Like most languages, even English contains some words that are used as synonyms but are not. One perfect example is ceramics and pottery. For years, if not decades, people have utilised the two terms interchangeably. But that is inaccurate. The two have some common ground but are separate entities that define different things. Further clarification is given below on how pottery and ceramic differ from each other.
Think of ceramic as the broader term and pottery within it, i.e., pottery is a form of ceramic. The latter is a way of moulding or forming a material to make a container that is functional or artistic in nature. Pottery, when completed, is never translucent and therefore doesn’t allow passage of light. To make pottery, either stoneware clay or earthenware clay is employed. The clay is shaped and then fired at very high temperatures.
If stoneware was the starting material, then the temperate is 2100-2300-degree Fahrenheit. If earthenware was the material, then it is heated at 1700-2100-degree Fahrenheit. Stoneware pottery doesn’t need another coating to hold water because it is not porous. Earthenware pottery will require glazing because it is sieved.
Another way to differentiate between pottery and ceramic is that the former is the conventional name for anything made of clay. We see it in the form of plates, vases, bowls, and cups. More often than not, if a pottery item has no functional use, then it is not considered as pottery.
When it comes to defining ceramics, the easiest way is anything made of clay plus another substance is a ceramic, unlike pottery which is only made with clay. Commonly, a combination of water, clay and one more additive like glaze is shaped and then heated to create a ceramic. A more straightforward way to tell if an item is a ceramic or pottery is to consider the surface. If the outer coating is smooth, then it is ceramic, but if the surface is rough to touch, then it is pottery.
For history buffs, a better way to tell them apart is the technique with which they are crafted. Pottery has been prevalent for centuries; therefore, it is made with old fashioned methods. Ceramic, when compared, is a modern way. One last thing to keep in mind while trying to distinguish the two is that ceramics is employed as the generic term for all things pottery and porcelain.