The biggest difference between pottery and porcelain is the difference in raw materials. Pottery, also known as earthenware, is mainly made from clay called "pottery clay", while porcelain, also known as stoneware, is mainly made from powdered stone obtained by grinding porcelain stone (magnetic stone). To put it simply, if the raw material is clay, it becomes pottery, and if the raw material is stone, it becomes porcelain.
Ceramics, which are mainly made of clay, have a soft texture and an attractive earthy feel. When tapped by hand, they produce a dull and low sound, and they are opaque. Due to their water absorption properties, ceramics develop a unique taste as they are used over time. Additionally, ceramics have a low thermal conductivity, making them difficult to heat up and slow to cool down. Representative types of ceramics include Karatsu-yaki, Hagi-yaki, Bizen-yaki, Shigaraki-yaki, and Mino-yaki.
Porcelain, which is mainly made from crushed stone powder (magnetite), has a smooth texture and an attractive pure white appearance. When tapped by hand, it produces a clear and high-pitched sound similar to metal, and it is also translucent. Generally, porcelain is fired at higher temperatures than pottery, resulting in a harder and more durable material. Additionally, it has a high thermal conductivity, making it quick to heat up and cool down. Representative types of porcelain include Arita ware (Imari ware), Hasami ware, and Kutani ware.
Finally, we would like to introduce different ways to utilize pottery and porcelain, which are familiar tools in our daily lives, while highlighting their respective characteristics.
Pottery exudes a warm atmosphere due to its natural texture, making it perfect for creating a traditional Japanese ambiance. In terms of functionality, pottery's ability to retain heat makes it ideal for holding hot tea in teacups and keeping warm dishes insulated. It can even withstand direct heat, as seen with clay pots. Additionally, pottery made from various types of clay sourced from different regions possesses unique characteristics, allowing us to appreciate the differences between them.
Porcelain, on the other hand, is known for its durability and resistance to breakage. Its thin and lightweight nature is another distinguishing feature. Moreover, porcelain has minimal water absorption, making it resistant to stains even when used with oils, dressings, soy sauce, or other dark-colored condiments. It also does not retain odors, making it easy to handle and maintain without much fuss.
As such, Japan offers a wide variety of captivating pottery and porcelain. By paying attention to the differences in soil composition from different regions, the inherited craftsmanship, and the historical background, we can discover more than just the distinction between pottery and porcelain, allowing us to further enjoy the art of ceramics.