Ceramic ware and pottery is made from clay - a naturally occurring mineral. Different types of clay are used according to the qualities needed in the item to be made, such as strength or delicacy.
A wide range of ceramic items are made. Some are industrial, including:
Other ceramic products are domestic including:
Other items can be purely decorative ornaments or sculpture.
Because ceramics are used in so many different ways, the work of a ceramic/pottery maker varies greatly according to their employer's business. Some processes are partly or fully automated, while others are carried out by hand.
The duties of a ceramic/pottery maker could include:
Casting - pouring liquid clay (or 'slip') into moulds to form a range of items. Complicated shapes, such as teapots, are made in sections which are joined together using more slip.
Jiggering - making flat objects like plates by placing clay on a rotating mould and pushing a pattern onto it to press the clay into shape.
Jolleying - pushing a metal tool into a ball of clay to produce a hollow item like a bowl or cup.
Throwing - shaping clay on a potter's wheel. This traditional method of working clay is used mainly by craft potters.
Finishing - using a lathe to turn and shape products.
Glazing - coating the surface of products to make them waterproof, durable and/or produce a decorative effect.
Firing - hardening items by heating them to very high temperatures in a kiln. Some items are fired a number of times at different stages of the manufacturing process.
In automated ceramic production an individual ceramic/pottery maker may work as part of a team undertaking only one or a few of these processes, whereas a craft potter, working mainly by hand, is more likely to design and complete a whole piece of ceramic work.
Most ceramic/pottery makers work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Overtime may be available at busy times. Some companies operate shift systems.
People working in craft potteries, particularly those in tourist areas, may work weekends and bank holidays when visitors are most likely to want tours of the pottery. Some of these workers may be self-employed.
The work environment can vary from a large factory to a small workshop or studio. There may be noise, dust and heat.
Lifting and carrying may be required, and some products, like toilets and drains, are heavy and cumbersome. However, many factories have lifting devices.
Starting salaries may be around £8,300 to £9,800 a year.
Ceramic/pottery makers may work in one of a range of organisations, from businesses with over 4,000 employees to small pottery workshops. Some craft potters work alone. Many of the larger manufacturers are based around Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands.
Craft potteries are found all over the UK, particularly in tourist areas.
Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and on employers' websites.
There are no formal entry requirements to become a ceramic/pottery maker. Many people train for this career through Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is also possible to take further or higher education qualifications in subjects like ceramics, ceramics technology, art and design or 3D design. These are available at many colleges and universities throughout the UK.
Entry for a higher education course is usually a minimum of one A level/two H grades in art and design subjects, or the equivalent. Degree candidates usually need a minimum of two A levels/three H grades, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. Admissions tutors usually expect to see a portfolio of art work.
Applicants in England and Wales may often be expected to have done a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design. In Scotland, degree courses last four years and include a general year, so a foundation course is not usually necessary. Candidates who have done a foundation course may be able to start in the second year.
New entrants are usually given on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced technicians or trainers.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A ceramic/pottery maker should:
Ceramic/pottery workers may be promoted to team leader, supervisor, line manager, trainer or technician roles, especially if they have gained qualifications. Prospects in small organisations can be limited and workers may have to change employers to progress.
Craft workers often become self-employed, setting up their own craft studio or workshop. With an appropriate teaching qualification it may be possible to teach their skills to others.
British Ceramic Confederation,
Federation House, Station Road, Stoke on Trent ST4 2SA
Tel: 01782 744631
Crafts Council, 44a Pentonville Road,
Islington, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7278 7700
The Craft Potters Association Gallery,
7 Marshall Street, London W1F 7EH
Tel: 020 7437 7605
Creative and Cultural Skills,
4th Floor Lafone House, The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.