The word “ceramic” comes from the Greek word keramikos meaning “of pottery” or “for pottery” and is one of the most ancient industries on the planet (Wray). In ancient times, around 24,000 BC, humans discovered that once clay and water were mixed together and heated over a kiln, a hardened material was formed. This material was then cooled, glazed, and fired to create a smooth and colored surface. Ancient civilizations used this new mixture to make animal and human figurines for the dead to take into the afterlife.
10,000 years later, as the communities of Mesopotamia and India were established, ceramics became immensely more popular due to the invention of the potter’s wheel (Figure 1). The potter’s wheel is machine used to shape round ceramic ware. Ceramics were used as tiles and pottery vessels for storing and carrying water and food. Another use of ceramics was the creation of clay bricks to build houses. At that time they didn’t have the bricks we use today and these clay bricks made houses warmer in the winter.
Around 2,000 years later, Egyptians discovered glass and how it could be used to create a colored glaze for its pottery. This glaze was produced by heating the glass over kilns and calcium oxide (CaO), containing sand and soda, was applied to the ceramic pottery. It wasn’t until around 1500 B.C. that experts say glass was used to create objects.
Ceramics, as we know them today, date back to the Great Depression and were known more of as a hobby. Erma Duncan, founder of Duncan Enterprises and Francis Darby, founder of Paragon Industries, began making kilns and glazes for artists to enjoy making ceramics at home. This new hobby of creating ceramics at home founded a four-tier manufacturing system in which was used to manufacture, distribute, and sell ceramics. A hierarchy system was created in order of a ceramic manufacture, distributor, traditional dealer, and customer. The manufacturer created the molds for the ceramic, the different colors, brushes to be used, tools to sculpt, and the kilns. This manufacturer then relied on a distributor whose job was to be educated on the product and stock a large inventory of the product to be sold. The distributor, now educated on the knowledge of the product, went to a dealer or ceramic shop and sold their product to them. Then the customers could then come and buy the finished product from the dealer or ceramic shop. With this four-tier system, some companies benefited and profited more from this system than others. This could be due in large part of the communication down the chain, from the distributor all the way to the customer.
From the 1920’s to the 1980’s the ceramic industry flourished and boomed until the mid-1980’s when some of the manufacturers couldn’t keep up with the upkeep of their business. Manufacturers weren’t up to date with new products, education, and tools in which they suffered a dramatic hit in sales. These manufacturers, in trying to save money and time,...