurines and other types of ceramic art.
EnamelAn opaque or semi-transparent glassy substance applied to hard surfaces as ornamentation or as a protective coating. Usually applied to an already fired glaze then re-fired at a lower temperature.
FaienceGlazed ceramic ware, in particular decorated tin-glazed earthenware of the type that includes Delftware and Maiolica (also Majolica).
FeldsparAn abundant rock-forming mineral typically occurring as colorless or pale-colored crystals and consisting of aluminosilicates of potassium, sodium, and calcium.
Fire(noun) Refers to the process of using heat to desiccate and to harden a vessel made of clay in a kiln.
(adjective) Refers to the state of a clay-made vessel prior to or after firing.
FlangeA projecting flat rim, collar, or rib on an object, serving to strengthen or to maintain position.
FootRefers to the base of a ceramic form.
FurnitureSupports made of baked clay, used for the stacking of ceramic wares in kilns. Usually consist in both tubular supports (or pontils) and round clay disks with five raised knobs or spurs. These supports tended to leave very distinct marks, called scars, on the finished product.
GlazeA liquid, glass-like substance applied on to the surface of ceramic and made to fuse to the surface with heat. The purpose of the glaze is to form a hard, impervious, decorative coating, thus making the ceramic ware waterproof.
Basically a glass layer laid on the surface of ceramic ware, made by grinding different ingredients into powder or by grinding frit. Frit is made by grinding finely the raw material (sand or quartz, lead and other oxides); then they are mixed and placed in an unglazed earthen pot which is heated in a kiln for several hours until the mass has melted into a clear glass. The molten glass is then poured into a pit filled with cold water. The quenching solidifies the molten glass into granules and thus frit is obtained. The tradition of making frit in a pottery kiln to be used for glazing is an ancient one. (Myo Thant Tyn & U Thaw Kaung in Miksic 2003: 291)
Heap and pileSpots occurring in an underglaze paint whose mineral has not been ground finely enough so that it burns unevenly during firing. Considered a defect.
In-groundA kiln which is partly buried in the ground, while the top half is made of various materials depending on the region.
At Sankampaeng, Northern Thailand, for example, the in-ground kiln is made hardened earth and mixed with broken bricks.
InlayA decorative technique of inserting contrasting, often different coloured materials into depressions of an object to form patterns or pictures that are flush with the surface of the object.
KaolinA fine, soft white clay, resulting from the natural decomposition of other clays or feldspar.
KendiA globular vessel with a spout and a long neck, used for holding water. The word is Indonesian, derived from the Sanskrit kundika which specifically designates an ascetic's water-pot.
KilnA furnace or oven for burning, baking, or drying, especially one for calcining lime or firing pottery.
Lie-de-vinA type of glaze colour, coined by the French archaeologist Bernard P. Groslier, that resembles the colour of the residue left in old wine bottles. It is characteristic of a part of Khmer production of the 10th-11th centuries.
LimepotA container containing powdered limestone, used in South and Southeast Asia as an ingredient in the betel chewing tradition. See Dawn Rooney's lecture on this subject.
MammiformHaving the form of a mammary/breast.
MonochromeRefers to a single coloured glaze used for decorative purposes on a piece of ceramic.
OverglazeDecoration or a second glaze applied to an already glazed ceramic ware.
Oxidizing kiln atmosphereSaid of the kiln atmosphere during firing when a sufficient or excessive supply of oxygen is available.
PolychromeRefers to a ceramic piece that has multi-coloured decoration, usually made with different coloured glazes.
PontilKiln furniture, in this case, a tubular support for ceramics when they are stacked in the kiln.
PorcelainA white, vitrified translucent ceramic, made from porcelain stone mined from the mountains then ground into powder.
PotteryArticles made of baked clay. Broadly divided into earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. See also ceramic.
Reducing kiln atmosphereSaid of kiln atmosphere during firing when there is an insufficient supply of oxygen.
RoulettingA process using a carved stamp to stamp repeated and continuous designs onto an unfired ceramic piece.
SaggerA large ceramic box that holds ceramic pieces as they are being fired.
SherdShortened form of "potsherd", which is a broken piece of ceramic material, especially one found on an archaeological site.
SinteringThe process of making a powdered material coalesce into a solid mass by heating it without liquefaction.
SlipA creamy mixture of clay, water, and sometimes a pigment, used especially for decorating earthenware.
Spur discA pre-fired ceramic piece in the shape of a disc with spurs (three or more) that allows unfired ceramics to be stacked upon each other in a kiln to save space.
Stacking ringA ring made of clay, already previously fired, that allows ceramics to be stacked upon each other in a kiln to save space.
StonewareA type of ceramic that is made to be as hard as stone and is much less porous than low-fired earthenware.
TerracottaFrom Italian "baked earth". Terracotta is a clay-based unglazed low-fired red earthenware clay objects.
In archaeology and art history, "terracotta" is often used of objects not made on a potter's wheel, such as figurines, whereas objects made on the wheel from the same material, possibly even by the same person, are called pottery.
See earthenware.
UnderglazeDecoration on pottery done before the glaze is applied.
UpdraftUpdraft (adjective) refers to the air flow through a kiln as it is firing. In an updraft kiln, the air flows from a firebox at the base of the kiln and exhausts out the top of the kiln.
Updraft (noun) is used by many potters as a shortened form of saying “updraft kiln”.
Updraft kilns are those in which the flame is introduced into the bottom of the kiln, at or below floor level, and exhausted out the top. Updraft kilns consist of three basic components: the firebox, the damper, and the stack area.
The firebox is where the flame enters. The damper is at the top of the kiln and controls the exhaust (and by association, the kiln’s atmosphere). The stack area is where the pots are set and is between the firebox and damper.
An updraft kiln tends to be less fuel efficient than a downdraft kiln.
VitrifyTo change into glass or a glass-like substance by heat.
WasterA discarded piece of defective pottery.
WheelRefers to the pottery wheel on which a wet lump of clay is fashioned into a vessel.
ZoomorphicHaving or representing animal forms.

 

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