THE POTBANK DICTIONARY  -  A POTTERY GLOSSARY - the terms used in the pottery industry of North Staffordshire can be utterly confusing! This Potbank Dictionary helps explain them.  It also lists some Potteries dialect words. Enjoy the entire dictionary but for a quick look at some of the most befuddling words try here> first.  Or have fun with the Potbank Wordsearch Game here>
There is a small piece of Stoke-on-Trent in every home of the UK.  "Familiar things like the vessels comprised by dinner, breakfast and tea services would be there but so too would many unfamiliar objects: the bell pulls, doorplates, key escutcheons and door knobs made by specialists in door furniture, the trinket sets that formerly adorned the dressing table and the toilet services for the obsolescent wash-tables, galley pots, whose name take us back to foreign trade in medieval times, creel steps and shuttle eyes made for Manchester cotton spinners, marbles and taws for children and parlour bowls for Victorian grown ups, nest eggs for poultry farmers, porcelain teeth, ceramic buttons, and a thousand other things." REGINALD HAGGAR 1964   More here>

The Potbank Dictionary - the glossary of The Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent created in 1976

Here are those wonderful words, such as blunger,  saggar,  jomukand lobby that were very common in The Potteries. These words have been collected during a lifetime in potbanks. Some are specific to a particular factory, others are more general. Some vary from potbank to potbank and from Tunstall in the north to Longton in the south. Some are technical, and some feature the very special dialect of The Potteries. Some words are being lost as potbanks close or manufacturing methods change. But all are fascinating! This is not an academic work. In fact, in places, its rather quirky. But it is as true and as accurate as I can make it.

BBC Interlude 1950 - Potters Wheel

What is? CLAY

Clay is a deceptively simple material.

It is cheap and abundant. Often it may be found in the earth already softened with moisture and ready to be worked. It keeps forever and improves with age. Unfired clay objects may be crumbled, mixed again with water, and made into something else. As a material it is soft, pliant, plastic, impressionable, without grain or direction. It can be modelled, pounded, flattened, rolled, pinched, coiled, pressed, thrown on the wheel, cast into moulds, scored, shredded, pierced, stamped, extruded, cut, or spun.

Small and delicate objects may be made with it, or massive architectural forms. Clay shapes may resemble the looseness of a crumpled dishrag or may have the precision of electronic machines. In colour, objects made from clay may be dazzling white, creamy, red, orange, yellow, grey, brown, black, or textured with spots, streaks, speckles, flashings, and tintings. They may be smooth and ivory-like, or rough, sandy, gritty, or harsh. Fired clay can have a translucence approaching that of glass or a density like that of the hardest stone.

All these possibilities are to be found in the craft of ceramics. Clay, formless in the earth, is laden with potential. It responds to shaping, to drying, to firing, to blending and combining, to texturing, to smoothing. A given lump of clay may become a roof tile, a brick, a votive sculpture or effigy, a water jug, a child's toy, or a venerated tea bowl or vase in a museum case admired by thousands. The knowledge of ways to make things from clay and to fire them brought about a significant advance in man's standard of living. Bricks, tiles, sanitaryware, drain and water pipes, dishes, bowls, cooking pots, and sarcophagi have helped to make life easier and more pleasant, and have lent dignity to burial.

This remarkable description of clay by the late Daniel Rhodes (1911 – 1989) is a short extract from 'Clay and Glazes for the Potter'  first published 1957. ISBN 0-7136-3007-8 

Don't get confused | HUMPER and WHIRLER

A humper is a fault on pottery flatware. It appears as a domed base, causing the plate (or other flatware) to bow upwards. It looks ugly and causes gravy to accumulate in a ring around the edge of the plate. Regarded as seconds, or if its really bad, lump. On the other hand, a whirler is the exact opposite. It's also a pottery flatware fault, but this time refers to a plate with a bowed base so that it doesn't sit flat on a table but spins or whirls around. Giddy making.  Causes gravy to accumulate in a pool in the middle of the plate. More here>