All of the museum's decorated pottery is Kalinga-made; click the urn at left for the Kalinga pottery page. See our collection of Ilokano household ceramics.

The manufacture of pottery is an ancient tradition in most of Asia, and the Philippines are no exception; shards have been found in gravesites dating back to at least 1500 B.C.E.. Potterymaking as an art was largely interrupted, however, when strong, cheap, and beautiful Chinese wares began being imported during the Tang dynasty, after 618 C.E.. While many groups continue to make pots after their local traditions, the bulk of the items made are utilitarian, undecorated wares.

Historically, household pottery, which is used mainly for cooking and for storing water, rice, and other small foodstuffs, is simple in form and little decorated. Funerary pots, used as urns and in mortuary rituals, are much more elaborate in both form and decoration, involving incised and impressed motifs such as scrolls, meanders, triangles, and tiny circles.

Pottery is made of the local red clay tempered with sand or ashes. Form is imparted using either a wheel or a wooden pestle and stone anvil. The finished form is either sun dried or fired in an earth kiln, and it tends to be relatively porous and subject to crumbling. There are four basic sequences:

The Bontok tradition is entirely hand modeled using the paddle and anvil. Besides the Bontok, the Ibanag, Pampango, Bukidnon, Sulu, Cebuano, and Mandukayan Kalinga are included in this tradition.

Ilokano wares are turned on a wheel, although many of the same techniques are used in finishing the rim and in decoration. The Bikolano, Bukidnon, Panayan Masbateno, Tinguian, Northern Kanakanay, Ifugao, and Ilongot share this technique.

The Bagobo tradition includes hand modeling, molding, and coiling. Clay is generally added by strips in forming the body. The Bagobo, Manobo, and central Ifugao are included.

The Ivatan practice exclusive use of a slab modeling technique. A flattened, dough-like piece of clay is impressed into a bowl shaped wooden mold.