Ceramics, in the context of what I do, refers to the transformation and hardening of clay thru heating and subsequent cooling. To begin, one sculpts something out of clay, then lets it dry. This is called greenware. The greenware is then fired in a kiln, with high temperatures sintering the clay such that it is no longer clay, but has become a ceramic. This is called bisqueware. A glaze is then applied to the bisqueware, which is fired again, resulting in the finished product: a glazed ceramic.
Befitting one of the cornerstones of human civilization, there are many approaches to the art of ceramics: pit firing, once firing, pottery, jewelry, raku, salt glazes, earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, the list goes on and on. There is truly an abundance of riches when it comes to this craft. The aspect of ceramics that I am currently focused on is that of raku earthenware. Raku is a somewhat famous process in which the glazeware is taken out of the kiln at around 1800+ degrees, put into a reduction chamber (i.e. trashcan) with an organic material such as paper or sawdust, and then by the application of a lid the oxygen is cut off, creating a situation in which the oxygen-deprived fire begins pulling oxygen out of the ceramic and the glaze, which creates cracks and colors in the glaze that are virtually unrepeatable. Maybe it is because I am a firebug, or because I am enamored of the wabi-sabi tradition, but raku is one of my favorite things to do.