Ceramic art is art made from ceramic materials, including clay. It may take forms including art ware, tile, figurines, sculpture, and tableware. Ceramic art is one of the arts, particularly the visual arts. While some ceramics are considered fine art, as pottery or sculpture, some are considered to be decorative, industrial or applied art objects.
Most traditional ceramic products were made from clay (or clay mixed with other materials), shaped and subjected to heat, and tableware and decorative ceramics are generally still made this way. In modern ceramic engineering usage, ceramics is the art and science of making objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials by the action of heat. It excludes glass and mosaic made from glass tesserae.
Different types of clay, when used with different minerals and firing conditions, are used to produce earthenware, stoneware, porcelain and bone china (fine china).
Earthenware is pottery that has not been fired to vitrification and is thus permeable to water. Earthenware is often made from clay, quartz and feldspar.
Terracotta, a type of earthenware, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous. Its uses include vessels (notably flower pots), water and waste water pipes, bricks, and surface embellishment in building construction. Terracotta has been a common medium for ceramic art.
Stoneware is a vitreous or semi-vitreous ceramic made primarily from stoneware clay or non-refractory fire clay. Stoneware is fired at high temperatures. Vitrified or not, it is nonporous; it may or may not be glazed. It is usually coloured grey or brownish because of impurities in the clay used for its manufacture, and is normally glazed."
Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness, strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures. Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, toughness, whiteness, translucency and resonance; and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.
Bone china (fine china) is a type of soft-paste porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material, and kaolin. It has been defined as ware with a translucent body containing a minimum of 30% of phosphate derived from animal bone and calculated calcium phosphate. Developed by English potter Josiah Spode, bone china is known for its high levels of whiteness and translucency, and very high mechanical strength and chip resistance. Its high strength allows it to be produced in thinner cross-sections than other types of porcelain. Like stoneware it is vitrified, but is translucent due to differing mineral properties.
In the UK, references to "china" or "porcelain" can refer to bone china, and "English porcelain" has been used as a term for it, both in the UK and around the world. Fine china is not necessarily bone china, and is a term used to refer to ware which does not contain bone ash.