Ceramic technology is concerned with the research, development, and manufacture of non-metallic inorganic materials. A ceramic artist designs and produces ceramic objects such as tableware, vases, decorative pots, wall decorations and sculptures.
This is a very challenging and vast field of work in which an enormous range of textures and colours can be used. Kilns and firing techniques range from the ancient bush-firing method and Japanese type raku firing to gas, oil and sophisticated electrical kilns. The techniques used include wheel-throwing, coiling, press-moulding and slip casting. Modern ceramic artists supply a demand for individual functional and decorative pieces of pottery and other objects. Wall-decorations and art works are also in demand.
The field spans a range of creative levels from working in a ceramics factory within a fairly rigid framework to producing attractive pottery for the tourist and cottage industries and the highly creative environment of an individual ceramic artist creating original ceramic sculptures.
Many ceramists design their sculptures on paper with a series of sketches. Then the clay is prepared and the sculpture or item is created. A choice of materials is made, such as low-firing earthenware clay, high-firing stoneware or porcelain.
Wet, plastic clay is formed by using various techniques such as rolling it out into flat slabs, cutting out the required shapes and joining them together after they have set slightly. Articles can be decorated or coloured in a variety of ways like textured, carved, coloured with special glazing and ceramic materials such as oxides and slips, painted or sprayed. After the glaze has been applied, it is fired to fuse the glaze into a hard, glossy surface.
A career in ceramics will appeal to those who enjoy creating artistic solutions to practical problems. This career involves working with one’s hands and handling various materials. Ceramic artists need to master several skills including: clay selection and preparation; forming the clay by hand-sculpting, wheel-throwing, coiling, press-moulding and slip casting; decorating articles by texturing, carving or painting; firing by any one of numerous methods, ranging from extremely simple to highly sophisticated.
Monetary rewards depend on the ceramic artist’s skill and ability to effectively market their work. This is becoming much easier with the trend moving towards entrepreneurship and open markets are providing outlets for goods of this nature.
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
- National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
- National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
What to Study
No formal training is required to work as a ceramist.
Degree: BA (Fine Art) – most universities, e.g. RU, UJ, US, UFS, Wits
Diploma: Various diplomas are offered at some universities of technology and TVETs – UJ, CUT, NMMU, Port Elizabeth and False Bay TVET.
Certificate and short courses: Several courses offered at colleges and specialised art colleges, for example: SCC and FBC
- large manufacturers – mass tableware and home-furnishing
- smaller manufacturers and large studios – tourist outlets and cottage industry
- small to medium-sized studios – specialised items for interior decorators and private clients
- advertising agencies
- government departments and museums – ceramics restorer, adviser in respect of museum displays or regarding the cleaning of and caring for antique ceramics
- home furnishing stores and interior decorating companies – ceramics buyer
- manufacturers of automobile parts and home appliances – clay modelling
- teaching – in an institution or on a private basis
- self-employment, with own ceramics studio
The Head of Department
Tshwane University of Technology
Private Bag X680
P O Box 809
Tel: 082 230 CALL / 082 230 2255
Fax: (011) 388-1045
- practise making designs at home and take pottery classes
- arrange to meet and talk with a ceramic artist about this type of career