Pottery (i.e. made from clay) which has not been
fired to the point of vitrification and is therefore slightly porous after
the first firing.
It is made waterproof by the application of slip (a liquid clay mixture applied before firing) before the second firing or the application of a tin or clear glaze. For both practical and decorative reasons, earthenware is usually glazed.
Earthenware is lightly fired, readily absorbs water if not glazed, and does not allow light to pass through it. Coarse earthenware is made from clay and grog (ground up fired pots).
It is the colour of the clay as it is dug from the ground - buff, brown and red.
A modern earthenware recipe would be: 25% ball clay, 25% china clay, 35% flint, 15% china stone. The first or biscuit firing temperature is 1100 C - 1150 C, glost firing 1050 C - 1100 C.
Nearly all ancient, medieval, Middle Eastern, and European painted ceramics are earthenware, as is a great deal of contemporary household dinnerware.
To overcome its porosity (which makes it impracticable for storing liquids in its unglazed state, for example), the fired object is covered with finely ground glass powder suspended in water and is then fired a second time. During the firing, the fine particles covering the surface fuse into an amorphous, glasslike layer, sealing the pores of the clay body.
There are two main types of glazed earthenware:
One is covered with a transparent lead glaze; when the earthenware body to which this glaze is applied has a cream colour, the product is called creamware.
The second type, covered with an opaque white tin glaze, is variously called tin-enamelled, or tin-glazed, earthenware, majolica, faience, or delft.
questions / comments? email Steve Birks email@example.com