In art history, ceramics and ceramic art mean art objects such as figures, tiles, and tableware made from clay and other raw materials by the process of pottery.
Some ceramic products are regarded as fine art, while others are regarded as decorative, industrial or applied art objects, or as artifacts in archaeology. They may be made by one individual or in a factory where a group of people design, make and decorate the ware. Decorative ceramics are sometimes called "art pottery".
The word "ceramics" comes from the Greek keramikos (κεραμικος), meaning "pottery", which in turn comes from keramos (κεραμος), meaning "potter's clay." Most traditional ceramic products were made from clay (or clay mixed with other materials), shaped and subjected to heat, and tableware and decorative ceramics are generally still made this way. In modern ceramic engineering usage, ceramics is the art and science of making objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials by the action of heat. It excludes glass and mosaic made from glass tesserae.
There is a long history of ceramic art in almost all developed cultures, and often ceramic objects are all the artistic evidence left from vanished cultures, like that of the Nok in Africa over 2,000 years ago. Cultures especially noted for fine ceramics include the Chinese, Cretan, Greek, Persian, Mayan, Japanese, and Korean cultures, as well as the modern Western cultures.
Elements of ceramic art, upon which different degrees of emphasis have been placed at different times, are the shape of the object, its decoration by painting, carving and other methods, and the glazing found on most ceramics.