We all remember those scenes from cartoons and movies when someone knocks over a porcelain vase and we are all clutching our pearls, thinking „OH NO“.
So why are we so obsessed with porcelain, and why do we hold it to a high standard?
A little bit of History
Did you know that porcelain is also called china because it was first made in – China? China, thanks to its geographic location is close to large amounts of kaolin clay, which made it a natural center of porcelain production.
Porcelain’s primitive form emerged during the Shang Dynasty, and the technique was perfected during the reign of the Tang dynasty (618–907). Its final form and the one best known in the West (cobalt blue and white porcelain which later became the representative of porcelain) was during the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368).
China and the Middle East had a long history of ceramics trade between them. Muslims used pottery as dinnerware, as their religious practices prohibited eating and drinking from metal containers. Impressed by the quality and esthetics of China’s porcelain, Islamic countries started importing Cobalt blue pigment and designed motifs imitated by each culture.
Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed in perfect imitation of the Chinese masters, so they relied on Muslim merchants to provide the color and decorative designs that would be desired by locals.
Like many things that reached modern West civilization from the East, we owe it to Marco Polo for bringing porcelain to Europe. When he brought it to Europe from China, in the fourteenth century, he introduced it as porcellana. Porcellana in Italian is a nickname for the cowrie shell, whose surface porcelain resembles. The shape of it reminded Polo of the bellies of little pigs or – porcellini.
Fast forward to after the sixteenth century, and the Portuguese and the Dutch came into the game, by establishing commercial trade routes to the Far East. There emerged a massive market of export ware: porcelain exclusively made in China for Europe. The need for domestic manufacturing started to emerge, as it would have been cheaper, easier and involved less breakage, but Europeans couldn’t figure out how to make porcelain at home.
This allowed porcelain to retain its value as white gold, valued for both its durability and its delicacy and also prized for its exotic origins. And its recipe remained a mystery for nearly five hundred years!
The most common confusion comes from mixing up the terms porcelain and pottery or ceramics. We’re going to explain the differences so you can pride yourself on what an expert in porcelain you’ve become. The first thing to have in mind is that porcelain is made from well-chosen porcelain clay.
Although porcelain tracks its roots from pottery, the two are different in raw material, glaze, and firing temperature. Porcelain stands out from other ceramic products by featuring three unique and fundamental technical characteristics: hardness, whiteness, and translucency.
Where lies the superiority of porcelain we brag about?
Having in mind that the practice of making porcelain has been around for hundreds of years, making high-quality porcelain takes patience, as well as a particular skill set. Everything in the process requires precision because even a minor slip-up can botch the final product. For example, an inaccurate amount of water can change porcelain’s texture.
Another problem can occur from the inconsistent thickness of the separator’s walls: it can crack as it cools because it must be vitrified at extremely high temperatures (1200-1400’C).
Porcelain does not forgive unevenness, unlike other kinds of clay. If made correctly, no other material is a match for its texture, luminosity, and unbelievable strength. The most amazing thing about porcelain’s strength is its thinness. You wouldn’t be able to make a porcelain brick, let’s say, but if you were to break your toilet bowl or one of our separators (please don’t) you’d notice its walls are only millimeters thick.
The long-lasting relationship: porcelain and hygiene
In any bathroom you encountered during your life, there’s a porcelain toilet bowl and a sink. This relationship between our bathrooms and porcelain dates way back. There are many reasons for this, but eventually, it all boils down to the porcelain’s resilience. It’s the most suitable man-made material for intensive use while being very easy to clean. Its smooth and resilient surface won’t absorb grease, odors, or bacteria – making it almost the guarantee of perfect hygiene. Porcelain’s resilience is due to the fact it is non-porous, meaning it is almost impervious to liquids (water and urine).
Compared to plastic, it doesn’t degrade easily over time. Surely, you can find steel toilets in prisons and airplanes, but we found steel to be a material suitable for other stuff (check our Inoxious here). Steel weighs a lot, and is thermally unstable: it gets cold easily and can get quite hot as well.
The environmental impact
Walking the fine line between zero environmental impact and finding the right material for our products is not an easy thing to do. While zero environmental impact is something we strive to achieve, it’s literally impossible to do that. Choosing porcelain as our go-to material was our choice since it has the least impact on our planet during production and use.
All the materials used to produce porcelain are natural – they come from the earth, so its natural origin makes it totally recyclable.
Since it’s not burnt or melted, it doesn’t emit toxic gases that can be detrimental to human health and our planet. At the same time, any pollution during the supply is minimal, since we tend to produce our separators in the good ol’ fashion way.
The manufacturing process is efficient, and it reduces the consumption of energy, water, and raw materials, allowing us to reuse and upgrade any waste. We mentioned that porcelain is highly resilient and durable, which makes it a sustainable material and allows us to avoid the excessive consumption of resources.
Since the process used to source, manufacture, distribute and dispose of, could go on virtually forever with a little negative impact on the environment, we rightly label porcelain one of the most sustainable materials out there.
Being a natural material that’s resistant to liquids, it offers increased durability, resulting in a longer lifespan. What makes it a perfect choice for urine separators is that it’s low maintenance, reducing the need for harsh chemical cleaners.
Unfortunately, some aspects of production are not eco-friendly, including the use of natural resources and high fuel consumption needed for firing. Even with these properties, although not 100% zero waste, porcelain reduces the need for disposable plastic.
As we stated above, when it comes to porcelain, it’s not only that it takes patience, but also a great skill. When it comes to our products, a lot of thought went into it, with a goal to cleverly use all the fascinating aspects of porcelain. It’s not only the hygienic and practical aspects that we find enchanting about porcelain, it’s its esthetic facet, as well. We consider ourselves artists that do pragmatic actions, in order to find better solutions for sustainable living, and we will keep going in that direction!