Pottery is one of the oldest human technologies and art-forms, and remains a major industry today. Ceramic art covers the art of pottery, whether in items made for use or purely for decoration Pottery is made by forming a clay body into objects of a required shape and heating them to high temperatures in a kiln to induce reactions that lead to permanent changes, including increasing their strength and hardening and setting their shape. There are wide regional variations in the properties of clays used by potters and this often helps to produce wares that are unique in character to a locality. It is common for clays and other minerals to be mixed to produce clay bodies suited to specific purposes.
Prior to some shaping processes, air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished by a machine called a vacuum pug or manually by wedging. Wedging can also help to ensure an even moisture content throughout the body. Once a clay body has been de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques. After shaping it is dried before firing. There are a number of stages in the drying process. Leather-hard refers to the stage when the clay object is approximately 75-85% dry. Clay bodies at this stage are very firm and only slightly pliable. Trimming and handle attachment often occurs at the leather-hard state. Clay bodies are said to be “bone-dry” when they reach a moisture content at or near 0%. Unfired objects are often termed greenware. Clay bodies at this stage are very fragile and hence can be easily broken.