Pottery: where to start

WANT TO TRY POTTERY BUT DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO A STUDIO?

here's my guide for creating beautiful pottery at your kitchen table...

Maker's hands with pottery tools

Up and down the country pottery classes are selling out, studios have waiting lists, local schools and colleges are firing up their kilns once again ; it's safe to say pottery is  back on the cool list!  (it's still cool to say 'cool', right?) So many of you are starting out on your pottery journey, which in my book is simply wonderful. Pottery is one of the most relaxing, mindful activities we can all do, so the more clay we can get into the hands of people the better. 

People often think that pottery is an expensive hobby, well, it doesn't have to be. For those of you who aren't fortunate to get onto your local class, don't have access to a class, can't commit the money or the time or perhaps your physical or mental health means you'd struggle to be in a class scenario or even folks who are already enrolled on a course but just cant wait a whole week to play with clay, you can all learn and improve your skills at home with a few simple tools.

You garner so much just from handling the ceramic material, interacting with it, seeking out it's foibles, getting used to the forces you need to apply, the marks you can make and the different phases of clay drying. Just spending time handling clay is so valuable.  You don't need a wheel for that. Lots of wonderful potters make beautiful pots, sans wheel or any kind of fancy equipment. There literally isn't anything you can't make by handbuilding.  Some of my  favourite potters hand build. Here are just a few people I follow on instagram, their work is incredibly beautiful, I urge you to go and have a look for some inspiration. 

Lu Kee Su Ceramics, Instagram: @lukeesuceramicsSuky Rai makes organic contemporary shapes with fantastic textures in rustic yet delicate colours. Suky is also a ray of sunshine on my instagram feed.

Pip Wilcox, Instagram: @pipwilcoxceramics Pip makes beautiful pots in all forms, with fluid carving and simple elegant white and blue glazing. She's also a wonderful human. 

Start your own pottery kit for under £12...

To be able to create everything from mugs, plates to planters I have a few tool recommendations which would make it super easy and fun... 

  • A wooden rolling pin £2.50 - for rolling out the clay
  • A needle tool £1.60 - use this to cut shapes and for scoring edges
  • Jute or Canvas  99p-  so your clay doesn't stick to your table 
  • A sponge 65p - for smoothing and shaping
  • A wire cutter £1.50 - for cutting chunks of clay.
  • A pair of bamboo chopsticks £1.50 - I use these as a thickness guides. Also the round ends can be used for sculpting, shaping, smoothing
  • A paint brush £1 - for adding slip to joins and smoothing off detail around handles etc...
  • 1 kilo of clay £2 - well, you know...

All of this list can be found at any good pottery supplier, here are a few great Pottery Suppliers in the UK: 

Bath Potters, Bath, Somerset : http://www.bathpotters.co.uk/

Scarva, County Down, Northern Ireland: https://www.scarva.com/

Pot Clays, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire: https://potclays.co.uk/

 They all post throughout the UK and some internationally. You can also find many things on Amazon, Ebay or in your local craft shop on the high street. Then all you need to do it take your makes to your local college, a friendly potter or pottery supplier and pay a small fee for them to fire your work for you. Most pottery suppliers offer a firing service. You can also use objects you already have in your house as moulds; bowls, cups, plant pots, spoons. Just use newspaper as a layer in between your mould and the clay so it doesn't stick. If you find you enjoy the making stage of pottery and you have a successful bisque firing then it might be time to invest in some glaze.

With this kit and a few basic YouTube tutorials there will be no stopping you!

Ceramic Handmade Spoons.jpg

Handbuilt Spoons

Made with the basic kit listed above...(with the addition of glazes of course.)

I absolutely love sharing my knowledge and it's so lovely and flattering when I get lots of folks asking to come and learn pottery with me. Having students is basically an excuse to chat pottery for a few hours which in itself is a delight.  You may or may not already know my studio is 6ft x 12ft and has to accommodate my new 95 litre kiln, my wheel, glazes, shelves, clay etc, etc so there really is only really room for one person at the moment (me). The dream is to be able to one day have a beautiful big light open studio space to be able to hold classes and teach groups.

I'm not sure when that will happen -  it's something I am working towards  - I need to sell a few more pots first ;-) - watch this space!