Pottery is one of those hobbies that lots of people think about trying, but oftentimes don’t feel like it is a practical, or accessible for their home or their lifestyle.
We’re here to tell you differently.
Learning to create beautiful pieces of ceramics or pottery at home or as a hobby is a very accessible and fun hobby that anyone can take on.
You don’t even need a studio in your home to enjoy the fun and enjoyment of creating pottery or ceramics.
1. Take a Class
Sure, you can learn how to work pottery from a wide variety of books, podcasts, and even YouTube videos.
And, maybe many people out there will be successful at learning the tricks of pottery from this mode.
However, from our experience, most people that really learn to love pottery and continue their passion in a home studio, are those people who start their adventure with a pottery class.
There is a lot to gain from taking a pottery class.
First and foremost, in a pottery class, you will learn solid basic techniques, from a professional.
Getting a good grasp of the basics will make it easier to move from your classes to a studio at home.
This includes the basics of a variety of different construction techniques, including sculpting, hand-building, and wheel-throwing.
Learning from a professional also provides you with hands-on experience, and the opportunity to get help, nearly instantly, when you’re having a problem, or need extra help with a skill.
The folks teaching your class, have already been a beginner, and know awesome tips and tricks to help you overcome any problem you might have.
Taking a class also gives insight as far as what tools, and equipment that you really need in a home studio.
Do you need a clay roller?
Is kiln essential?
Can I skip the wheel?
These are all questions that you might find the answer to in a pottery class.
Truly, practice does make perfect.
Just like with any other hobby, you’re going to need to practice. If you are taking a pottery class, you may have access to additional studio time as part of your fees.
Take advantage of these open times to come in and work on building pieces. The more time you can get working in the studio, the better.
Often times, instructors will be on hand during open studio time, allowing you to get extra help, outside of your class time.
You can also learn techniques or watch other, more advanced students learn how they overcame challenges.
If your class doesn’t offer extra studio time, don’t be afraid to work on your hand building skills at home.
There are plenty of ways that you can improve your skills at home, making small hand-built pieces.
This practice will allow you to build skills like creating joints or cutting clay shapes or even just give you time to build up the strength necessary to wedge clay well.
3. Start Small at Home
If you’ve already taken classes, and you really love making pottery, it may be time to create your own, at-home studio.
Your at-home studio doesn’t need to be a big thing. And it also doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, so to speak.
Start out small. Make sure that you have the basics for your home studio, and don’t be afraid to buy your first equipment used.
Your at-home studio should include a sturdy work table. You don’t have to run out and buy a wedging table, a good quality folding table will work.
Then you’ll need some basic tools. Kits are available at art supply stores or online. You’ll get the most for your money with a small kit with just the basics.
If you like to throw on a wheel, you can find small, portable wheels for around $100.
These will get you started, but they aren’t always the best quality or have enough power to do what you want.
Look for a used wheel on the internet, or keep your eyes open for local studios or colleges that might be selling used equipment.
Another handy piece of equipment that you might want for your home studio is a set of metal shelving.
You can find these at your local hardware store. They’ll give you a sturdy place to store, and dry your finished pieces.
Finally, you might want to invest in a small kiln.
If you can find a kiln cooperative, this might not be a necessary investment, however, a small kiln will allow you to fire small pieces at home, and get a better understanding of this part of the process.
4. Be OK With Getting Messy
Making pottery is far from a high-fashion experience.
You’re going to be messy, and honestly, that’s half the fun!
When you are picking the right spot in your home for your studio, make sure that you aren’t going to be bummed when you spill some dirty water, or when wet clay flies from your wheel on to the wall.
The pottery is messy. Make sure that wherever you are working, you can easily clean up, and that you won’t cause damage to your home if mud gets on a wall, or you spill some water.
We like garages and basements for pottery studios because they are easy to clean and they aren’t generally going to be extravagantly decorated.
While you’re at it, invest in an apron or a good smock. This will help protect your clothes from the same muddy disasters.
Some people will spend some time at a thrift store or used clothing store, finding clothes that they will only use when making pottery.
The real thing to expect when you’re working with clay is a mess. Make the most of the mess and be prepared with the right space and the right clothes.
5. Have Practical Expectations
Let’s be real here. We would all love to be amazing pottery the first time.
And sometimes, when you’re just learning, everything aligns and you get an amazing piece on the first throw.
But that’s not how it always happens. Most experienced potters will tell you that more often or not, a piece doesn’t work right, and they have to start again.
Don’t be afraid of those pieces that don’t turn outright. Use them as a learning opportunity. Then wad them up, get some fresh clay and try again!
But most importantly, don’t let the “bad” pieces disappoint you so much that you quit trying. Pottery is a lifelong learning experience, with good days and bad days.
When it’s a tough day, take a break and come back later.
It will clear your mind of frustration, and give you some time to reflect on the challenge and perhaps figure out how to resolve the challenge you’re having.
6. Try Different Techniques
When most people think about pottery, they think of the scene from the movie “Ghost” where Demi Moore is making pottery on a wheel.
However, wheel-throwing isn’t the only way to create beautiful pieces of pottery.
There are other techniques that you can employ to create pottery. Take, for instance, hand-building.
This technique uses things like clay slabs and coils to create a piece, instead of a wheel. Hand building can be used to create just about any figure that you want to make.
You can even use hand-building techniques to create containers like plates, vases, and bowls.
Good hand-building skills will also make it easier to add decoration to wheel-thrown pieces and handles for mugs and vases.
7. Join a Guild
This is a great idea for someone that wants to continue with their pottery hobby but may not have the time or space to create a studio at home.
Many communities have potters guilds or cooperatives where you can have access to studio time, kilns, and glazes.
The great thing about pottery guilds is that you also have the opportunity to meet other folks that are enjoying the same hobby that you are.
They are great resources for information that you might not get if you are holed up in your basement all the time.
This is an amazing benefit for people that have a home studio but want to connect and learn.
The great thing about using a guild or cooperative is that you can gain access to equipment that you might not have, like a kiln, for a relatively low price.
Some guilds or cooperatives require a membership fee, while others allow you to join, and pay only for the things you use.
This can make it more reasonable for your pocketbook to enjoy your pottery hobby.
8. Have Fun!
The most important thing to remember about creating pottery is that it should be fun.
There is no better way as a grown-up, to play in the dirt, than with a pottery hobby.
Of course, if you are planning to make your hobby a business, there may be some serious things to consider.
But running your pottery business shouldn’t take away from the fun of slinging mud and making beautiful pieces of art.
These have been our tips for beginners to pottery.
We might not have covered all of the handy information that you might want, but we think that these are good things to keep in mind as you are learning, and building your pottery hobby.
If we missed something, that you think is important, let us know in the comments!