EARTHENWARE VS. STONEWARE CLAY: WHAT'S BETTER FOR THROWING?

This post was made by Lora Olivieri of Piece of Mind Pottery. If you’re interested in posting on our blog, shoot us an email!

When it comes to selecting a clay body, the possibilities seem endless. There are so many different formulations and variations, colors, textures, workability, throwability (is that a word?). It can get confusing to select the perfect one. Which is why most potters I know, including myself, don’t settle on just one.

I use both earthenware and stoneware in my work. I gravitate towards white stoneware (Laguna WS-4 is my favorite) but I also dabble in brown and black stoneware and also earthenware like Laguna EM-210 when the project warrants low-fire glazes and underglazes.

So what’s the difference between earthenware and stoneware? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Earthenware:

  • Low-fire: cone 06-3 (1850-2135 degrees).
  • Slightly porous, even when fired to maturity (water will soak into it if not glazed or sealed).
  • Low-shrinkage from wet to fired states.
  • Great for planters, oven steamers/garlic roasters, kids projects/art class and decorative items.
  • Not so great for dishware as it is not as sturdy as stoneware or porcelain and is prone to chipping and staining.

Stoneware:

  • Mid-High fire: cone 4-10 (2160-2372 degrees).
  • Non-porous when fully vitrified (fired to maturity temperature recommended by clay company).
  • Widely used for dishware and functional items as well as sculpture and decorative pieces.
  • Range of shrinkage depending on specific clay composition, but your piece WILL get smaller when you fire it.

 

Here are my two cents on how to choose between earthenware and stoneware. Or at least how I decide before I sit down to start a piece.

Use stoneware if:

  1. The piece will be used a lot (think dishware, in the dishwasher, passed around the table, etc.)
  2. The piece needs to hold water and be food-safe forever.
  3. The piece will be used in the oven (think casseroles).

Use earthenware if:

  1. You are making something that is more decorative or that won’t be used all the time.
  2. You are making a planter and need a little bit of porosity for the health of the plant.
  3. You are working with children and require basic color glazes that are easy to use, maintain their original color and stay where you put them with little effort.

NOTE: It is important that you always choose a glaze that matures at the same cone level as your clay. This ensures food safety (if stated on the label) and reduces problems with glaze fit.