What Are Ceramic 'Seconds'?

by Ellie Eveleigh on January 20, 2022

We love handmade things especially when you can see the making process, however sometimes there are imperfections which mean some pieces don’t make it through our quality checks. On these occasions the items become seconds. Although we love some of these unique quirks on our pieces, it isn’t always to everyone’s taste.

In ceramics, there are specific types of flaws. The pieces are still functional, they just won’t look as perfect as we’d like. The seconds we choose to sell are ones where the piece is still fit for purpose, watertight and food safe.

Glaze Breaks

If a glaze is too thick or doesn’t take to the clay body, the glaze can run off the surface, leaving the clay exposed beneath. This tends to be common when the glaze is slightly too runny. As the clay body seals when fired, the piece is still fine to use. Some of our perfect pieces will have small glaze breaks as we love this effect, but when these breaks are big we class them as a second.


Thin Glaze

Similarly to glaze breaks, when a glaze is too runny or the piece is not in the glaze for long enough, the glaze is thinner than usual. In the glazes we use, this can lead to a loss of the colour’s opaqueness.


Glaze Drips

When a thicker layer of glaze is applied it can drip during the firing process - this is more common in our Shoreline range as the glaze mixture is slightly thicker. This is a cosmetic effect and does not affect the functionality of a piece.



This term refers to small bubbles in the surface of a glazed piece that look like tiny pinholes. This can be caused by small grains of dust prior to glazing or by gasses escaping the glaze or clay body. Pieces with this on internal glaze are no longer food safe, however any external pinholes aren’t an issue.



Foreign objects in the clay can burn and release gas in the kiln which leaves a crater-like hole in the glaze.



A network of hairline fractures in the glaze body on the piece. This is sometimes a deliberate cosmetic effect used in ceramics - but not in our designs. This is caused by the glaze being under too much tension and contracting more than the clay body of the piece during cooling.


Hairline Fractures

A fine crack, typically on the base of the piece, which is often a result of the base being a different thickness to the walls. If the crack does not go through the base, we test the piece for watertightness (no leakage) with boiling water before deeming it usable.



When in its softest stage, being knocked or moved too much can change the shape of a piece. This can usually be corrected but is sometimes made worse in the kiln. Warping can also happen to a perfect piece during the firing. These pieces are still functional, if a little quirky!

Sometimes, flaws can be caused by us making errors - we’re only human! For example, we could be glazing a batch of pots and accidentally miss one, or apply the wrong glaze colour.

When hand-making ceramics there is a natural difference in size between pieces, so when a piece exceeds this normal variation we sell it on as a second. Additionally, in some cases when we’ve accidentally knocked off a mug handle, for example, instead of discarding the entire piece we would turn it into a planter. This just means that the piece doesn’t match our general mug size or design, so instead of wasting the work we also sell it on as a second.


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