Pottery Making basics for beginners

Pottery Making Basics: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Pottery making is a very old art of using clay to make wonderful objects. Over the years interest in pottery making has grown among individuals of all ages.

Pottery making is a wonderful hobby that helps will relax and a great way of meditation for many. This allows you to create unique pieces that are perfect for displaying in your home or as gifts for friends and family. Or you can even turn this hobby into a business if you have a knack for it.

In this article, the basics of pottery making have been discussed. If you read through this piece of writing, you will know everything that you need to know to start your journey.

Key Aspects of Pottery Making:

Like any hobby, improving your pottery skills requires you to start where everyone starts: at the beginning. Learning pottery making is a stepwise methodology. Following are some key considerations:

Preparing the Clay

Preparing the clay begins with the quality of clay used as well as the method to prepare the clay. Depending on the composition, there are several characteristics of clay. As a beginner, it is highly recommended that you choose polymer clay or modeling clay because these are versatile and forgiving clays that are suitable for those who have little to no experience. You can use these types to create simple pottery, jewelry, and more. During preparation, it is recommended that you use a balanced combination of water and other solutions.

Choosing the Right Tools

After deciding on and preparing your clay, you should choose the right tools that you are going to need to create your work of art. For beginners, potter’s wheels aren’t always necessary and can be omitted depending on your budget and what exactly you intend to produce. Since you are learning the basics, basic tools such as molds, rolling pins, and some kitchen utensils will get the job done for both modeling and polymer clays. Apart from these tools, you may also need a kiln depending on the type of clay you choose to work with.

Molding the Object

Molding the object into the desired shape is one of the most important steps. It is recommended that you take this phase slow and learn the art of molding clay with gentle movements of your hands. You should learn different hand movements so you can create different pottery wares.

Using the Kiln

Once you have made an object, the next step is to learn how to use the kiln. Putting the object at a suitable temperature to produce the desired solid-state of pottery is extremely important. You want to make sure that you heat the pottery object to an accurate heating point so you can solidify it properly and produce a durable, solid, and rigid product.

Glazing

The next step is all about decorating your pottery. This process is commonly known as glazing. It is recommended that you learn different kinds of sprays, paints, and decorating techniques to enhance your pottery’s overall look. Engraving and carving are also methods that are used to turn the pottery into amazing pieces of art.

Basic Supplies and Tools for Beginners:

If you are new to pottery, you will need pottery supplies and pottery tools that are considered the essentials for people just starting out in the pottery hobby. The following guide will help you understand which are the best pottery supplies and pottery tools for beginners.

Pottery Supplies

Supplies are a vital part of any pottery hobby. If you are new to pottery, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid stock of pottery supplies on hand so that you don’t find yourself needing more of certain materials while you are in the midst of a project. The most common basic pottery supplies you’ll need as a beginner include:

Clay

Naturally, clay is the most important pottery supply that you’ll need a as a beginner to the hobby–without clay, you couldn’t create a thing! There are many different types of clay out there, however, and it’s important that you understand the three primary types of clay in order to make the best choices for your needs.

The three most common types of clay are earthenware clay, stoneware clay, and porcelain clay.

  • Earthenware clay has a low firing point, but it needs to be treated with a glaze before it can be used for food storage or other food-related uses. Earthenware clay must be hand washed.
  • Stoneware clay has a medium firing point and comes in a variety of different natural colors, ranging from speckled colors to white and other shades and styles in between. Stoneware clay that is fired properly can be used in dishwashers and microwaves.
  • Porcelain clay has a very high firing point; so high, in fact, that smaller kilns designed for pottery hobbyists simply won’t get hot enough for porcelain. Porcelain is a delicate material that can have varying levels of translucency depending on the firing temperature and overall quality of the porcelain material.

Glaze

Glaze is a unique finishing coat on your clay pieces which can add texture, color as well as added durability and safety in cases where you want to eat or drink from your pottery creations. Most pottery items are treated with a glaze, though in some cases items such as flower pots are not glazed over. Glaze typically comes in ready-made powder form, which can be found at a variety of different locales.

Pottery Tools

There is a seemingly endless amount of pottery tools out there, which is why choosing the right tools for beginners can be such a daunting task. The key thing to remember when looking for pottery tools as a beginner is to file everything down to the essentials. Essential pottery tools can help you create a myriad of different pottery shapes and styles, which are perfect for beginners who want to build up their skills over time. Some of the most basic tools you’ll need include:

Potter’s wheel

Naturally, you will need a potter’s wheel if you intend to do throwing in your pottery work. Potter’s wheel come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but for a beginner, a small electric wheel may be the best option—especially if you have never used one before and want to get a feel for the method before you decide to spend a lot of cash.

Kiln:

You can make pottery even without a kiln. People have been making pottery without a kiln for ages. Depending on the type of clay you are using, you can sun dry your clay or alternatively you can use a firing pit if you need high temperature. However, if you want to take your pottery passion to the next level and do not want to go through the troubles to preparing a firing pit every time you are making something, you can buy an electric kiln. An electric kiln will make your life a lot easier and will also give you lot of control over the temperature that you want. For many beginners, buying a kiln can be a bit overwhelming at first. But it is actually fairly easy to use and depending on your budget and projects you will find a lot of options in the market, with kilns ranging from just over $300 to close to $4,000.

Potter’s needles

Potter’s needles are one of the most versatile types of pottery tools out there, which is why they are highly recommended for beginners. Potters needles are excellent for trimming along the top edges of your pottery pieces, particularly when they’re on the wheel. You can also use potter’s needles when you need to score slabs of clay or building material.

Absorbent towels and aprons

It’s no secret among pottery lovers that pottery can be messy, which is why you need to have a good quality absorbent towel and apron in order to reduce the chances that you’ll be scraping pottery clay off your favorite shirt the next day.

Towels are essential because they let you wipe down your hands while you’re working with malleable materials like clay, which require a finger touch; towels are also a must-have when you’re throwing pottery so as to avoid splotches and splatters.

Aprons are an essential tool when you want to make sure that clay and other pottery supplies don’t get on your clothes. Although you should never wear your fanciest clothes when doing pottery, no one wants to have to scrape clay off their “hobby” clothes either. An apron will help prevent issues like this.

Sponges

Sponges of all shapes and sizes are an essential part of any beginner’s pottery tool collection. One of the most common usages for use pottery sponges is to absorb water during the throwing process, as well as toss out more water as needed. Sponges can also be used to smooth out areas of the clay after the pottery piece is finished on the wheel.

Cut-off wire

If you plan to use your pottery wheel, then you’ll need cut-off wire in order to get the pot off the wheel when it’s done. These cut-off wires are typically made from metal or nylon and feature unique wooden handles on either side.

While there are other supplies that you will no doubt use as you grow more accustomed to pottery, it is the above tools that you’ll need when you are just starting out.

Pottery is a fulfilling hobby that can help you on your journey to create unique and interesting pottery-related items such as vases, cups and everything in between. If you are a beginner to pottery, make sure that you consider the above list of essential tools and supplies for beginners to help get you started.

Some Tips for Beginners.

As a beginner, the art of pottery can seem like magic to you. You may wonder how a master potter can create such masterpieces or amazing works of art, simply by molding a piece of clay. Well, you have to understand that in order to become a master, you need to practice for countless hours and learn from a good master.

Most of all, you need to have patience because without patience this craft is very hard to master and you may begin to lose motivation even before you get started. 

In order to help you get started, we have listed below some tips that you may find helpful –

1. Manage your expectations :

Pottery may be easy to get into but it is very hard to master. In fact, if you are new to this form of craft, you can expect a real learning experience. Now, if you have high expectations in your first class, you may become disappointed and that is not a good thing as it can make you demotivated.

Thus, it is important to manage your expectations in the first lesson and go in with a learning attitude.

2. Choose a good instructor:

Of course, you can learn this skill by reading books or watching videos on YouTube. However, you won’t be able to get any feedback on your performance. Feedback is incredibly important in order to understand your skill level and know your faults. Thus, it is important to join a real pottery class or find a good instructor.

A pottery instructor will guide you by the hands and give you real feedback on your performance. They will help you to understand what you did right or wrong and help you to correct any misconceptions. As a result, you will be able to improve your skills much more easily and faster.

3. Practice hard:

The only way to master this form of craft is to practice every day. Learning how to become a good potter will take some time. So, don’t be in a hurry. You will make mistakes but every mistake will become a new learning experience. The good thing about working with clay materials is that no matter how many times things go wrong; you can always fix it. So, don’t get disheartened if the shape of an object didn’t turn out what you expected it to be. Work on it again and you will get it right before you know it.

4. Enjoy the experience:

You need to love this activity if you seriously intend to master it. Otherwise, it can become a bad learning experience for you and you may give up too easily. If the thought of touching and working with a mold of clay brings a smile on your face, you are on the right track. Now all you need to do is learn and practice. Don’t get stressed if you make a mistake. Just relax and work on it again. Take the help of your instructor if you need it but don’t give up.

5. Register for pottery classes:

Pottery craft is an art that requires some special techniques. So if you are really serious about pottery, it is highly recommended that you take pottery making classes to learn the basics. There are many different types of classes organized by professional potters around the globe. However, learning the basics is the first step to mastering the art of pottery craft. Once you have learned the basics, move onto the advanced classes. The art of pottery craft can be mastered over time; however, your imagination and interest are a key shaping factor.

Also, be sure to celebrate all the tiny success you achieve. Eventually, this activity will become second nature to you and you will be able to create amazing art pieces without breaking a sweat.

Must-read Books on Pottery Making

Pottery is a very interesting art form but it also requires a very particular skill set. If you don’t learn from the best, you may not be able to become a good potter. Thus, it is wise to read some of the best books on this topic so that you can even the playing field and expand your knowledge of this subject.

Given below are 5 must-read books on pottery making –

1. The Potter’s Bible by Marylin Scott:

The Potter’s Bible by Marylin Scott contains a host of shaping, firing and decorating techniques that you can use to take your skills to the next level. This book is very useful for beginners as all the techniques are illustrated step-by-step. You will also learn about essential tools and equipment a potter needs, types of clay and pottery bodies, various forming methods, information on texture and pattern, how to paint or print and learn about glazes and post-firing techniques.

2. Mastering Hand Building by Sunshine Cobb:

In the ‘Mastering Hand Building’ by Sunshine Cobb, you will learn all the foundation skills and lessons that a potter needs to learn in order to construct both complex and simple figures from clay. This is a great book for all-ceramic artists as you will learn next-level techniques that will help you to design templates and replicate pieces.

The book also details about pinch pots and coil building, how to get started with Slabs, how to develop content, and how to decorate and finish the final product.

3. The Polymer Clay Techniques Book by Sue Heaser:

The ‘Polymer Clay Techniques Book ‘ by Sue Heaser is a very fun book to read. It details the creative possibilities that colorful polymer clay can offer you. In this book, you will learn all the basic techniques that a potter needs to master such as rolling, baking, and gluing. You will also learn marbling techniques, how to make frames, simulating textiles, creating faux stones, and building miniature pots.

4. The Complete Guide to Mid-Range Glazes by John Britt:

If you want to learn more about glazing techniques, you should read ‘The Complete Guide to Mid-Range Glazes’ by John Britt. It contains hundreds of recipes that you can use to hone up your skillset. You will learn how to mix properly, specific firing techniques, cooling cycles, and how to boost colors with intense stains, underglazes, and washes.

You will also learn about iron glazes, Shino glazes, red glazes, blue gazes, and much more.

5. Bonnie Fitzgerald’s Guide to Mosaic Techniques:

Bonnie Fitzferald’s Guide to Mosaic Techniques is a pretty unique book on this list as it details different types of mosaic techniques and also contains a host of design ideas. If you are interested in mosaic art, you should definitely read this book.

The book contains information on different types of mosaic materials, tools & workspace you may need, different mosaic techniques, and many inspirational design ideas. To help you get started, it also lists a few interesting projects that you can follow easily.

As with anything, knowledge is useless if it is not put into action. Simply reading a book or two won’t make you a master of this art form. You must also practice diligently in order to hone your skills and become a good potter.

One Response

  1. I found it interesting when you explained that a potter’s wheel won’t always be needed for certain projects. My wife wants to get a unique gift for her mother’s birthday next month, and she was thinking it would be a good idea to make a set of bowls out of clay. My wife doesn’t have much experience with pottery, so I think she would benefit from taking a class before starting this project.

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