Now, it may have escaped your notice, but we’re big fans of porcelain decorative accessories here at THABTO. As well as our gorgeous Mood Mugs, we’ve got the Mobi vase, the inventive Tom, Dick and Harry storage jars, and even our Taste Explosion shakers – all of which are made from this versatile material.
So what’s the dealio? Why do we love to work with porcelain so much? Why do we think it’s so great?
Join us on a journey through time and space to learn more…
The power of porcelain, reason 1: it has an illustrious history.
Porcelain, or ‘true’ porcelain, dates back to the Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), which is amazing in itself – though the evolution of porcelain into the form that exists today was not complete until the Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.).
Example of Tang dynasty porcelain. Courtesy of Macculloch Hall.
It was not until 1707 that Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and Johann Friedrich Böttger produced a successful form of porcelain: they combined clay with ground feldspar rather than glass. This possessed the clarity and durability of ‘true’ porcelain. This form of porcelain has reigned supreme in Europe ever since: widely used in the production of crockery, household accessories and even the dental industry (such as within the crowning process!).
The power of porcelain, reason 2: it’s hardwearing yet elegant.
Porcelain is often used – incorrectly – as a blanket term to cover a range of ceramic products; but its manufacture is specific and unique, which is why it possesses superior qualities to other materials.
Earthenware items, for example, are made from clay fired at less than 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit; this means that the clay is still porous and must be glazed in order to be used. Stoneware items are made from clay that has been fired at slightly higher temperatures – between 2,100 and 2,300 degrees, typically – and so is no longer porous.
Porcelain, however, is made specifically from kaolin clay (a soft white clay) and is fired at much higher temperatures – as high as 2,600 degrees. This increases the purity of the finished product – it’s extremely white and clean as a result – and allows the material to be moulded into very fine, thin sheets. These sheets should be thin enough to be translucent when held up to the light; and though lightweight and delicate, the resultant porcelain is remarkably sturdy. All of which can be built upon to create a perfectly elegant yet satisfying vessel for that morning cup of tea!
The power of porcelain, reason 3: it’s a great material for modern-day and futuristic applications
Porcelain and china are often seen as interchangeable but in fact they are slightly different; and though china perhaps has slightly more luxurious connotations, to us porcelain is just that bit more versatile – and as such is more suited to modern-day life.
Porcelain is fired at a higher heat than china, which means that the resultant product is much harder: china can be cut with a file, for instance, and is sometimes known as ‘tender’ porcelain. All clays develop glassy qualities at high temperatures (a quality both china and porcelain share); but the manufacturing process of porcelain means that it is able to combine the low porosity of glass (essential for both practical and aesthetic reasons) with the relative flexibility of clay. Porcelain is therefore uniquely malleable and able to retain its form once shaped. Its increased durability means that it’s not only suitable for domestic use but also in commercial applications.
In fact – here comes the geeky part! – international companies have recently filed patents for futuristic porcelain prostheses and electrical insulators. We’ll be seeing porcelain spaceships next! (Okay, maybe not quite, but that would be cool…)