Leather-hard clay is clay that has been partially dried and is finished shrinking. Leather-hard clay is still visibly damp, but it can be handled without deformation occurring. This is the stage when the clay can be carved or burnished or when decorative slips can be applied.
There are three stages of clay dryness. The stage before leather-hard clay is wet clay. Wet clay is fresh clay, and it can be manipulated easily. Attaching is easy at this stage but becomes harder at the leather-dry stage and is almost impossible at the bone-dry stage. At the bone-dry stage, the clay is most fragile, much lighter in color and ready to be fired. All unfired clay is referred to as greenware.