Ceramic - Pottery Dictionary

by Susan Mussi

ca: PÈL

es: PELO

Hair grows out from the skin of mammals and covers different parts of the body. Hair is made up of hundreds of very fine strands that grow together. They differ in texture, color and thickness with each animal.

Animal hair is used for the heads of brushes for painting, cleaning, etc. For working in ceramics, there are many different brushes made up with different hairs in varying sizes and shapes to leave different brush strokes and for work in special styles. In the ‘Brushes’ section there are photos of the different types with their names.

Synthetic hair is now commonly used in many paintbrushes and is more economical to buy. When you buy, make sure you know what you are buying. Read more about: Brushes – decorating



Hake brush is a soft, flat, wide Chinese brush useful for applying slips and glazes and also good for dusting work that is prepared but unfired.



Hammer is a tool with a head attached crosswise on to the top of a handle and used for beating one object into another, like a nail into wood or a pole into earth. It is usually made of metal or wood.

Hammers made as kitchenware are also used for ceramics. They are wooden, of different shapes, sizes and textures and are used for beating down clay and to indent textures. There is a similar tool, usually in wood, used for driving in other tools that have a wooden handle, such as a chisel. It is known under the name of mallet.



Hand painting is to decorate and paint on to an object by hand without using any form of process such as transfers, screen printing, etc.

ca: BARRA – Suport per la mà

es: BARRA - Soporte para la mano

A hand pole is a long, round, thin and strong bar that can be made of wood, plastic or metal. Mop handles are good, because some are extendable. In ceramics they are used for steadying your hand while painting in a sitting or standing position and must be long enough to paint the highest line of tiles you can reach while standing.

In ceramics they are used for steadying your hand while painting, sitting or standing and must be long enough to paint the highest line of tiles you can reach while standing.
Hold it in your left hand if painting plates and rest it against the edge of the table. When working with tiles the bar supports them or if necessary put the small finger of on a clean part of a tile. With your right hand, hold the pole with your small finger and the paintbrush with your thumb and first finger. Depending on where you want to paint, you can now move your right hand up and down and slant the pole from left or right or move it.

A Mop handle is used as a hand pole when painting. It is good as you can alter its length and it is not heavy. Put a clip to hold it onto the wall or the table near to where you are working. If it is a table it should be put on the left, so it does not interrupt the movements of your hand between whatever you are decorating and the trolley-table where you keep everything you need. The photos show it in relation to the table, the hand pole extends and retracts so you can compare the different lengths and you can see the clip to keep it when not being used.
Read more about: Majolica: 5a -Preparing to paint tiles, plates, jars and lids. / Majolica: 5b – Tiles preparing to paint.



Hand–building is building structures in clay by hand. Pots and sculptures are created by using methods such as coiling, pinching and slab building.
Read more about: Coiling – Coil Building / Pinching – Pinching clay into a bowl. / Pinching – Pinching plus coiling clay into a bowl / Slab – Building boxes

ca: NANSES (a) En ceràmica.

es: ASAS (a) En cerámica.

Handles and how they are attached to a pot, plate, bowl or jug should be thought of as an overall part of the design, a functional and decorative asset. There are three types of handles, Loop, Lug and Knob which is round and usually they are formed separately and then attached.

a) A loop handle is made with a separate piece of clay which is added to the side or lid of an object and always has a big enough space between it and the main body for it to be held by hand while being moved.

b) A lug handle has little or no space between it and the main body. It can be made in two ways, either by making the lug separately and attaching it or by joining the clay to the main body and pulling it. The illustration is seen from above.

c) A knob A knob is a small handle made to put on the top of lids and can also be used on the sides as a handle. There are different types of knobs and these are explained in the lids section.
With a teapot which has a spout or a jug with a lip the handle must be placed at 180º or 90º in relation to them for pouring out the liquid. With a piece that is round it can be attached to any part of the outside wall.

Note: It is very difficult to define these sections as pottery language is different from the language of every day. In everyday language the words lug and loop would never be used, the two words normally used are knob and handle.

ca: NANSES (b) Estiratge

es: ASAS (b) Estirado

Click on the title to see more images

a) Take an oblong lump of clay, hold it with your left hand pull it down with your right, thinning slightly until there is enough for the handle.
b) Lay it on the edge of the table, separate it, slicing it with your hand.
c) Score and add slurry to the parts that have to be joined.
d) Support the inside of the neck with your left hand to take the pressure of attaching the clay on the outside, push the cut end firmly onto the jug.

e) Turn the jug sideways, support it underneath and with your right hand pull the clay downwards between your thumb and fingers, flattening it slightly.
f) Continue pulling and narrowing it until it is the length and shape you want.
g) Stand the jar up, support it with your left hand and with your right shape the handle and attach it at the bottom with a few strong strokes.
h) The handle finished.
The following photos show some of the different ways of designing a handle.

ca: NANSES (c) En forma d’anella

es: ASAS (c) En forma de anilla

Click on the title to see more images

Lug handles: are small separate pieces of clay attached to casseroles and bowls with no or very little space between the lug and the wall, never enough for fingers to pass. There are two types and they are made with soft clay and applied to leather dry clay.
1) The lug is shaped separately. (a)
2) The part where it is going to be attached must be luted and dampened with slip.
3) Holding the lug press it firmly over the luted part and with a finger of your right hand press the edge of the top against against the neck of the jug, then pree the underneath edge down and smooth it off. b)
4) Supporting the neck from inside the lug is shaped. (c).
5) The lug finished. (d)

ca: NANSES (d) Anella estirada

es: ASAS (d) Anilla estirada

1) Mold the clay into a thin rectangle with round corners to the size needed.
2) Dampen with a sponge the parts where it has to be joined.
3) Hold it vertically and attach the bottom left hand side, pressing and smoothing it out. (a)
4) Bend it horizontally, when you do this the outer edge will bend outwards, and then connect the other end in the same way as the first. (b)
5) The lug finished. (c) The part between the two ends is touching the pot but not joined to it.

ca: FET A MA


Handmade is used to imply that a product is not made in any way by a machine but by human hand.

ca: ARPA

es: ARPA

Harps are tools to trim and cut small slices in clay and are made of metal. They form three sides of a rectangle and have evenly placed notches at the bottom of each leg, in which a thin wire is held that connects the two sides and allows it to slice lumps of clay at different levels. The legs should be on the table, one on each side of the clay as it is pulled through, slicing in a straight line and separating the clay into two sections. For cutting large pieces. Read more about: Slab – Cutter

ca: HARRISON Piromètrics cons

es: HARRISON - PIrométricos conos

Harrison is the name of a firm that makes pyrometric cones. Read more about: CONE – Pyrometric



Health. Great care should be taken when working in ceramics. Masks, goggles and gloves should be used, not only when preparing products but when cleaning up. Sweeping throws dust and products into the air, which can be inhaled. For cleaning a studio a strong industrial vacuum cleaner is much cleaner and safer than a broom.



Heat is the degree of hotness, which can increase and decrease and is controlled by an energy that causes a rise in temperature, such as gas or electricity. With different products and at different temperatures, it causes expansion, evaporation and other physical changes. In ceramics, it changes clay, a soft, pliable product, into a hard breakable one and colors from powder into a glazed, non absorbent, breakable surface.



Heavy is when a product has much weight in proportion to its size.
Heavy is also used to describe a line or form that is broad, thick, or coarse; not delicate.



High firing is the firing of ware at a temperature exceeding 1200º C.



High temperature glazes are those that are prepared to withstand temperatures in excess of 1200º C.

ca: FRONTISSA - Per serigrafia.

es: BISAGRA - Para serigrafia.

Hinge clamps; are designed to hold a screen over a flat product, such as tile, shirt, paper etc. to print on a design. It has two clamps: a) to attach it to a table or shelf with a knob c) to tighten it and b) at the end of the arm to hold the screen. At the top of the neck there is a screw d) that alters the height of the arm; space e) is the height. The frame of the screen is held between f) and g), the width between them can be altered by turning h) and i) which when tightened keeps it in place. The arm can be moved upwards 45º and the knob j) keeps it in place. This allows the screen to be tilted without altering its correct placing for printing. There are many types and sizes of hinge clamp, this is the simplest.
Read more about: Clamp / Screen Printing



Hispano –Moresque is a name given to two methods; Luster and Majolica, because they came to Spain through the Moorish occupation. The Moors brought two methods of decorating ceramics that when fired look very similar, but the way of working is completely different.

Lustre is bisque, fired clay, covered with an opaque glaze-base that is fired, then decorated with colors made up from precious metals and fired again at between 700º and 800º C. Read more about: On-Glaze

Majolica is bisque, fired clay, covered with an opaque glaze-base and decorated. Both are fired together integrating the colors. They were made originally for the rich ruling classes but Majolica was more economical and became a more popular product.
Read more about: In-glaze

Read more about: Lustre / Majolica: 2a – History / Majolica: 2b – History in Spain



Hole cutter is a tool to pierce holes and dig out clay in general decorating. They are made in different sizes, with a handle and a stainless steel head which is a round empty tube, cut at the top at 45º.



Hole piercer is a tool to pierce holes into clay, for lamps where the wire has to pass, for tea pots and for general decorating into clay.

There are two types:
a) The main one is made in different sizes, with a handle and a stainless steel blade which is long, solid, straight, finishes with a point and has indenters lengthwise wise to prevent clogging.
b) Is basically the same, only small ones are made and the whole blade is round and tapers to a point.



Hole cutters are tools to pierce holes and dig out clay in general decorating. They are made in different sizes, with a wooden handle and a stainless steel head which is a round empty tube, cut at the top at 45º.
Hole piercers are tools to pierce holes into clay for lamps where the wire has to pass, for tea pots and for general decorating into clay. The main one is made in different sizes, with a wooden handle and a stainless steel blade which is long and pointed. The narrower one is basically the same, only the blade is round and tapers to a point.
Needles are made in two sizes, the thin one is used for trimming rims of pots and jars and the thicker one is for pierced and sgraffito work and making holes in plates to hang up.
Salt and Pepper Piercer has a thin, steel pointer bar of a different thickness at each end and was originally designed to make holes in salt and pepper pots. It is used for pierced decoration where small holes are needed. Read more about: Hole cutters / Hole piercer / Needle tool / Salt and pepper piercers

ca: FORATS - En ceràmic.

es: AGUJEROS - En cerámica.

Hole is an opening through or into something, a hollow place in a solid body that can be accidental or designed.

a) Plate back, holes to hang it up.Read more about: Footings – Classic with throwing (13)
b) Sun clock, hole for the arm that reflects the shadow to tell the time. Read more about: Drilling Holes
c) Plate with holes as a decoration.Read more about: Pierced – Decoration
d) A liquid container with two holes, for pouring small and large quantities.
Read more about: Drilling holes (a) Into bisque or glazed ware



Hot is when something has a high temperature or gives off heat and is the point before burning.



Hump mold is a mushroom shaped mold with a convex surface to make dishes.
Read more about: Mold: 1 Press molds



Hydrate is to combine a chemical with water. Both clay and glazes hold water which dries out during the first stages of firing. The firing should be slow to begin with and when it reaches 600º C they should be dry. Quick firing of clay can cause cracking and breaking and the crawling of glazes.



Hydrometer is an instrument used to measure the specific gravity (or relative density) of liquids; that is, the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water.

A hydrometer is usually made of glass and consists of a cylindrical stem and a bulb weighted with mercury or lead shot to make it float upright. The liquid to be tested is poured into a tall jar and the hydrometer is gently lowered into the liquid until it floats freely. The point at which the surface of the liquid touches the stem of the hydrometer is noted. Hydrometers usually contain a paper scale inside the stem, so that the specific gravity can be read directly.