1 Jun 17

What makes a second pottery piece?

I’ve been updating the Etsy shop on a weekly basis at the moment. You’ll find a range of different pieces in each update, more of the categories are filling out. A few of these are seconds sale pieces. What exactly makes a piece a second?

Second sale cups

Seconds are total accidents of the ceramic process. Normally if it’s going to happen then it’ll be created during the last stage of making a pot; during glaze firing. The higher heat of a glaze firing can cause just about any imperfection in a pot to come to the surface.

Seconds have some sort of fault and the rate of discount depends on how noticeable is or if it’s going to affect the function of the piece. I usually take the condition of the final piece into account when deciding on a price.

Of course faults are entirely objective, I know some people consider a fault to be part of the nature of handmade objects. Everyone’s different in what they want from an object, there’s beauty in imperfection or maybe just a bargain. I have quite high standards in what I consider a good pot which is why sometimes pieces with minimal faults will get picked up.


Common second sale faults

The most common fault in a second is probably warping, this is where the spherical shape of a pot has become distorted. Ideally every pot should be round but warping means that its got an odd shape at a point in the body of the pot, usually at the top. Handles can distort mugs and cutting holes out of yarn bowls can push the round shape out. This isn’t a critical fault though since you can still use it, it’s just a bit less perfect.

The other most common fault is glaze pinholing or blistering. This is an irritating fault since it doesn’t create an attractive glaze coverage. Sometimes the pinholing will just be on the outside, inside or on a single isolated spot. It’s more common this one in the volatile glazes like Green.

An uneven coating of glaze is my own fault but can again be unattractive. As I’ve gotten more experienced at glazing this happens less but it can create patches of thin glaze. This thinner glaze burns out to either a pale or darker colour. It’s just human error since every piece is glazed by hand. Again this isn’t a critical fault since you can still use it, it’s just not as pretty.

Cracking and other faults in the clay itself are quite common. At a high temperature small stones in the clay burn out to leave little holes in the surface. Thick pieces of clay can also crack under the stress, this is quite common on knobs or thick handles.


  1. Suzanne G. McClendon says:

    I think this was a very interesting post. I hope to have time to read more of your posts very soon.

    My forefathers were potters. They started off in Edgefield, South Carolina, and then moved to Northeast Georgia (USA). They were pioneers of the alkaline glazing technique in the US.

    I know nothing about pottery making, but would love to learn and carry on their craft some day.

    Have a blessed day.

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