Clays have been used since ancient times for everything from art to architecture. Early humans discovered and used clay in prehistoric times. Early artifacts excavated from notable historical sites indicate clay vessels were used for transporting drinking water.
These initial pieces were sun-dried. That process has become far more advanced in our modern times.
Clays can be mixed with water to create varying levels of flexibility applicable to one of its varied uses. As the clay dries, it hardens usually to a point where further manipulation cannot be done.
With some clay, you can introduce water a second time to recover some of the flexibility.
One has to plan the shape and use it in advance to avoid being forced to manipulate the clay a second or third time.
Different types of clay are composed of different types of minerals which affect its properties. Properties include durability and strength over time. The composition of the clay also determines its color.
The most common colors range from grey to orange-red. In addition, the properties of the clay will determine how they are affected when placed in ceramic pottery kilns. Placing clay in a kiln is known as “firing” the clay.
By firing the clay, you strengthen the piece and lock in its shape. Once fired, the clay cannot be manipulated even with the addition of more water. Kilns represent the modern version of the sun drying done in prehistoric times.