What is Ceramic Art?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Ceramic art is a term used to describe decorative objects made out of clay or similar natural materials. In some cases, these objects may be functional such as tiles, cups, bowls, and tea pots. In other cases, pieces of art such as statues and figurines are entirely decorative. As this type of art is made with materials that are readily available in many parts of the world, it has an incredibly long history.

A ceramic bowl may be considered ceramic art.
A ceramic bowl may be considered ceramic art.

Archeologists have discovered pieces of functional and decorative art that are ancient. Some of these artifacts date back to 4,000 BC and even earlier. In many cases, even these very ancient pieces of ceramics are embellished with symbols and designs. Examples of ancient ceramic art have been found in China, Korea, Japan, and the Mediterranean. Ancient pieces of ceramics have also been found in many parts of the Americas.

The ceramic arts have existed for thousands of years.
The ceramic arts have existed for thousands of years.

Many people still practice ceramic art today. It is quite common for cities, even those that are on the smaller side, to have at least one ceramic studio where people can go to learn about ceramics and practice the craft. In addition to shaping clay into bowls, vessels, or figures, ceramic art also includes a process of embellishing and glazing such objects. To finish the objects, they are fired in a kiln. There are some ceramic artists who make their livings by producing and selling pieces of ceramic art. Such artists are likely to own their own kilns.

Today, creating ceramic art is a hobby that is enjoyed by children and adults alike. it is very common for ceramic studios to offer classes that can accommodate beginners, those with some ceramics experience, and advanced ceramic artists. There are beginner classes for adults and even simpler classes for children who are just starting to learn about ceramics. In some cases, these basic classes only involve the decoration of ceramic objects such as mugs and small statues. In more advanced classes, students are taught how to form their own objects out of clay.

People who are serious about establishing careers as ceramic artists can get degrees in the subject. There are a number of schools that offer arts degrees with majors in ceramics. These degrees may also include courses in two-dimensional art. They may also include classes in three-dimensional art that use materials other than clay such as glass and metal.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - The only problem is that, as a hobby, it can be quite difficult to get started without the right equipment. You either need to be prepared to buy a kiln of some kind, or you need access to one some other way.

If you don't have a club or a school or something nearby with the necessary equipment, then you are kind of stuck. Working with glazes and firing clay aren't the sort of thing I would really recommend that people do without some kind of training, even if it's just a day course. And I don't think many people could afford to install a kiln without knowing whether or not they actually like making ceramics.


@KoiwiGal - The thing I like about ceramic pottery is that it's pretty easy to make the basics, even for someone who isn't that artistically inclined. A pinch pot or a slab pot is within the reach of anyone.

You might never be able to make fine art with clay, but you can make something serviceable, which I don't feel is as possible with almost any other kind of art.

Plus, playing with glazes is really fun. I love all the different possible color combinations.


I found taking a sculpting class extremely satisfying. There was just something about making things out of clay that I found very soothing and I just loved the ceramic wall art we made, even though it was definitely not high art of any kind.

I guess when you work with computers all day, it's nice to be able to hold something that has some weight in your hands and know that you made it.

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