Test Your Knowledge of Pottery!
Can you identify the different types of pottery? Do you know what each type is used for? Here is a brief look at the basic types of ceramics and their functions.
The wide body of pitchers narrows toward the top to form a neck, which widens outward to form the mouth. A pinched area on the front of the clay acts like a spout. Their bodies are quite often very heavy toward the bottom to prevent them from tipping.
The pitcher is used for holding and pouring liquids. The spout allows the liquid to pour in an easy-to-control stream. Most pitchers have handles to make pouring easier.
A storage jar has fairly straight sides and flat or slightly sloping shoulders, which lead into a rim at the top. The rim can be rolled (rounded) or plain (straight). Some jars have fancier sides with decorative incised detailed or ridging. The jars can range from miniature to massive in size.
What a jar stores is only limited by imagination! Most storage jars of the 19th century were used to hold food ranging from anchovies to preserves and baking supplies.
Jugs are narrow-mouthed vessels. They are easily identified by their thin, almost-straight neck and a handle. However, their bodies can be bulbous or straight, and they can have a rolled lip or a straight rim of any size. They do not have spouts, which helps set them apart from pitchers.
Holding liquids is the primary purpose of jugs. Many people might associate jugs with whiskey, but they contained many different kinds of drinks. A jug could store a liquid with the addition of a cork or wooden stopper.
Another straight-sided ceramic, a bottle is tall and narrow. It has slightly curved shoulders, a short neck, and usually a thick rim. Bottles can have rounded sides, but many bottles’ sides are straight and segmented, looking like a multi-sided shape from the bottom instead of a circle.
Bottles also hold liquids, but instead of being primarily utilized for holding drinks, bottles also held other liquids, such as ink. Like jugs, bottles could also be plugged up with corks or wooden stoppers to prevent evaporation and the thickening of its contents.
Usually made of earthenware, a flowerpot can have many different forms and styles. However, one thing will always give away that the piece is a flowerpot—drainage holes! These holes are found at the bottom of the flowerpot and allow for extra water to seep away from plants. Some flowerpots also have liners, which are shorter ceramic pieces that are flat and almost plate-like.
The use of flowerpots is quite obvious—they hold flowers!
Ceramic pieces with shallow interiors and short, sloping sides are usually considered bowls. These can have straight rims and rolled lips, but not always. They can be wide or narrow, big or small. Some have straight sides, and others display curved ones. Just think about a bowl today, and you will be able to identify a ceramic bowl from the 19th century.
Bowls are used for mixing, holding items like foods or liquids, serving food, and sometimes storing.
A milk pan can have a similar appearance to a bowl. The sides are short and sloping, and the interior is not very deep. What sets the milk pan apart from the bowl is the spout located on the edge of the piece.
Holding milk is the milk pan’s most evident usage. After placing milk in the milk pan, it would be set in a cool place until the cream rose from the milk, which would then be skimmed and made into butter. The milk left in the pan could be poured out for cooking.
—Alex Choate, Museum volunteer