Ceramic - Pottery Dictionary

by Susan Mussi



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A Balance is an instrument for determining weight using suspended scales. It consists of a bar with a fulcrum in the center and at each end a scale hook or pan is suspended, one holding the object to be weighed and the other holding an object or weights. When the weight is the same on both sides the point or support falls into place and is shown as a straight line or 90º. The following photos show two types of balance used to weigh different material of different proportions.

The last balance has a rigid horizontal beam supported at its center with weighing plates hung at both ends and perfectly balanced. A weight is put on one side, the substance being weighed on the other and when the beam is level, the amount is correct. This balance is used for measuring small quantities of up to 10g.

Read more about: Balance scale – Digital / Bean scales / Spring scales

ca: BALANÇA - Digital.

es: BALANZA - Digital.

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Balance scales. There are now many types designed to weigh automatically and separate weights are no longer required. Shown here is a weighing machine that is a great asset for preparing colors, it weighs products from 0.0g to 1200g. It deducts the weight of the container you use to hold the product you are weighing. Turn it on and put the bowl on top, you will see it weighs 74.4 grams, press the button “tare” and it deducts this weight and goes to 0.0g. Fill up the bowl with a product you are using until you have the exact weight required.

Note: This type of weighing machine is not exact, for small quantities where the correct weight is very important use a Bean Scale.

When mixing colors to use in the Majolica method the proportions are one part made up of all the colors you need to make the color you want, mixed with three parts of a transparent glaze. Weigh each color needed separately and put them together in a large basin. Write down the amounts and add them up. Weigh and add three times as much transparent glaze as all the colors together.

Read more about: Balance scale / Bean scales / Spring scales



Ball Clay is mixed with many types of clay to build up their bonding and working properties, to increase their plasticity and strength. It is called ball clay because when originally found it was formed in the shape of a ball. When fired it becomes a greyish white color.
Found in Devon and Dorset in England and also in Kentucky in USA, where it is known as Kentucky ball clay.



Ball Mill is used for finely grinding and mixing colors with clay and pigments with glazes. It is a steel horizontal drum supported by legs with a door at the side and a small motor that rotates it at one end. The inside is lined with a strong material and contains loose pebbles or manufactured balls, so when the mill turns the pebbles fall to the bottom of the curve and grind down the materials. The cascading effect reduces the materials to a fine powder and mixes them. Different materials are used for grinding, including ceramic balls, pebbles and flint.

ca: BAMBÚ – Tècnica de ceràmica.

es: BAMBÚ – Método de cerámica.

Bamboo ware started in China in 1600, when they invented a method to make real bamboo flat and pliable so it could be woven and it was and still is used to make vases, trays, etc. European potters in the 17th and 18th century started to copy its texture in pottery and the surfaces of objects were molded and painted to give the idea of woven bamboo.

ca: BAMBÚ – Eines per ceràmica

es: BAMBÚ – Herramientas para cerámica.

Bamboo tools. In the photo on the left the tools have sharp points and a great variety of beveled edges with a smooth finish. The photo on the right shows a selection of modeling tools. They are all ideal for hand-building projects as they help get to places that are difficult to reach. The tools are very strong and delicately shaped with a smooth surface due to the inherent qualities of bamboo.

ca: BANDAT (0) Una línea al voltant d'un objecte circular en cerámica.

es: BANDAS (0) Una línea alrededor de un objeto circular en cerámica.

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Band refers to lines of different widths marked around circular pottery utensils, such as plates, jars or lids, so both ends meet exactly. Any method such as painting, drawing, scratching, etc., can be used and it can be done at all stages of production: freshly thrown work, leather dry, bisque, unfired glaze-base, as well as on a glazed surface.

Read more about: Majolica: 5h – Twelve photos of Albarellos – Chemist jars / Majolica: 5j – Twelve photos of painted lids

ca: BANDAT (1) Procés de treball per a plats, tapes i gerros.

es: BANDAS (1) Proceso de trabajo para platos, tapaderas y jarros.

This section explains how to band and applies to the different ways of working that follow

The Working Process
1) Place the object you are decorating in the center of the hand wheel making sure it is centered exactly. If it is not centered properly, the two ends of the line you paint around the circumference, while turning the wheel, will not meet.

2) You can band with a pencil, a paintbrush with water or directly with paint.

3) Draw the banding lines. Balance your hand on the metal banding bar holding a soft lead pencil between your fingers and just touching what you are decorating in the place you want to start. With your other hand turn the wheel by its neck. Do not move the hand holding the pencil; keep it steady, as the wheel turns, you will draw your line. Using a pencil is a way of provisionally making the lines that can be used as guides for marking on the designs or for painting the lines.

4) You can paint the lines in the same way directly with a paintbrush and a color or with water.
Water is used when the glaze-base is very dry, doing this helps the paintbrush to move smoothly and not take off the base.

5) Your brush can run out of color so add more to it and continue and if the density of the color varies, paint that part again.

ca: BANDAT (2) Barres en ceràmica

es: BANDAS (2) Barras en cerámica

Banding Bars are to support your hand while drawing or painting lines round jars, plates or lids. The bar should be made of a strong metal, be high enough to decorate the largest pieces you work with and should not move with the pressure of working. The bottom end has a clamp so it can be attached tightly to the edge of a table.

When banding on top of an object, like a plate or a lid, you should stand, and when working round the object, you can sit or stand.
Turn the wheel with one hand, with the other hold the bar with your little finger and the brush between your thumb and first finger and continue as explained in the working section.

Read more about: Centering – Banding and Banding (6) Wheel.

The next section; Banding (3) Bridge

ca: BANDAT (3) Amb cavallet en ceràmica.

es: BANDAS (3) Con caballete en cerámica.

Banding with a bridge. To make a bridge put a bar of wood over two supports. When working on a plate or a lid the bridge must be the height of the wheel plus the object being decorated, and for jars it should be the same height as the lines that are to be painted around them. Put the wheel with the plate halfway under the bridge, rest your right hand on the wood to steady it and turn the wheel. Put the jar on the wheel, build the bridge up to the height needed and band round the jar.

ca: BANDAT (4) A mà en ceràmica.

es: BANDAS (4) A mano en cerámica.

Banding by hand. Hold the neck of the wheel with your left hand and the tool with your right one at the required height and rest your arm against the edge of the table, to steady it. Turn the wheel with the brush touching the pot until the line has gone right round and joins the starting point.

ca: BANDAT (5) Llapis per a ceràmica.

es: BANDAS (5) Lápiz para cerámica.

Banding with a pencil. Use a soft lead pencil, about 3H, sharpen it and then flatten it on one side by rubbing it backwards and forwards on paper. It is used to provisionally mark the banding lines around objects and the spacing for sections of a design that is repeated. As the lead is soft and flat it should not damage the base and lead, when fired, burns away. These lines are then followed using a paintbrush with a color. They are also used to draw lines onto tiles.

Read more about: Line – Drawing
The next section; Banding (6) Wheel

ca: BANDAT (6) Amb torn de sobre taula en ceràmica

es: BANDAS (6) Con torno de sobremesa en cerámica.

Banding wheel is a potter’s wheel that is turned by hand and is used for banding. One hand turns while the other one draws lines round the circumference of plates, jars, etc. It is also used for decorating and sculpture as it allows you to turn the work without it being touched. The first photo shows the various indented circumference measurements which make centering a piece of pottery much easier and the one on the right shows a banding bar attached to a wheel.
Note: I have been told there are electric banding wheels, I have never seen one and most probably they are privately made.

Read more about: Wheel (c) Hand wheel
This is the last section, to go to the first; Band – A line painted around a circular pottery utensil.



Barium Carbonate prevents deposition of soluble impurities on the surface of ceramic bodies when at approximately 2%. In glazes it is a powerful flux at earthenware and stoneware temperatures (10%). In excess it can produce a semi-matt finish and with boron compounds a glossy finish.

ca: BARRES (1)

es: BARRAS (1)

Bars can be circular, rectangular, square, narrow, of any length and made with different materials; wood, metal, chocolate etc. The following sections show four ways in which they are used and through the links many more are explained.

Read more about: Banding (2) Bars / Hand Pole / Line – Drawing / Mold: 4 Made with bars of wood
The next section; Bars (2) Metal used in pottery.

ca: BARRES (2) Metàl•liques per ceràmica.

es: BARRAS (2) Metálicas para cerámica.

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Metal bars; you need several that are long and flat. They are used to draw long straight lines, hold tiles in place while screen printing and to straighten tiles when putting them in the kiln for firing. When the bars are long, drill a hole in one end so that they can be hung up.

a) A metal bar clamped to the table at each end keeps the tiles being printed in place.
b) A metal bar being used to straighten the tiles in the crank.
c) Long metal bars with a hole drilled in one end so as to hang them up.

ca: BARRES (3) Suport per rajoles quan es decoren a mà.

es: BARRAS (3) Soporte para azulejos cuando se decoran a mano.

Bar tile support is a bar of wood about 2cm wide that is firmly attached along the bottom of the tile stand and supports all the tiles being decorated.
a) Bar – Tile support
Read more about: Tile – Stands

ca: BARRES (4) Suports a sobre del contenidor per preparar les rajoles.

es: BARRAS (4) Soportes sobre el contenedor para preparar los azulejos.

Bar supports are narrow pieces of wood used to support objects that are being prepared over a container. They must be long and narrow, longer than the diameter of the container you are using. Two bar supports are placed to make a bridge and spaced to hold the objects being prepared, so the objects overlap them width-wise, making picking up easier. Always be sure that the bars are completely straight. They are used for supporting tiles being prepared with a glaze-base and for holding a sieve while passing the glaze-base into the container.

Read more about: : Glaze-base (e) Applying by pouring on to tiles / Sieves / Rotary sieve

ca: BASE - El cos dels esmalts i color.

es: BASE - El cuerpo de los esmaltes y colores.

Base: the different ingredients mixed together to form a substance that becomes the body for glazes and colors. Read more about: Glaze-base

ca: BASE – Part inferior d´un objecte.

es: BASE - Parte inferior del objeto.

Base: is the underneath part of an object. In pottery it can be of various shapes, flat, round or pointed. The footing is a protruding ring which the object stands on. It can be made as part of the object when this is being turned on the wheel or added later. If a base is pointed a separate footing in metal or wood has to be made.



a) Basin; used for washing hands and faces. It is a half-circular bowl made of a ceramic or metal material. They are attached to a wall or table, have taps, a drain and are made to hold water. Also known as hand-basins and if large and used to clean objects are known as sinks.

b) Basin, made to hold and carry products. Made of china, plastic or metal, these are circular containers with a flat floor. Made in many sizes, they are available with or without handles on the sides. Used to carry and store loose products such as liquids, grain, etc. When they have a curved base they are known as bowls.

Read more about: Container – Glaze-base

ca: PAL - Per aplanar i deixar textures damunt l’argila.

es: PALO - Para aplanar y dejar texturas sobre la arcilla.

Bats are flat, rectangular pieces of wood with a handle and can be with or without indented textures. Used to hit clay to flatten it out and leave textures.
Note: Bat has several different meanings in pottery and the following links explain different way of using it.

Read more about: Beater: textures / Hammer / Paddle: beating pots / Wheel (f) Bat for throwing

ca: COBERTA PLAQUES – Revestiment de caolí per a protegir els estants del forn.

es: CUBIERTA PLACAS – Revestimiento de caolín para proteger los estantes del horno.

Bat wash is a coating of refractory powder made up of half flint and half kaolin that is mixed with water and painted onto kiln shelves to prevent wear and the accidental running of glazes from fusing to the shelves.



Batch is a quantity of raw materials mixed in their correct proportions and prepared for fusion into a glaze.

ca: SEPARACIÓ - Un fracàs de l'esmalt, es separa en parts.

es: SEPARACIÓN - Un fracaso del esmalte, se separa en partes.

Beading occurs when a fired glaze does not adhere to the surface to which it is applied. It separates, shrinks and rolls back leaving patches showing the bisque body. It can be seen round the edges, in small individual patches or all over the surface. Before the firing the decorated piece seemed perfect.



Beaker is a large, straight, high-sided cup used for drinking. It can be with or without a handle and is also known as a mug.



Bean balance scales are mainly used to weigh small quantities of colors, from 0.01 grams to about 10 grams and are used mainly for weighing colors. It is a measuring instrument that consists of a horizontal lever with arms of equal length called the beam with a weighing pan suspended from each arm. The object to be weighed is placed in one pan and standard weights in the other until the beam is as close to equilibrium as possible, it compares weights using the standard weights for balances.
Weights for bean scales are so small that they are sold set into individual holes in a block of wood to keep the different sized weights separately; this allows you to see straight away if pieces are missing. They vary in size according to the size of scale you use. The photo shows one designed for weighing the very small quantities of powders needed when forming many pottery mixtures.

Read more about: Balance scale / Balance scale – Digital / Spring scales



To beat is to hit vigorously using your hand or a tool and can apply to mixing a liquid or flattening clay.

ca: BATEDORA – Elèctrica; i s’usa per a barrejar líquids en ceràmica.

es: BATIDORA - Eléctrica; sirve para mezclar líquidos en cerámica.

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Electric beaters can be bought and are similar to those used with food, but are expensive. It is more economical to buy the arm designed for mixing liquids which can then be attached and used with an electrical drill; this is shown in the first four photos . They are made in different lengths and head sizes to take into account the depth and density of the liquid. Used for mixing colors, glaze-bases, etc., they are very good when a product has become dry and hard; first cover it with water, leave it for a short period and then beat it.

Both (e) and (f) are large electrically run beaters designed for mixing new and used clay with water to make a slip. They are put into the big container which holds the slip and are turned on at intervals to mix it and keep it at the correct intensity for filling molds, the arm that holds the beater can be moved horizontally and vertically. When the slip is being used to fill molds, a tube is put in the container that is connected to a compressor. This pulls the slip out into another tube which is connected to a slip gun. With the pressure of the electricity the slip is drawn up and out through the gun and can fill up many molds.

Read more about: Container – Glaze-base / Containers for slip / Drill

ca: BATEDORA- Líquids

es: BATIDOR - Líquidos

Beater: It is a metal tool with a long, thin and strong handle and an oval head made of wires. They are used in cooking for beating eggs, etc. Different sizes can be purchased. Very large ones are used for mixing glazes and other liquid products.

ca: MAÇA - Per texturar l’argila.

es: MAZA - Para texturar la arcilla.

Beaters and bats are different objects used to indent textures into a soft clay surface. The result is similar to impressed decoration but less planned, more spontaneous. It can be done with string, a butter pat, a meat hammer, in fact anything with rough surfaces, onto a prepared clay object or onto a separate piece of clay, which is then luted and attached to another piece. When glazed, the textures reflect the light and this accentuates the uneven surface.

ca: IMPRESSIÓ - Decoració.

es: IMPRESIÓN - Decoración.

Beating decoration; shows designs and textures impressed into clay. The decoration can be indented directly into a piece or into a separate piece and then luted on. If luted on, different colored clays can be used.

ca: COLPEJAR - Formes en argila (modelar).

es: GOLPEAR - Formas en arcilla (modelar).

Beating shapes is to beat clay when it is soft to form or change a shape and to level and thin out work. It is often used on coiling to level it out, forming very thin, strong walls. This is also known as paddling.
Read more about: Paddle



Bentonite is clay of volcanic origin, used to improve the working qualities of bodies (up to 5%). It also increases mechanical strength. At stoneware temperatures it fuses to produce an iron-brown color (5%).
In pottery its plasticity helps the suspension of the glaze.



Bevel: It is also known as a Bevel Square and is an adjustable tool for marking out dovetails and joints with angles greater or smaller than 90 degrees.
It is useful in pottery if you have to mark tiles before cutting them down to unusual sizes.

ca: BICOLOR - Argila decorada amb dos colors.

es: BICOLOR - Argila decorada amb dos colors.

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Bicolor is the name given to a style of decorating pottery with only two colors, any colors can be used but the most classic are manganese and copper green. The plate on the left is copied from a photo; the original is in the Ceramic Museum of Barcelona. It was painted after 1400 AD in Paterna, a town in Valencia. The plates below are new ones which were decorated using and mixing designs from the past.
Tricolor also exists, using three colors.



Binder is a liquid added to coloring pigments to harden and aid adhesion especially when applied to a fired glaze. Arab glue can be also used; it is a natural product that burns away when fired.

ca: TALLADORS DE PASTES - Usat amb l’argila.

es: CORTADORES DE PASTAS - Usados con la arcilla.

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Biscuit cutters are thin metal walls forming many different shapes and are made for cutting pastry to make biscuits. They are used to cut clay in the same way.

Read more about: Mold: 8 Clay Cutting

ca: BESCUIT (1) Argila de primera cuita.

es: BIZCOCHO (1) Arcilla de primera cocción.

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Bisque is the name given to all types of clay which have been fired without a glaze. The lower the temperature of firing, the greater the porosity the piece has as it burns away all carbonaceous matter. The temperature for firing clay into bisque is between 650° C and 1050° C. Refractory can be fired up to 1300° C. The higher the temperature of firing, the less porosity it has and the stronger it becomes but it is still absorbent to liquids. When you use products in the bisque state that have been industrially made or handmade they can vary in porosity so the drying time of a glaze-base can differ.

Tiles can be bought from the same firm but each size may be made using a different method and this varies the drying times. The glaze-base on a bisque tile 15×15cm can take up to 12 hours to dry and on one 7.5×20cm only 3 hours. This is not related to size but to the methods and products used to make them.

The advantages of bisque firing:
1) The work becomes stronger, less likely to break and easier to handle.
2) Pieces can be piled up on top of each other and stored indefinitely.
3) If broken and the cracks can be seen or heard, they can be thrown away, so time is not wasted decorating them.
4) Sometimes cracks cannot be seen, so sounding the piece before decorating is important, to check that it is not cracked.
5) A flat sound can mean that the bisque has been under-fired or is broken.
6) When you buy clay, you must check to what temperature it can and should be fired. Over-firing clay may turn it into a liquid and destroy your kiln.
7) Clay while being fired shrinks. If you fire clay to its correct temperature, shrinking will stop, but if you under-fire it, when fired again, shrinking will continue.

The next section; Bisque (2) Cleaning tiles to use
Read more about: Tile – Decorating / Tile – Problems

ca: BESCUIT (2) Preparació rajoles per utilitzar.

es: BIZCOCHO (2) Preparación de azulejos para utilizar.

Bisque is the name given to all types of clay bodies that have been fired but are porous and unglazed. Always test ware to make sure it is not damaged or broken. Holding it with one hand, tap it in several places with the knuckle of the first finger of your other hand. If the resulting sound has a high tone, this means that the tile is not broken. If the sound is flat, this means that the tile is cracked. Work can be tested in the same way if it is bisque, bisque prepared with an unfired glaze, or with a fired glaze.

Cleaning: before applying the glaze-base to bisque it must be sandpapered, cleaned by brushing.
If you are decorating hand-made bisque objects made from red clay, dampen them before applying the glaze-base. I always do this but it is not absolutely necessary; it helps eliminate air holes and makes the base run on more cleanly and smoothly. Quickly dip the bisque into clean water, so every part gets covered, take it out and let it sit for a short while before applying the glaze-base. Only wet handmade objects made in red clay, not white or industrially-made clays.

a) Sound-test work for breakages.
b) Sandpaper and even out any rough surfaces.
c) Clean it by brushing it, inside and out, back, sides and edges.

The next section; Bisque (3) Sounding tiles
Read more about: Glaze-base (c) Preparing the glaze-base

ca: BESCUIT (3) So de rajoles.

es: BIZCOCHO (3) Sonido de azulejos.

Tiles: if a tile is visibly cracked break it by holding it with both hands and forcing it downward. You might not be able to see the crack but even so, if the sound is flat, it is advisable not to use this piece as it could break from the heat of firing. If you are not sure it is broken, put it at the bottom of the kiln during firing so that if it breaks there is nothing underneath it can fall on and damage. Use it for a one tile design, the replacement of one tile in a large design is too complicated to risk.

When tiles have been cut to a special size or for a border I do not test them, as the sound changes and I assume that with the pressure used by the cutting machine, they would have broken if they were cracked.

Sounding Tiles: balance it on top of the fingers of one hand and tap in different places with the first knuckle of your other hand.

Remember: If the resulting sound has a high tone, this means that the tile is not broken. If the sound is flat, it means that the tile is cracked and should not be used.

The next section; Bisque (4) Sounding plates, jars and lids

ca: BESCUIT (4) So de plats, gerres i tapes.

es: BIZCOCHO (4) Sonido platos, jarras y tapas.

Plate: Balance it on top of the fingers of one hand and tap around the edge with the first knuckle of your other hand.

Jars: Hold it with the fingers of one hand inside the neck and tap it with the first knuckle of your other hand.

Lids: Hold the flange of the lid by putting the fingers inside it, pushing them firmly against the edge. Then tap the lid with the first knuckle of your other hand.

Remember: If the resulting sound has a high tone, this means that it is not broken. If the sound is flat, it means it is cracked and should not be used.

The next section; Bisque (5) Cleaning plates, jar and lids

ca: BESCUIT (5) Neteja de plats, gerros i tapes.

es: BIZCOCHO (5) Limpieza de platos, jarros y tapas.

To clean, plates, jars and lids that are hand or industrially made, dust or brush them. With handmade pieces, sandpaper any rough parts and if the plates have holes so they can be hung up, check that they are big enough and not blocked, this is explained in drilling holes.

Clean them out with a sharp, thin piece of metal or an electric drill. If the holes are too small, start with a very fine drill and then use a larger one. Continue doing this using a bigger drill until the holes are of the required size. Doing it this way makes it less likely to break. The holes should be made before the clay is fired but if there are no holes, start by indenting a small space in the bisque using a nail or a sharp instrument like a diamond cutter; just enough to stop the drill from slipping.

The next section: Glaze-base (c) Preparing the glaze-base
This is the last section, to go to the first; Bisque (1) Clay after the first firing

Read more about: Borders (3) Plate structure / Borders (4) Plate Designing / Borders (5) Plate spacing designs / Borders (6) Plate painting

ca: BESCUIT – Tall

es: BIZCOCHO - Corte

Bisque cutting: if the piece is shaped like a pot or plate it is impossible to cut, as the pressure of cutting through its different densities and shapes will break it. Cutting flat pieces of bisque, like tiles, can be done using a tile cutter and there are two ways of doing so; by hand and by using an electric cutter. The electric cutter can also be used to even off rough parts and round off corners.

Read more about: Tile – Hand Cutter / Tile – Electric Cutter. / Cutting tiles into shapes is in 5 sections; this is the first and they are all linked: Tile (1) Cutting shapes

ca: BESCUIT – Humitejat.

es: BIZCOCHO – Humedecido.

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Bisque dampened: if you are decorating hand-made bisque objects made from red clay, dampen them before applying the glaze-base. I always do this but it is not absolutely necessary; it helps eliminate air holes and makes the base run on more cleanly and smoothly. Quickly dip the bisque into clean water so every part gets covered, take it out and let it sit for a short while before applying the glaze-base. Only dampen handmade objects in red clay, not white or industrially-made ware.

When a piece of bisque has many air holes, dip or brush it with water before applying the glaze-base. This avoids air bubbles, takes off the dust and helps the glaze to run over it evenly. With normal industrial tiles damping is not needed, as the bisque is compact and fine.

Remember that bisque made by different firms can react in different ways, so before starting a large job, always test them. The photo below shows an industrial tile 24 × 24 cm. The bisque had a rough texture, full of small holes. To help eliminate some of them we previously wetted the part that was going to be decorated with a large soft brush and clean water. When covered with the glaze-base this blocked some of the holes and when fired the few that were left gave it an antique texture.

ca: BESCUIT – Llimat

es: BIZCOCHO – Limado

Bisque filing is to sandpaper or file to correct the shape or to smooth off a rough surface. The best instrument to use is a fettling knife made of metal with very strong rough surfaces; one side is rounded and is very good for pieces that are curved. An electric tile cutter can be used for filing down corners and edges of tiles.
Read more about: Tile – Electric Cutter.

ca: PILONS– Peces petites d’argila refractaria.

es: PILONES - Pequeñas piezas de arcilla refractaria.

Bits in pottery are small pieces of bisque made with different types of clay in different shapes and sizes that can be hand or industrially made as shown in “a”, “b” and “c”. They are to support, heighten and balance objects when packing kilns. When not being used in firing, they can be made with any material. In screen printing, playing cards, “f”, are used to heighten a screen to a very fine degree.

Note: In the photos above are examples of different bits; “a”, “b” and “c” are all industrially made, “d” is handmade, “e” shows broken industrial tiles and “f” playing cards.
Read more about: Screen printing (4) Setting up a screen



Bizen pottery is Japanese and named after the village of Imbe in the province known in the past as Bizen. The method started in medieval times in Japan and is still functioning in the same way today. Because of the clay composition, work is fired slowly over a long period of time. It is very strong, reddish brown in color and with no glaze. The kilns are fired by wood, the pots are stacked with rice, straw and other products and the combustion during firing causes these to form different textures and markings on the finished work.



Black copper oxide. Copper (II) oxide or cupric oxide (CuO) is the higher oxide of copper. As a mineral, it is known as tenorite. It is a black solid with an ionic structure which melts above 1200° C with some loss of oxygen. It can be formed by heating copper in air: 2 Cu + O2 → 2 CuO

ca: NEGRE.

es: NEGRO.

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Black is a complete color. You cannot have a light black as it would be gray. Originally black was not used in the “Majolica” method, instead a color which looks like black was made up of other dark colors; brown, blue and red. Manganese, which is a very dark brown, was and is used for dark outlines. Black does not have the problems of manganese but it gives a hard, modern, industrial finish and is good when a powerful impact is needed as shown in the following photo of Piscis, the name of a block of flats. In the design the outlines are made following the Dry-Cord method, the glaze-base is scraped away and then painted with black.
Read more about: Dry Cord

ca: BOMBOLLA - En ceràmica

es: BURBUJA - En cerámica.

Blister is a bubble or lump in a glazed surface that can burst leaving the area it covers damaged and uneven.

ca: BOMBOLLES - Formar en la ceràmica.

es: BURBUJAS - Formar en la cerámica.

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Blistering is caused by gases escaping during firing which cause faults in the process. Many things can cause blistering, over firing, too thick a coating of glaze or a color, inadequately dried clay.

Manganese is a temperamental color and it is impossible to know why when two pieces of work are prepared in the same way and fired at the same time, one will blister while the other is perfect. The color manganese or colors mixed with a high percentage of it often cause this. It forms bubbles and craters; craters occur when the bubbles burst.

Blistering is very difficult to repair. Height-wise there is no problem, it can be filed down, filled up with a color or glaze-base, then painted and fired but if the line of the profile is affected there is no solution, the lines would have to be made wider and this would completely spoil the work.

ca: INFLOR - Un defecte de l’argila.

es: HINCHAZÓN - Un defecto de la arcilla.

Bloating is a defect in clay caused by the many gases that come out of the clay during firing and it can lead to swelling, blisters and holes in the bisque. It is made up of pockets of gas that have developed after the firing has started; the higher the temperature, the more possibility there is of it happening. It can also be due to the trapping of gases that cannot escape, over-firing, bad wedging or foreign materials.

ca: BLAU - Un dels primers colors usats en ceràmica.

es: AZUL - Uno de los primeros colores usados en cerámica.

Click on the title to see more images

Blue was one of the first colors used in glazes, blue cobalt oxide has been found in Egyptian and Persian pottery. In Spain, where the Majolica ceramic method began in Europe, blue was one of the first colors and it was used in many different shades as can be seen on plates, jars, floors and wall tiles.

a) The first photo shows different shades of blue on a tile. The top color on the left is a purer blue and on the right the same blue prepared with a little black; the ones underneath are the same shades increasingly watered-down.
b) This photo is included to show the immense possibilities there are for painting with one color.
c) Rabbit: decorated in Catalonia in the 17th Century.
d) Saint: decorated in Talavera in the 17th Century. This shows the two main blues. The dress is a turquoise and the border is a dark blue. This light blue was used more in the south of Spain and Portugal.
e) Shopping: decorated in Manises, Valencia, in the 18th Century.

The last three photos are shown with the permission of the Barcelona Ceramic Museum.
Read more about: Museu de Ceràmica de Barcelona.
Read more about: Majolica: 3 – Decorating / Majolica: Colors (f) Painting with one color



Blunger is a mechanical container with electrically rotating arms or paddles, made to mix certain products with water such as slip. Slip must be well mixed so the water penetrates between all particles. These machines are produced in many different types and sizes for industrial use and for the small potter.

ca: BARREJAR - Argila i aigua.

es: MEZCLAR - Arcilla y agua.

Blunging is to mix clay and other products with water to make slips. It can be done mechanically or by hand using a metal beater or any other instrument. Clay slurries need a considerable amount of energy to achieve a slip in which water has penetrated well between all particles. When a machine is used the liquid passes through a fine sieve to separate bits that have not dissolved and any other foreign bodies. If done by hand it has to be passed through a sieve.



Blurred colors occur when they bleed and spread into the glaze or into each other, something that can be either considered a fault or used as a decoration. It happens with many colors and depends greatly on the absorbability of the glaze that the colors are mixed with. In the Majolica method it can be caused by decorating while the base is still too damp.

ca: TAULES (1) Fusta.

es: TABLAS (1) Madera.

Boards are flat, thin pieces of wood that can be any shape or size and are used in pottery for many different purposes, for carrying products, to make shelves, to build up walls for molds and to work with clay. These are known as modeling boards, and can be purchased in different sizes and shapes: round, square and rectangular. The following sections show the different ways in which they are used.
The next section; Boards (2) For clay
Read more about: Wheel bats – handmade

ca: FUSTES (2) Per argila

es: MADERAS (2) Para arcilla

Boards for clay are known as modeling boards, they are wooden and made for working on with clay. They can be purchased in different sizes and shapes: round, square.
The next section; Boards (3) Walls for molds

ca: FUSTES (3) Murs para motlles.

es: MADERAS (3) Muros para moldes.

Boards for mold walls: they are bars of wood of different widths held together with clay and used to build up the outer walls to make molds.
The next section; Boards (4) Ware boards
Read more about: Mold: 4 Made with bars of wood

ca: FUSTES (4) Per transportar

es: MADERAS (4) Para transportar

Boards – Ware boards are wooden, can be of any size and are used for carrying tiles, plates, pots and lids. When made for tiles, they should be about 10 cm wide so that the tiles can overlap them on each side, high enough to enable you to slip your fingers underneath to pick up the tile without touching the decoration and long enough to hold five or six units. They are used to move work from one place to another while the base is drying or decorated. Ensure that the boards are the correct length to slide into shelf stands.
The next section; Boards (5) For molding

ca: FUSTES (5) Suports per l’argila.

es: MADERAS (5) soportes para la arcilla.

Click on the title to see more images

Boards for molding: are large, rectangular wooden boards used to prepare clay. You should have two or three of the same size because if the clay has been rolled out and is very damp, the board that is dry can be put on top of the clay then turned like a sandwich and the top damp one taken off, thus quickening the drying process.

The photos show two shapes that have been cut with molds. To prevent them from warping put newspaper over a flat surface, lay them on top, cover them with newspaper, then wood and go on building up more layers, finishing with a plank of wood and if necessary weighing them down.
This is the last section, to go to the first; Boards (1)

ca: COS - de l'argila

es: CUERPO -de la arcilla

Body is the term used to describe the structural formula of a material. Clay bodies vary according to where they are found and are mixed with other materials to produce clays with special qualities.



Body stains are colors specially prepared to be added to clay bodies to produce clay of different colors. The colored clays can be mixed by kneading to create random effects or separate pieces can be used to build up previously planned patterns.



Bone ash (calcinated bone, calcium phosphate) is a body flux made from animal bones and used mainly for producing the translucency in bone china.

ca: CENDRA D'OS – Manufactura.

es: CENIZA DE HUESO – Manufactura.

Bone ash makes up about 50% by weight of the final Bone China body recipe. It is produced from animal bone, which is first processed to remove any adhering meat which is generally sold as pet food. The bone is then treated to remove glue, which is processed and upgraded for use in applications where glue is used, and also for the sizing of expensive paper. The remaining raw bone is then heated to over 1000 C to burn off any residual organic material and change the structure of the bone to a form suitable for the manufacture of bone china. The high temperature used also sterilises the bone. The bone is ground with water to a fine particle size before inclusion in the bone china body.

Real bone ash chemistry
The typical analysis of calcined bone is 67-85% calcium phosphate, 3-10% calcium carbonate, 2-3% magnesium phosphate, and small amounts of CaO and CaF2. However this can vary significantly depending on the source of bones and the process used. The approximate formula is 4Ca3 (P04)2.CaO.
Although raw bone is chemically Ca3 (OH) (PO4)3 hydroxyapatite many authors ignore the hydroxyl group as they believed it is removed on calcination?

Real bone ash chemistry in bone china
On firing as a constituent of a bone china body the bone ash works in a complex manner. The free lime reacts with the stone (type of feldspar mineral) to produce Anorthite (Ca feldspar crystal), whilst the phosphate produces a complex glass and leaving a high level of residual crystal Beta tri-calcium phosphate Ca3 (PO4)2. It is considered that English bone china contains 70% crystals (mix of phosphate and silicate crystals) and 30% glassy material.

Bone ash substitutes
Bone ash and calcium phosphate are both used almost interchangeably in the market although bone ash is a relatively crude product and calcium phosphate relatively pure. The properties of Ca3(PO4)2 and bone ash are however quite different. Bone ash retains its cellular structure even after calcination. Direct substitution of one grade for another is not always easy. For example the replacement of real bone ash by the synthetic bone 1 creates several problems. These include colour, chemistry reformulation and processing issues.

A number of potential substitutes exist for bone ash used in ceramic bodies as follows:-

Tricalcium phosphate-mineral route
Phosphate rock in the form of apatite (Ca5 (PO4)3(OH,F) can be calcined to produce principally tricalcium phosphate Ca3(PO4)2 synthetic bone (1)

Tricalcium phosphate-chemical route
Tri calcium phosphate Ca3(PO4)2 can be produced by a costly chemical route by reaction of phosphoric acid with lime solution.-synthetic bone (2)

Dicalcium phosphate-mineral route
Phosphate rock in the form of apatite (Ca5 (PO4)3(OH, F) can be used to produce Dicalcium phosphates in both the anhydrous and hydrated form. Although chemically similar these are not the same as bone ash but are often marketing as synthetic bone. –synthetic bone 3 and 4
Dicalciumphosphate (CaHPO4.2H2O) and CaHPO4 (anhydrous) are chemicals produced through precipitation from phosphate rock which are demineralised first by
a)sulphuric acid dissolution and then precipitated by CaCO3
b) hydrochloric acid treatment and then precipitated by a saturated lime solution Ca(OH)2.

Dicalcium phosphate-bone route
Processing of animal bone to dicalcium phosphate CaHPO4 (anhydrous) by chemical processing can produce a synthetic bone ash 5 as follows:-
Dicalciumphosphate (CaHPO4.) (anhydrous) is produced through precipitation from degreased bones which are demineralised by hydrochloric acid treatment and precipitated by a saturated lime solution Ca(OH)2.

Author – Ivan Wozniak

Note: Use in ceramics.
Nowadays the product used is synthetic and it is part of the tricalcium phosphate in glazes. It is considered a material for high melting temperature (calcium content) due to its phosphorus content which is glass-forming.



Bone china is a mixture of hard-paste porcelain plus bone-ash (Calcium Phosphate). Bone China was invented in England in the 18th century.
Note: A composition of approximately 25% kaolin, 25% feldspar and 50% bone ash.

ca: SEC DEL TOT - Argila.


Bone dry is when the clay is dry beyond its natural state, which is controlled by the temperature of the surrounding air. To arrive at this state it must be fired to over 100º C, the boiling point of water, and fired continuously until the temperature reaches 600º C, when the clay changes to become bisque.



Borax also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water and is a component of glass, pottery, ceramics and glazes.

ca: SANEFES (1) En relleu.

es: CENEFAS (1) En relieve.

Click on the title to see more images

Borders shown in relief: If a large quantity has to be made, it is better to use a mold. The following is just to give you an idea for a quick and simple solution. Remember the mold must be bigger than the finished work, to allow for the shrinking of clay during drying and firing.

The photographs show part of a tile design for a patio that was restored.
The main tiles are 15×15cm placed diagonally and the top, bottom and side tiles that are decorated are half a tile 7.5×15cm and are placed vertically and horizontally. The design was marked onto the tiles using carbon paper and the spaces filled up with colors straight onto the bisque, leaving the tile as the background.
a) The photo shows the top border in relief.
b) A drawing of (a) as it is difficult to see the shape in the photo.
c) The whole design that is repeated right round the patio.

ca: SANEFES (2) En relleu, com fer un motlle.

es: CENEFAS (2) En relieve,como hacer un molde.

The following shows you how to make and use a simple mold.

Shape b): a thin, strong piece of wood cut to the size needed with the shape of the border cut out. There must be sufficient wood at the sides and top and it should be strong enough for the clay to be scraped off.
Width: b) plus the two side walls a).
Length: it can be any length but is usually made to cut three borders.
Walls a): two pairs, the first should be the exact length of the border being made. They must be high enough to hold b) while scraping off the clay and must be wide enough for a metal clamp c) to hold them in place on top of the table f). The second pair should be the same height and width as the first one, but longer.
Floor e): it can be longer than the walls. Put the four walls parallel to each other along the edges of the floor and fix them firmly to it with glue or nails.
Bar of wood d): cut to the same width as the space but longer, which makes it easier to pick up and pull out the borders.

Working sequence
1) Roll the clay out into a large, solid cylinder, twice the height and slightly bigger than the border you are going to make. Lay it between two guide bars, half the height of the cylinder and cut it in half length-wise with a clay wire cutter. Open and separate the two halves and lay them flat side down on the bars of wood d) and put one between the two walls.
2) Put the piece of wood b) with the shape cut out at one end of it between the two walls and pull it along the top of the clay. You will have to do this several times until all the excess clay is cleaned off and the shape is formed.
3) Pull out the bar d) with the clay so it just juts out beyond the end of the walls. Hold a wire clay cutter against the outside end of the small walls and pull it down and through the clay. This will cut the border at 90º.
4) Do the same through the space where the walls are separated, which is the length of the border. Pull out the wood and continue cutting at the correct length.
5) Once cut, take out the bar of wood d) with the borders on it. If you have many bars of wood leave the clay on them until dry enough to be picked up without deforming the shape and then clean them.
6) On a wooden board covered with a cloth, lay the borders out to dry. Put a plank of wood on top to stop them from warping while drying.

Read more about: Skirting tiles

ca: SANEFES (3) Estructura en plats.

es: CENEFAS (3) Estructura en platos.

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Plate borders; borders are spaces that go round the outer edge of an object. With plates, the word border is used when describing a design or part of its structure. In the structure of plates the border is at a higher level than the center and can be any size, straight or slanted.

The photos show four plates, the first two do not have a structural border and the last two do. They show how borders can be mixed; “a” is a decorated border on a flat plate, “b” is a flat plate without a decorated border, “c” a structural border covered by one design, “d” a structural border with a border design.

Read more about: Majolica: 5e – Preparing to paint plates and Majolica: 5f – Twelve plates painted

ca: SANEFES (4) Desseny de Plats

es: CENEFAS (4) Diseño de Platos.

The center circumference of the border is narrower than the outer circumference. This must be taken into account by making the design narrower at the inner edge; both lines must follow the curve of the plate. Cut a piece of transparent paper so it is the same shape as the part it has to cover. Mark on the design and the center line and pounce the basic outlines. With any plate, jar, or lid that curves, either inwards or outwards, the transparent paper must be darted or cut so the size can be decreased or increased by overlapping or separating; this helps the paper to fit round the curves.

The plate has been prepared and marked with a pencil line in the following places

a) The top center on the front of the plate is marked. This help you to remember to paint the design the right way up.
b) The banding lines.
c) The border spacing.

You must calculate and make your design so it fits into the border height-wise as many times as it will be repeated, and it fits in exactly.

Here I am going to explain one design used eight times. Mark on the border with vegetable-ash starting at the top; turn the wheel so the center top is near to you. By marking here, you avoid working over the plate and damaging it.

Lay the transparent paper so its center coincides with the line on the plate and it is between the first two banded pencil lines. Mark the first design; turn the wheel and mark the one opposite, next mark the two at 90° on the right and the left then continue filling in the spaces between each one.

If the plates you are working with are made from molds there is no trouble fitting in the designs, but if made by hand you may have to adjust to size and spacing, as they are never exactly the same.

Read more about: Majolica: 5e – Preparing to paint plates and Majolica: 5f – Twelve plates painted

ca: SANEFES (5) Espais per els dissenys.

es: CENEFAS (5) Espacios para diseñarlos.

Plate border spacing: The plate should be marked with a pencil line in the center of the border at the top, the point that falls halfway between the two holes on the back and helps to orientate the correct marking on of the design.

Start with the plate borders: First calculate how many times you want the design to be repeated and then prepare the drawings to size. If the design has to be repeated eight times then the drawing has to occupy ⅛ of the circumference of the border. Starting at the pencil line already marked at the top-center, which should be marked in a different way to distinguish it from the others, mark the eight spaces round the edge, leaving the same distance between each one. Calipers can be used for spacing. Open them to the size needed, move around the plate, marking the points.

Plate Layout If the plates you use are molded so each one is the same size, you can make the work quicker and more exact by doing the layout of the design on paper. The layout sets out the spaces needed to fit the repeated designs into the border. There are two basic layouts for spacing borders b) 16, 8, 4 and c) 12, 6 and 3. You need 1 piece of paper for the layout and one that is cut for each size of plate you use.

(a) For the layout it is easier to use squared paper which should be cut out to be slightly bigger than the plate. Geometrically work out and draw the lines for the spaces you need, the more exact the better. In the layout diagram, above left, the spacing for 16, 8 and 4 is shown but the same paper can be used for the others, just by marking the lines with different colors. Draw squares that are the width of the circumference of the plates you use. Lay this paper on a flat surface and on top lay another piece of paper which has been cut in a circle to fit the size of the plate you are working with. With a ruler mark the lines on to it using the layout to correctly place them, then cut out a small triangle at the edge of each line so the inside point falls exactly on the line.

Lay it on top of the plate and with a soft lead pencil mark the centers of the triangles needed for your design. If the pattern is going to be repeated eight times, mark every other one.

Read more about: Majolica: 5e – Preparing to paint plates and Majolica: 5f – Twelve plates painted

ca: SANEFES (6) Plats pintar.

es: CENEFAS (6) Platos pintando.

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Borders of plates: the six photos show a few of the many possibilities there are for using borders. They can be with banding lines of different widths and colors and with designs that are repeated or separate. There are so many, the same one can also be in different sizes depending on the size of the plates you decorate and as they are all on transparent paper and pounced, this makes recognizing them difficult. You must file each one with a colored photo and the best way to do this is explained in “filing borders”. These plates are decorated using the Majolica method and in the section “plates” the whole method of working is explained.

Read more about: File (4) Filing plate designs
Read more about: Bisque (4) Sounding plates, jars and lids / Bisque (5) Cleaning plates, jar and lids
Read more about: Majolica: 5e – Preparing plates to paint / Majolica: 5f – Twelve plates painted

ca: SANEFES (7) En rajoles.

es: CENEFAS (7) En azulejos.

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The following photos show border designs as part of the tile.
Straight lines that go round the outer edge of tiles can be of different widths and colors and can vary from a single line to an elaborate design.
a) A line with a dark color, about 1cm from the edge is painted round the tile and then the space left is filled up with a color.
b) It has a dark line, then two stripes of different colors and each corner turns at 45º and is painted with a green color.
c) A classical design used for plates and separate borders and here it is a part of the tile.
d) The two blue lines are overlapped by the design in certain parts and cut at the corners.
e) A border that is part of the tile but could also be used as a design on a separate border.
f) An elaborate border, which has the same design on the sides, but the top and bottom are different.

ca: SANEFES (8) Rajoles separats per emmarcar.

es: CENEFAS (8) Azulejos separados para enmarcar.

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Border tiles are usually a repeated pattern of separated tiles that are laid horizontally and vertically round a design to form a frame. These can be any size but normally measure half a tile in width and a corner is usually half a border. Not all sizes can be purchased so they have to be cut down from tiles double their size. In Europe they are used in interior decoration: bathrooms, doors etc., and for framing tile pictures and mirrors. In the sections the Architectural Pottery photos (a, c and d) show this method.

1) The photos (a & b) show six border designs, 7.5×15cms and (c) two of 7,5×20cms.

2) The three pictures of flowers (d, e & f) are the same but each one has different borders.

3) Six pictures, all different in size and subject (g, h, i, j, k, & l) and each has a different border design.

4) Special border design (m) was for a private order and (n) made to go with a picture and here it is used for a mirror.

Note: They have all been decorated with the Majolica Method, which is explained in the section Tiles preparing to paint.

ca: SANEFES (9) Emmarcar quadres amb dissenys d'una rajola. (EN CONSTRUCCIÓ)

es: CENEFERS (9) Enmarcar cuadros con diseños de una azulejo. (IN CONSTRUCTION)

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Borders: If you want to buy borders to go with your choice of one tiles designs, it is very important, before making an order to work out how they are going to be laid out, because the same amount of one tile designs which are laid out differently, change the amount of borders that are needed.

All one tile designs of the same size but with different subjects, can be put together to form a picture to the size you require and framed with borders. The two main sizes of tiles are 15×15cms and 20×20cms and the borders are 7.5×15cms and 7.5×20cms.

When you calculate how many borders you need, never count the tiles because there are always more borders than tiles. Count the sides of the tiles that go round the outer edge of the picture.

The following has six photos so you can see and understand the problems easily.

The photos (a, b & c) have the same amount of tiles, that show the process of making wine. They are 12 tiles laid out in different ways –

a) The tiles are laid out in 4 lines of 3, which needs 14 borders and 4 corners.
b) The tiles are laid out in 2 lines of 6, which needs 16 borders and 4 corners.
c) The tiles are laid out in 1 line of 12, which needs 26 tiles and 4 borders.

The photos (d, e & f) have different sizes and shapes –

d) There are 6 tiles showing different occupations, laid out in two lines which need 10 borders and 4 corners.
e) This has 15 tiles, in 3 lines of 5, mixing designs with different subjects; occupations and flowers. It needs 16 borders and 4 corners.
f) The tiles form a square of 9 tiles which needs 12 borders and 4 corners and it shows white tiles mixed with decorated ones.

Note: If many tiles are needed you can buy white ones to mix with the decorated ones. It is always much better to buy them in the same place as the decorated ones, because the white of the base can be different. Those which are white and industrially made have a very hard and bright surface, the handmade ones have a softer cream color and mixing them spoils the effect of the picture when finished,

Read more about: Mounting tiles / Framing with wood / Framing large pictures / Framing with wood made for framing. / Attaching tiles to walls.



Bottle: We think of “bottle” as a glass object but you can also have a ceramic bottle. To be classified as a bottle it must have a narrow neck designed to control the volume of liquid as it is emptied. It can be any shape or size.

ca: AMPOLLA PER AIGUA – Per la decoració en ceràmica.

es: BOTELLA DE AGUA – Para la decoración en cerámica.

A bottle for containing water used to add to colors, should be of colorless glass, so you can see the water is clean and there is enough. It should also have narrow neck to prevent it for being used to clean brushes.

ca: ARC - Tallador per l’argila.

es: ARCO – Cortador para la arcilla.

Bow – Cutter: has this name because it is of the same shape as a bow used by an archer. They are made in metal of different sizes and have a strong wire between both ends, used for slicing off pieces of clay.

Read more about: Cutting Wire – For clay / Molding – Press molding (1)

ca: BOL

es: BOL

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Bowl is a round vessel with sides to hold liquid; it is always open and can be of any size. There are hundreds of shapes, always round but differing in size and used for different purposes. As the photos are not to scale, the diameter and height of each bowl is given. Many bowls such as a salad bowl, fruit bowl, soup bowl, pastry bowl are in everyday use.
The next section shows bowls used to make Cremat which is the Catalan for burnt.

ca: BOL - Cremat

es: BOL - Cremat

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The photos show two bowls for making a “Cremat” which is a very enjoyable Catalan custom and very useful when a party starts to get boring. The bowls always have legs and are sold with cups and a deep serving ladle. The second photo shows cups without handles and with legs and the third and fourth show the opposite, cups without legs with handles that can be hung round the edge of the bowl.

How to make a “Cremat”

Make some black coffee and keep it hot. Pour a bottle of rum into a cooking pot with a spoonful of sugar, a piece of cinnamon, a handful of coffee beans and the peel of half a lemon. Heat it up until it is boiling, then pour it slowly into the “Cremat Bowl” and, with a match, set light to it and keep spooning to keep the flames alive until half the rum has burnt away. Put out the flames, the best way being to cover it with a large tin lid. Finally, add the coffee which is still hot, put it into the cups and drink it. To add the final party touch, sing while you are spooning the flames!

ca: BOL - Tornejar ceràmica.

es: BOL - Tornear cerámica.

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Bowl is a round vessel with a deep base. It can be of any size and the wall can curve inwards, outwards or be straight. It is one of the most popular and important pieces of pottery, made for decorative and practical purposes.

The clay has been centered and opened by coordinating the rotation of the wheel with the movement of the hands, the left hand inside the bowl and the right outside and using them simultaneously to form the wall of the bowl. This movement is repeated until you reach the thickness and shape you require. To finish the bowl, sponge the inside while supporting it on the outside with your left hand then turn it upside down on the wheel so the footing can be finished.

Many products made on a wheel, depending on their size and shape, can become deformed when being cut to take them off the wheel as the clay is still too soft. If there is any danger of this happening it is better to work on a wheel bat, which acts as a tray so the piece can be moved and left to become leather hard, which means dry enough to be separated without being damaged so it can later be turned and the footing cleaned. As the clay dries it shrinks and this can separate it from the wheel. If not, it has to be sliced off with a cutting wire, which is pulled between the wheel and the bottom of the bowl.

Note: Everything to do with the first stages of working on the wheel with clay is in six files: Clay is the first and they are all linked.

Note: These are links to all the sections on throwing in alphabetical order.
Bowl Throwing / Cylinder Throwing / Jars Throwing / Lids (c) Throwing in pottery / Lids (d) Throwing with a cone in pottery / Lids Knobs (f) Attached / Plate Throwing / Stack – Throwing / Teapot (a) Body / Throwing – with a tube

Read more about: Pot lift which is very useful for moving bowls that have been thrown.


es: CAJA

Boxes: the most common shape for a box is square but it can be round or any other shape and the bottom of it is always attached to the sides. They can be with or without lids which can be attached or separate.
Read more about: Slab – Building boxes / Slab – Roller slabbing

ca: CONTENIDORS - Per a esmalt brut.

es: CONTENEDORES - Para esmalte sucio.

Boxes for dirty glazes: This system avoids mixing one glaze-base with another. Use three boxes, each one of a different color, the same color as its corresponding glaze container, so you know which is which. They measure about 30×25cms and are used to keep all the dirty glaze of each type that has been brushed and scraped off prepared pieces. Dirty glazes can have water added, be cleaned by passing them through a sieve and put back into the container to be used again.

Read more about: Glaze-base: Cleaning the glaze-base on plates, jars and lids. / Glaze-base: Cleaning the base

ca: APILAR - Els treballs fets amb argila.

es: APILAR – Los trabajos hechos con arcilla.

Boxing is packing bowls, cups and jars rim-to-rim and foot-to-foot while drying and when being bisque fired. This can be done when they are cheese-hard. It helps to stop warping while the clay is drying, as it slows down the process.

ca: EINES DE BOIX – Per ceràmica.

es: HERRAMIENTAS DE BOJ - Para cerámica.

Boxwood tools Boxwood tools are made in many different shapes and sizes to work with clay. The name comes from a tree which was given the name “Box tree” when it started to be used to make boxes.



Break is when an object is unexpectedly divided into separate parts or reduced into fragments. It can be caused in pottery by over-firing, by too rapid a temperature change, by clay not being completely dry, or by it having dried in some parts more than in others.

ca: DESINTEGRACIÓ – Quan l’argila es desintegra per excés de calor al forn

es: DESINTEGRACIÓN – Cuando la arcilla se desintegra por exceso de calor en el horno.

Breakdown is the collapse, disintegration and deforming of clay from over-firing. With new or different clay, always check to how high a temperature it can be fired. Clay that is over-fired can spread, like melted chocolate, over the sides and floor of the kiln; this is impossible to clean and all the sections affected will have to be changed.

ca: MAÓ


Brick is a block of clay that has been hardened by drying or firing in a kiln and used for building. It is usually rectangular and when fired becomes red-brown in color.



Bristle is short, stiff, coarse hair used for making brushes. It used to be taken from animals such as pigs, but now it is artificially made.



Brown is a color that has been used a great deal in pottery. It is an earth color and varies enormously when mixed with other colors. We think of it as dark, but it ranges from a light cream to nearly black.

The following five are ones we use in the Majolica method.

1. Brown – manganese is dark brown usually mixed with a little red and blue. This tends to give it a purple-brown shade and increases its strength. It is used for outlines and shading with the Majolica method. It is a temperamental color that you have to be careful with, as it burns away. When painting outlines make sure it is strong and be careful as it often blisters.

2. Brown-red came into Spanish pottery from England during the eighteenth century. It is reddish brown and a warm color, good for shading and outlines.

3. Brown – dirty is a mixture of manganese and ochre. This is called dirty brown because when in liquid form it has a dirty, muddy color, but when fired, becomes a dark, warm brown. It is not strong and must be applied quite liberally.

4. Brown mixed is 50% brown strong and 50% brown-red and used instead of manganese for outlines and shading.

5. Brown-strong is a very dark color used a lot for shading over or under another color. When used for shading, it must be well diluted with water and applied thinly.



Brush is a tool with a handle and bristles or hair attached at one end by a metal quill. They are made in many different forms, sizes and materials, with different types of bristle from natural animal hairs or industrially made fibers. They have hundreds of different uses, from painting a delicate object to cleaning the chimney.

Over the centuries, brushes have evolved into many varied shapes. They can be made up of many types of hair to produce different brush strokes and textures and to paint using many techniques and products. The following two sections deal with brushes.

ca: PINZELL – Neteja de pinzells.

es: PINCEL - Limpieza de pinceles.

1) Brush cleaning with water. When you finish working, clean your brushes. Glaze colors can be cleaned off with just soap and water. Do not use them for other types of painting and never leave head down in any liquid as the hairs become bent. With time they can be corrected, but why waste time?

2) Brush cleaning with a solvent. When brushes have been used with a product that has to be cleaned with a solvent, rinse them with soap and water once they are clean. Otherwise they can become spoiled.

3) Brush, soaking. The best way to soak brushes, either in water or in a solvent, is to put all the brushes with their heads together facing downwards and tied on to a piece of wood or a brush pointed in the opposite direction, allowing the wood to overlap the heads of the brushes. By doing this, you can stand them up on the wood and the bristle will not be damaged or deformed by touching the bottom of the jar and can be left to soak as long as required.

ca: PINZELL - Allargar el pel.

es: PINCEL - Alargar el pelo

To lengthen the brush hair: if the hairs of a brush get very short and you want to continue using it, you can make them longer in the following way. With a match, heat the ferrule, the metal band which holds the hairs. When it gets hot, the glue inside will melt and become a molten liquid, then use pliers to pull out the hair slightly. Read more about: Ferrule

ca: PINZELLS – Suports per pinzells.

es: PINCEL - Soportes para pinceles.

1) Brush stand, bisque: this is made in clay and fired. It should be designed to hold all the brushes you need, leaving a space between each one to allow it to be picked up easily and should have a protruding floor to catch the paint that drips off.
2) Brush stand, metal: the old fashioned pen stands are very good for this. The two photos on the right show one without brushes and one which holds 9 brushes.

ca: PINZELLS – Decoració en ceràmica.

es: PINCELES - Decoración en cerámica.

The next photo shows four brushes which are named after the shape of the hair.
a) Flat brush; b) Sumie; c) Fan brush; d) Pointed brush. Paint Brushes.
Over the centuries brushes have evolved into many different shapes, have been made up of different types of hair to produce different brush strokes, to leave different textures and to paint using different techniques and products. The best is squirrel hair, which is made up into brushes of many different shapes and sizes. It is expensive but there is also a large selection of good and more economical brushes to choose from. The hair should not be too long and be able to retain paint, to allow for long, strong, smooth lines, suitable for general decoration. A brush should be soft enough to relate to the movements and intensities you are imposing on it to create lines and curves.

The following gives a list of the names of the different types of hair and fibers and the names of the styles of decorating with which they are used. The photos only show one but many are available in different sizes. Brushes for decorating pottery are made with many different types of hair and fibers.
a) Mexican White Fiber is a cream-colored hair which is strong and used for slip and making textures.
b) Goat Hair is usually of good quality, held in a quill and wire bound. The hair forms a large, soft body so it can hold large quantities of decorating media. Leaves no brush marks and is used for painting on slips and glazes.
c) Mexican Black Fiber is a strong, black hair.
d) Hog Hair is a strong, cream hair, used for slip and lawn brushes.
e) Ox Hair is strong, brown and resilient. The brushes are wide with sharp corners. They are used for painting over large flat spaces or fine lines using the corner edge of the brush.
f) Pony Hair brushes are usually made in Japan; the hair is strong and wide.
g) Sable Hair. There is a large range of these brushes; they all end in a fine point. The small sizes are good for drawing and detailed work; the larger ones for general decoration of glaze and slips and are useful for on-glaze decoration.
h) Sheep’s Hair brushes usually come from China. They make an excellent pottery brush of long, soft, white hair.
Left: Chinese, with sheep’s hair and made with bamboo handles. They are separate brushes of the same size but joined together to make up one brush.
Right: Chinese sheep’s hair brush, bamboo handle and ox horn ferrule.
i) Squirrel Hair brushes are made in many different shapes and sizes. They give a strong, smooth line suitable for general decoration in both the under-glaze and on-glaze method. A brush with long hair and thin point can retain a large amount of paint, which allows for long unbroken strokes and lines.

ca: PINZELLS – Aprofitables en ceràmica.

es: PINCELES - Aprovechables en cerámica.

a) Brush – to clean bisque. Before starting to decorate, you must clean the dust off the bisque. You need a brush that is not too hard or too soft. The most popular ones are wide, short handled and with soft washable hair, used for painting furniture. They are used to clean the dust off all bisque objects before starting to decorate.

b) Brush – to clean glaze-base. Very soft, large brushes made in China. They are cheap, washable and do not lose hair. When ware has been prepared with a slip or glaze-base and needs to be cleaned of dust or dirt these brushes are excellent as they are so soft and do not scratch or damage the unfired surface.

c) Brush – to clean small parts. This is an old toothbrush with its hair cut down, it is strong and good for cleaning the glaze off the foot of plates and jars.

d) & e) Brushes – to clean glaze-base off tiles. This is the type of brush used for scrubbing floors and it should be purchased with natural bristle and wooden body. There are two types (d) is the strongest and (e) has bristles that are thinner and softer. When tiles have been prepared with a glaze-base these brushes are used to clean off the base from their backs and sides. To start use a strong brush, the more you use it, the more it wears out and the better it works. The most worn-out ones are good to clean the backs of tiles on which there is a lot of glaze-base. To make more work all industrial tiles are made with a protruding design on the back and the more intricate the design the harder it is to clean. Read more about: Glaze-Base (f) Cleaning it off tiles

f) Brush made of palm leaves. This brush has the form shown in the two photos. They are made out of leaves of palm trees and made in different sizes. If the brush is new, soak it in water, the older and more used, the better. Knock it about a bit to give it an uneven texture. It can be used for dusting the bisque and is very good for making uneven textures with glaze and colors. Read more about: Glaze-Base (m) Textures

g) Brush – to paint outlines in the Majolica method. You need two or three brushes, about size 10, cut down to a different thickness to form a narrow, flat end. The thick part holds the paint so it runs down through the thin part and allows long unbroken strokes. The drawing shows a brush before and after cutting, these are for painting outlines.



Bubbles in the glaze-base. Before starting scoop off all the air bubbles that are floating on the surface of the glaze-base. If they are left when the work is covered with the base they break and leave indentations on the surface and have to filled up and leveled out.



Buckets are usually made of metal or plastic, they are round, have a strong handle and can be lidless or lidded. If lidded they should have fasteners to keep the lid tightly shut. Tight fitting lids help to keep products clean and stop them drying too quickly. They come in different sizes height-wise and if the lids are straight, can be stacked on top of each other. They can also be used for mixing products, slips, clay and glaze-base.



Buff color is a yellowish brown color and the word comes from the color of a buffalo skin. It is used to describe the color of fired clay that has enough iron to take away its claim to being white yet not enough to make it a brown or red.



Building with clay is to create a form by adding sections of clay together such as slabs or coils and by using clay in architectural sculpture.
Read more about: Architectural – Sculpture / Coiling – Coil Building / Slab – Building boxes



Bung is the name for the way of setting up saggars vertically, one on top of the other, in the kiln. Saggars are kiln furniture, both round and square, with a floor and of different heights and sizes, designed to stand vertically one on top of the other. They are boxes to hold one or many pieces of decorated work and while being fired are held together by wads or coils of clay.



Burner is the system through which fuel, combined with air, is fed into the kiln, creating the necessary mixture for combustion.



Click on the title to see more images

Burning out occurs when a substance in a product being fired has a lower burning point than what it is being fired with and burns away. This can be damaging or used constructively.
In the design shown in the photo below the outlines were painted with varnish on to tiles in the bisque state. Each space was then filled up with a color. The lines help to keep the colors separate and when fired the varnish burns away leaving the color of the bisque.

Products like vegetable oil, varnish and glues are used to fix colors on to a base that has already been glaze fired and they act as a binder during decorating.

Rice, petals, etc., can be put with clay or glazes to form patterns once fired. When fired they burn away leaving their shape indented. Read more about: Dry Cord

ca: BRUNYIR - Es fregar i polir l’argila seca fins obtenir una superfície suau.

es: BRUÑIR – Es fregar y pulir la arcilla seca hasta conseguir una superficie suave.

Burnishing is to rub the surface of leather-hard clay with a smooth tool to produce a smooth, polished surface. The finer the texture of the clay the more polished the surface can be. The color will depend on the color of the clay. For burnishing, any curved tools can be used such as teaspoons, stone, etc., and the work can then be decorated with slip.



Burnt is when a product has been overheated and has left a black ash surface.