10 Beginner Pottery Mistakes – Don’t be a Pottery Noob

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Pottery is an art that revolves around creativity. Though potters strive to put their best foot forward while working on their pottery pieces, they are not above making mistakes. As a result, they may make mistakes. By this logic, regardless of whether you are experienced or a newbie, you are also prone to making mistakes if you are into pottery.

However, there are ways by which you can prevent yourself from making mistakes as a beginner. Read on to learn about some common pottery mistakes and the ways in which you can avoid those mistakes.

10 Common Pottery Mistakes That Beginners Make

1. Not using the right clay while making a piece

When working on a piece of pottery, choosing the wrong clay is one of the most typical mistakes you can make. Though it may not sound like a big deal on the surface, it can influence the outcome of your pottery effort in many ways. From the manner in which you use the glaze to firing temperature with it, there are many ways in which the selection of inappropriate clay can impact the outcome of how you work on a pottery piece.

If you wish to use the right clay, you can explore a wide range of options. With some research, you can find them at ease on the Internet. For example, most people prefer to use products such as Craftsmart Natural Air-Dry Clay. It is a versatile product that can come in handy in many situations. Both beginners and professionals can use it for a wide range of purposes.

Apart from using the clay mentioned above, here we list down a few clay types and their properties that you can consider using for your pottery creations:

Clay Qualities
PorcelainThis type of clay has a buttery and smooth finish and can absorb water in a quick time
EarthenwareThis clay is one of the best types of clay that you can use for throwing on the wheels and requires low fire for sculpting different pottery items. It can be used for designing almost everything that you can think of out of clay.
StonewareThis type of clay is known for its longevity, chip resistance ability, and durability aspects in comparison to other types of clay. Stoneware also finds significant usage and can be used for various pottery creations.

2. Wrong arm placement and body posture

You might be in possession of the best quality clay, and you may have all the dexterity of wedging the same with finesse, but if you still struggle while shaping your creations, then it might be the fault of your body posture. Placing your body in the right pose with your arms positioned right is mandatory to excel in throwing the clay balls over the wheels. A wrong posture can spoil the broth as, unknowingly, you tend to exert more pressure on the clay while casting the pottery items. Excess pressure can cause hindrances in the shaping process, and thus beginners should first learn the skills of placing their arms and body in the correct position to cut down on the struggles of refining their pottery items.

3. Not firing at high temperatures

You may feel that you have fired your clay at an adequate temperature that is hot enough for the completion of the process, but you may be surprised to find it wet when you pull out your creations. The major reason behind such a fault is the failure to fire the pottery items at the right temperature. Here is what you need to consider while firing pottery items:

  • Fire the pottery items in a kiln that allows temperature adjustment
  • Crank the pottery piece if you happen to find that the pottery item is wet and needs a higher temperature.
  • Ensure that you perform the firing process at a spacious place to prevent any sort of accidents.

These are a few basic things that you can do to ensure that your creations are fired at proper temperatures and do not come out wet after the process completion. Also, you need to know that the firing process is conducted at high temperatures, which may sound scary for beginners, and thus you should get acquainted with the firing process to get perfectly fired pottery pieces.

4. Using hard clay

Pottery needs soft clay to be cast on the wheel as hard clay can become a nightmare while you try to sculpt it on the wheel. The hardness of the clay may result due to a plethora of reasons such as letting them sit outside for a prolonged period, failure to cover them with a moist towel, inaccurate wedging, improper storage, and a lot more other factors. Hard clay can give you a tough time while stepping ahead with the centering process and may also hinder the creation of large walls while designing your pottery items. Thus it is imperative to get soft clay for kick-starting your clayey adventures.

5. Subsiding of the cylinder while pulling the walls

The formation of cylinders requires a lot of patience and expertise. But while pulling up the walls, if the cylinder tends to collapse, you may end up ruining your creations. The cylinder tends to collapse due to multiple reasons such as the application of uneven pressure, excess water usage during the softening of clay, uneven walls, etc. Thus proper care should be taken in order to avoid such mistakes to prevent the cylinders from falling off.

6. Opening the clay at an early stage

Rushing with any of the steps will not help you in pottery anyway, as patience is the primary factor in mastering the art of pottery. Hence, when you open the clay, you have to take all the precautions to open it at a slow pace. Usually, potters tend to merely rush with this process and end up pushing their fingers inside too early, giving birth to deep holes in their creations. This is one of the biggest mistakes that you can commit as a potter and can result in a flimsy bottom forcing you to start with the process all over again.

Hence, always be slow while opening the clay and wait for the wheel rotation to get your work done. ‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ and thus, opening the clay slowly can aid in balanced clay distribution and create a perfect size. Also, a few precautions, such as dipping your fingers in water before inserting it inside the clay, positioning the thumb towards the center, etc., can help in coming out victorious while opening the clay.

7. Failure to maintain the right wheel speed

The wheel speed cannot be taken as constant for every pottery model you fabricate on the wheels. You may be required to change the wheel speed as per the hour’s requirement and the pottery item that you are modeling. Usually, beginners either tend to take off at full jet speed with their wheels or go very slow, equivalent to a tortoise pace with the wheels. But in both cases, you may have a tough time designing your articles. Hence it is mandatory to maintain an apt speed of the wheel while you throw your creations over the wheel.

Here is what you can discover when you operate your wheels at a very high or slow speed:

Speed of wheel What actually happens How to fix it
Wheel too slowWhen the speed of the wheel is very slow, the clay tends to move instead of you gaining control over clay during the centering processOne can consider increasing the speed of the wheel top to medium or high speed to gain control over the clay for a quick and speedy centering process.
Wheel too fastWhen the wheel moves at a fast pace, then there are chances that you may end up carving a bowl in place of pulling out a cylinder. In such a case, the centrifugal force is so high that it might flair out at an early phase.One can consider slowing down the wheel to medium or slow and carve the cylinder using both hands

So now, since you know what can happen if the wheel speed is too fast or too slow, it is always better to set the speed at the right setting to get your pottery items appropriately crafted.

8. Water issues

Adding water in the right quantity is the essence of making perfect pottery articles. And, even the most seasoned potters tend to make a mistake in adding the right amount of water. Using dry clay can make you struggle while you throw it on the wheel, and even if you manage to center it, you may face difficulty in the formation of the article. On the contrary, if the clay is oozing out water and is too wet, then there are chances that the clay might collapse while you pull the wall. In both cases, failure to add the right amount of water can cause issues in fixing the clay and molding it. Further, you may also not be able to get the creations designed in the exact shape you might desire. Hence it is necessary to deal with the water issues and get the correct quantity of water mixed in clay to see your clay art transform into pottery pieces.

9. Not wedging accurately

Though not an exciting step, the wedging process stands to have high-level importance in making pottery items. Usually, beginners who are not well aware of this process take out a considerable portion of the clay, transform it into a ball and hurl it on the wheel. Whereas a few others tend to skip the wedging process considering it to be a time savior, which is not recommendable at all and proves to be an illogical approach. You need to note that if the wedging process is not carried out the right way, then you may face difficulty while working with clay in the further steps. Improper wedging may cause air pockets to develop in the clay and make it tough to get the clay centered. Air being light-weighted than clay can cause your clayey items to be thrown off-center. Further, improper wedging can give birth to more air pockets, and the only source of rescue is to take the clay ball out of the wheel and wedge a new one in the wheel in the correct format. Also, ensure that the clay has enough moisture before wedging to make the throwing part easier.

10. Failure to follow instructions

You might feel as if you know every bit of pottery and may proceed ahead with your pottery goals. But remember following the instructions stands of paramount importance and can prevent disasters and stress. Failure to comply with the same can make you struggle while you are in the middle of carving your pottery items. On the contrary, if you tend to follow instructions, then there are high chances that your creations will be better and lessen the risk of accruing any sort of damage. Adhering to the instructions also lets you master the art of pottery, further enabling you to grow better at your skills with each passing day.


Pottery is an art that has been trending for years now and is not going to die a natural death anytime soon. Thus, if you wish to kick start your pottery adventures, you need to take note that you cannot become a maestro overnight and require you to have a lot of patience. During your journey, you may also get to encounter failures owing to the mistakes you make while sculpting your art, but again the golden rule is to remember that ‘patience and perseverance can take you a long way.’ Since you know a few mistakes that beginners usually tend to commit, make sure that you avoid making such mistakes to be a better potter and build some incredible pottery items.

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