Am I a ceramicist or a potter? I used to think of ceramics and pottery as entirely different crafts. Pottery strictly applied to the art that has been around throughout history of making clay into functional food safe pots. Ceramics was more of a modern take on this craft intended for mass production and duplication through slip casting and molds.
Several potters, I follow, refer to themselves as ceramicists when the work they are creating is made entirely on the wheel rather than slip casting with molds. I began to wonder then, why is it these two terms seem to be used so interchangeably? Is there a difference or are they one in the same?
The correlation is a little confusing because, on one hand, they are one in the same. Ceramics is a broad term that applies to materials that are formed to a permanent shape when heated to a hot enough temperature. However, ceramic production is not limited only to clay as is commonly assumed. Examples of ceramics include the fairly well-known glass, brick, cement, etc. but beyond that, ceramic materials are often used in electronics, body armor, stovetops, skis, and more.
Although pottery can be classified as a form of ceramics, ceramics cannot be classified under pottery. Pottery is the oldest form of ceramics and it will always be limited to having the shape of a pot and being made out of clay. The process of molding ceramics has adapted over time to create a smoother surface and it is not limited to the use of clay.
So to answer the original question, I am both a ceramicist and a potter. The difference is all potters are ceramicists whereas, not all ceramicists are potters.