Wie wird Keramik hergestellt – und wie nachhaltig ist das? - NIKIN EU

How is ceramics made – and how sustainable is it?

People have been using ceramics for thousands of years. Since people first discovered that forms made of fine clay become strong and durable through high heat, ceramics have been used to create stoneware and earthenware, terracotta and the finest porcelain. Today we use it all the time, from the cup for morning coffee to the candle holder or bowl for evening snacks.

In our XMAS collection we have now used ceramic for the first time for the NIKIN TreeMug. Reason enough to shed light on the manufacturing process and sustainability of ceramics.

Ceramic production: From mud to cup

In order to create a TreeMug or another ceramic object, you need clay soil. Depending on the fineness or coarseness of the clay, more or less delicate ceramic pieces are created. The first steps consist of mixing the clay with water and shaping it on a potter's wheel or using molds. The object then has to dry - this can take several days depending on its size.

Der Ton wird auf einer Drehscheibe geformt | NIKIN
Image: The clay is formed on a turntable. (Image of Val do Sol)

Production process of ceramics: two firing stages at high temperature

The following steps are the most complex - also in terms of energy consumption. The workpiece is first subjected to a so-called mold firing, then (after the glaze has been applied) to the so-called glaze firing. Both take place – depending on the material – at temperatures of several hundred degrees.

Smaller workshops and individual ceramic artists use kilns that are heated with electricity - if this comes from sustainable sources, the high-temperature firing is of little ecological concern. Mass-produced ceramics, on the other hand, are usually fired in large-capacity kilns using gas as energy.

Abkühlende Keramik-Produkte | NIKIN
Image: The mold firing ensures a stable shape of the ceramic products before the glaze is applied and baked. (Image from Val do Sol)

Glazes and their composition

Another, less considered factor regarding the ecology of ceramic firing is the composition of the glaze. Particularly in inexpensive ceramics, harmful substances can be found in the glazes, which may also be released into food and drinks. A good glaze, on the other hand, consists only of natural minerals that are mixed together and then heated.

Supply chains for ceramics

Finally, the supply chain is also crucial for the sustainability of ceramics. As always, the further the route, the higher the emissions. Global supply chains are still very common, especially in this area. But there are also high-quality ceramic objects “made in Europe”, such as our TreeMug produced in Portugal.

Europäische Keramikproduktion bei NIKIN – handgefertigt in Portugal
Image: At Val do Sol in Portugal, the handmade products are refined with homemade glazes. (Image of Val do Sol)

Sustainable ceramics – what to look out for

Ceramic is a widely used material that – unlike glass or paper – cannot be easily recycled. Reuse occurs by grinding up shards, which are then added to new clay mixtures. These shards stabilize the clay mixture and are therefore practical for everyday ceramic objects, but not suitable for fine porcelain. So if you value living as sustainably as possible when dealing with ceramics, you can pay attention to the following:

  • Buy ceramics from European production with the shortest possible supply chains and transparent manufacturing conditions.

  • Make sure that when making ceramics, waste products such as excess clay, heat and water are recycled.

  • Treat the ceramic pieces carefully to ensure a long service life.

Our TreeMugs are manufactured by the Portuguese company Val do Sol Cerâmicas, who carry out all production steps in their own factory. By reusing heat, water and clay, the consumption of resources remains small and the homemade glazes are mixed together from natural ingredients. This is how high-quality and long-lasting favorite products are created.

NIKIN TreeMug Ceramic | Keramik aus Europa
Image: Our TreeMug Ceramic – fairly manufactured in Europe and a real eye-catcher.

NIKIN is committed to producing as locally as possible with the lowest possible consumption of resources, not just for ceramics, but for all products. By supporting NIKIN, you are part of this ecological movement and also plant trees. Together we make the world greener – #treebytree.

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