Let’s play a little word association. When I say ceramics, what’s the first image that comes to mind? Is it a pot or vessel of some kind? It is for me. Ceramics covers much, much more than pottery, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the manufacture of clayware,” where “clayware” is distinct from porcelain, stoneware, brick, and tile. Ceramics is the whole shebang, as we’ll discover in the best ceramic books.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that one of the discoveries at the core of the human rise to the top of Earth’s food chain is how to turn mud into vessels for food and water storage, and then into building materials for shelter. Without them, we would have no brick, no tile, no porcelain dishes or terracotta garden pots…it’s doable but it’s pretty bleak — and very, very heavy.
Almost as quickly as humans figured out how to fire clay for practical purposes, we started using it to make art. After all, we’ve been decorating pretty much any available surface for tens of thousands of years; ceramics are a perfect canvas for any kind of image, in either two or three dimensions. This list of the best ceramic books is designed to offer a broader scope for ceramics than the average person may have contemplated. Find even more related reads in our list of the best pottery books!
Pottery for Beginners: Projects for Beautiful Ceramic Bowls, Mugs, Vases, and More by Kara Leigh Ford
If you’re interested in learning to make your own wheel-thrown ceramics and have no clue where to begin, Ford’s book is a great place to start. It is full of tips and tricks to start you on your ceramic journey, plus gorgeous photos for visual guidance.
The Potter’s Bible: An Essential Illustrated Reference for Both Beginner and Advanced Potters by Marylin Scott
Another excellent resource for anyone interested in ceramics and pottery; Scott’s book is a treasure trove of information and guides.
The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Building: Functional and Sculptural Projects for the Home Potter by Sunshine Cobb
While Ford’s book focuses on wheel-thrown ceramics, Cobb’s book works with hand building, which is how prehistoric artists created so-called Venus figurines, so you’ll be in good company.
Wild Clay: Creating Ceramics and Glazes from Natural and Found Resources by Matt Levy, Takuro Shibata, and Hitomi Shibata
A fascinating guide to finding your own clay and creating your own glazes. Billed as ideal starting point for novices, experts, and everyone in between, this is an excellent addition to the experienced ceramicist’s library, but also to those new to the art.
One of the first things a new ceramicist learns is that ceramics break, and break often. Kintsugi is the famed Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold to make a broken thing both whole and more precious than the original.
Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists by donald a. clark and Chotsani Elaine Dean (November 22)
This coffee table book comes out November 22nd, just in time to be a fascinating addition to any holiday gift pile. Thirty-eight Black American ceramic artists are highlighted, while Dean and Clark provide context and history.
Alice Mackler by Matthew Higgs, Kelly Taxter, and Joanne Greenbaum
Beloved American ceramicist Alice Mackler works in ceramics, collage, and painting, and has for 80 years. Born in 1931, she is still working today and pushing boundaries in all three mediums.
Ai Weiwei: The Liberty of Doubt by Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is one of the best known Chinese artists in the world — if not THE best known. He is a multi-media artist who once famously destroyed a priceless Han Dynasty vase (that’s vahs, not vayse) as a contemplation on assigned value. If his work appeals to you, I also strongly recommend Circle of Animals and 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir
Do you have a new hobby yet? Because I think I might need to add a block of clay to my holiday list…