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Ceramics Clay : Introduction

About Ceramics Clay

Ceramics is the fine art of manipulating clays into hardened shapes. The objects made out of this art form are called ceramics clay. They serve as items of utility and beauty in homes and offices. Ceramics clay could even be shaped into highly esthetical forms, which are classified as ceramic art.

Generally, ceramics clay articles are made by moistening a mixture of clays, then casting it into desired shapes and then firing it to a high temperature. This makes the clay hardened in a process known as vitrification.

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Clay has several unique properties that enable it to be used for ceramic art.
I. Clay has a property of plasticity. When an external pressure is applied to an object and it keeps that shape, then that object is called as plastic. Clay possesses this property, which makes it possible to give it a permanent shape.

II. Another property of clay is that it shrinks when it is fired in kilns. This is a setting process, which allows the clay to become hard and retain the shape that is given to it.

III. Clay molecules can remain attached to each other. This process is called as cohesion. Also, clay molecules stick very close to each other without leaving many pores, due to which clay is an ideal material to make ceramic vessels.

IV. When clay is totally dried, then its surface can be painted. This makes it possible to decorate the surface in several ways.



Clay is actually a mixture of several minerals.

Depending on the composition, there are different types of clays. The main types of clays used in ceramics are as follows:-

I. China clay (kaolin) – Kaolin is a silicate clay, with the chemical composition of Al2Si2O5(OH)4. It is considered to be the richest form of clay used in the ceramics clay industry. This clay is pure white in color and it retains that color when the article is made. The degree of purity of china clay ceramics is adjudged on the basis of its whiteness. However a pinkish or orange red hue can be obtained in kaolin by the addition of some amount of iron oxide.

II. Ball Clay – Ball clay is a further metamorphosis of kaolin which deposits in swampy areas. Here, the acids formed due to decomposition of vegetal and animal matter can break the kaolin to still finer particles. The result is, the cohesion properties increase, but the whiteness gets reduced. Ceramics made of ball clay are much harder than those made of china clay.

III. Fireclays – As their name suggests, fireclays are ceramics clay that can withstand high temperatures. They are commonly used to make utility wares such as those which are used in chemical laboratories. This is actually a name given to different kinds of clays whose composition consists of high amounts of aluminum and silicates, but they have little amounts of iron in them. Feldspar and calcium are absent in all kinds of fireclays.

IV. Earthenware clays – These are similar to fireclays in their composition, but they cannot withstand as high temperatures. Earthenware clays are used to make utensils and utility items, such as water pots and urns. They are attached by cohesion at low firing temperatures in kilns, and thus even small scale potters can create them. They are also called as potters' clay. However, earthenware clays could require several fluxes for their formation into ceramics, such as iron oxides. This makes the surfaces of this ceramics clay quite rough and highly porous. Smooth vitrification does not occur in earthenware clays.

V. Stoneware clays – These are the cheapest and the most abundantly found varieties of clay used in ceramics clay range. They are gray to brown in color. These clays are highly impure with iron, calcium and feldspar, due to which they require a higher hardening temperature.

VI. Porcelain clays – Porcelain is heat-resistant and the most good-looking in the ceramics clay family. Thus its sheer beauty it is widely used in making crockery like dinner plates. It is pure white clay and keeps that color after the firing process. It is a daunting task to make ceramic ware from porcelain since it has a tendency to crack when drying. For this reason, hand building is difficult with this type of clay.



Conclusion

The final quality of the ceramics clay item depends greatly on the type of clay that is being used. Ultimately, it is the clay that will decide how cheap or expensive the ceramics clay item will be.





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