Much of the beauty of pottery lies in its fragility. Regardless of which type of pottery you purchase or collect— contemporary or ancient vessels, tiles, sculpture or dolls — it is often difficult to show it off without putting it in harm’s way. Below are a few tips for displaying your pottery while protecting its value and appearance:
Low-fired pottery such as that traditionally made by American Indian artisans was typically used for utilitarian water jars and serving bowls. However, it is often porous and absorbs water easily, making it sensitive to erosion and salt damage. Instead of using it in the way it was designed, display it as decorative art only.
Find a place for your pottery and try not to move it from that location. The main danger to decorative ceramics is poor handling. Weak points between handles and body, thin rims, etc. – they are all susceptible to breaking the more they’re handled or moved. If you have to move a piece, use both hands, lift from the base, and wear gloves to avoid fingerprints on the surface.
It is best to avoid cleaning your pottery, if at all possible. However, if you must clean it, use a soft brush, but don’t agitate the surface or use water. Pottery that is unevenly fired or simply baked may dissolve in water.
Conservators are specially trained to repair and restore antique pottery. A poor DIY job can ruin the value of your piece, where a professional repair can preserve its integrity. The simple solution is this: if you’re unsure about your piece, leave it to a professional.