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Terra Sigillata







Here are some things that you need to know when buying ceramics.
Whether you are a collector, buying to decorate your home or even getting a present for someone, it is important to be able to tell if the price listed is too high for the condition the ceramic is in.
Hopefully, this will help you to identify the condition of the ceramic in question.

Mint Condition

Mint condition should be reserved for a ceramic piece that is in like new condition just as it came from the factory.
Mint pieces of ceramic should be free of chips, cracks, repairs, damage or signs of wear.
Typical crazing and production flaws are acceptable for most collectable ceramics classified as mint.
Heavy crazing or unsightly production faults should be mentioned in the description of a ceramic piece being sold.
Many sellers use the term excellent condition rather than mint, because professional repairs are difficult to detect without using destructive techniques such as Acetone testing.

Excellent Condition

An excellent condition ceramic is anything which is less than mint condition, but does not contain greater than minor chips, cracks or repair.
This classification is used by many sellers to include ceramics which could be classed as mint.

Good Condition

This classification covers a wide range of damage including minor chips, cracks or repairs.
A ceramic piece in good condition should be intact, with no identifying ceramic flaws.

Chips - Identifying Ceramic Flaws

Ceramic Chips

A chip is an after production damage which penetrates the clay body of the ceramic and results in the loss of some of the clay body material.
This type of damage is distinctly different from glaze flakes or hairline cracks where there should be no loss of the clay body.

Glaze Chips and Glaze Flakes

Ceramic Flaking

A glaze chip or flake is a shallow chip that does not penetrate the clay body of the ceramic.
They involve a flaking off of the glaze surface and sometimes impacts the color at the flake site.

Hairline Cracks Ceramic Flaws

Ceramic Hairline Crack

A hairline crack is a crack that goes into or through the clay body of the ceramic.
If a crack can be felt with a fingernail it is a hairline and not crazing.
When rubbing a suspected spot with your fingernail you should feel a slight click if there is a hairline.
Often this click can also be heard in a quiet setting.
Hairline cracks are difficult and expensive to professionally repair.

Crazing

Ceramic Heavy Crazing Ceramic Light Crazing

Heavy crazing on the left and light crazing on the right.

Crazing is the fine crackling or spider web like cracks that is present on most glazed ceramics.
Crazing is in the glaze only and should not be felt.
If you rub your fingernail over the crazing there should be no clicking felt as you would on a hairline crack.
Crazing is due to the after firing process where the clay body and the surface glaze cool at different rates.
Completely uncrazed examples of Roseville and Weller are uncommon but are readily available in Rookwood.
A rule of thumb for normal crazing is that the crazing should not be noticeable at a two foot distance under normal room lighting conditions.

Glaze Pops


Ceramic Glaze Popping

Glaze pops are small round holes in the glaze formed during firing when air bubbles reach the surface of the glaze and burst
That is the most common form but sometimes they do not burst and look like a bubble instead.
A glaze pop is usually a small dimple on the surface ranging from a tiny dot to about pin head size.

Glaze Skips - Identifying Ceramics Flaws

Ceramic Glaze Skipping

Glaze skips are areas where the glaze did not completely cover the ceramic leaving areas of exposed clay.
Glaze skips are more common on earlier pottery, than the pottery of today.

Factory Mold Flaws

Common flaws are:

Misalignment

That is where the two halves of the mold do not meet perfectly and this results in a distinct deforming line at the meeting point.

Misshapen

Ceramic Mishapen Piece

This is cause either from washed out molds, contact prior to firing or sagging during firing.
In the case of a washed out mold, the first few pieces produced by a mold are of excellent quality.
The quality of the following pieces of ceramics deteriorates until the mold can no longer be used.
Mold flaws are more common on Roseville, Weller, Van Briggle and Hull than on Rookwood ceramics.

Kiln Flaw or Kiln Kiss

Ceramic Kiln Kiss

A kiln flaw occurs when pottery in the kiln comes in contact with either the kiln wall or another piece of ceramic.
This often results in glaze loss on the ceramic.
If two pieces of ceramic are involved, one piece will have excess glaze and the other will have glaze loss.
Often there will be a mixing of colors between the two pieces of ceramics at the point of contact.

Firing Lines or Firing Cracks

Ceramic Firing Line Ceramic Kiln Cracks

A factory firing line is a crack that occurred during the kiln firing of a piece of ceramic.
Firing lines do not occur after firing of the ceramic piece.

Peppering

Ceramc Peppering


Peppering are the little black specks of carbon that is sometimes seen in white or light colored glazes.
Peppering seems to be line related, where it is common in some lines and rare in others.
Lines meaning brand named pottery.
Peppering tends to be more common in Roseville than in Weller or Rookwood.
Slight peppering often does not impact the value of ceramic, but is less tolerated on the more expensive lines.

Good Luck, I sure hope that this helps you with your next pottery purchase.

True happiness is not in doing what we like to do, but in liking what we have to do.



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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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