10 Questions to Ask before you Start your Next Pottery Project

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When you’re going to make new pottery, sometimes stopping and thinking about the impact of your project will make a difference in the way that it will transpire. Here, we’ll discuss a few questions that you should ask before you start the next pottery endeavor, and why they matter.

Knowing the 10 questions to ask before you start your next pottery project will save you time, and potentially money too since you’re not wasting money on buying stuff that you don’t need. However, these questions will also dive into the whys and wherefores of pottery too, and why they matter.


Are you going for Function or Decoration?



That’s because it can determine the following:

Function or decoration is probably the first question you need to ask yourself.

  • How many times you fire your pottery
  • Any glazes that you might need
  • How you’re going to paint a design on this
  • Whether you’re going to use it, or let it sit somewhere

There are plenty of people who will go into pottery thinking that they will just make a piece of pottery, but then after they do it, they realize they can’t really use it.

This means in essence, you kind of wasted your time instead of making something that is useful, and impactful.

So, before you begin, you should sit down and ask yourself this, and also think about the following:

  • Can I picture myself using this
  • Is it better to just leave it somewhere for decoration
  • Do I have animals or children that will knock this over

This is a very important step, and you should always make sure you focus on this before you begin


Are the Rims and Edges Sharp?



So let’s say you’ve created some great functional ware, but you’re not sure if you can use this due to the edges. You need to next ask yourself when lightly touching this if the edges or rims are sharp.

Why is this? Well, sharp rims do the following:

  • Can potentially cut or knick your mouth or lips
  • Aren’t as nice to use as functional ware
  • They often are awkward to drink out of
  • They aren’t that comfortable to hold onto, and you run the risk of breaking this

For example, do you like cups that are straight up, or have sharp handles? No, you don’t, and the people using this won’t like it either. So yes, you should always make sure that every part that comes into contact with skin is smooth.

This includes handles, not just the rims or edges. Always look at the piece, and if anything, check and think about whether or not you’re really going to use this, or if it will be just too uncomfortable for you to use.


Am I going to Fire it in a Kiln, or Bake it in the Oven?

Ahh yes, firing or baking. This is a question that typically, you will ask yourself if you’re a newer potter that doesn’t know whether they want to go out to the studio to fire, or just use oven-baked clay.

Well, here are some factors to consider when you’re firing it in a kiln:

  • You need a kiln, so if you don’t have one, it’s going to be pricey
  • If you have a studio nearby, just know it costs money to drive and use
  • You can reach higher temperatures with this, allowing for more variety
  • You can use more clays with this
  • You can also glaze these, making them functional ware
  • You also will need to know basic kiln use minimally, ideally an idea of how to use the kiln at a more professional level

This is something that you should definitely consider if you’re going to be using the pottery. If the purpose of it is functional, then you’re going to need a kiln.

Now, for oven-baked pottery, you should consider the following:

  • It takes much less time to fire this
  • It is great for beginners
  • The clay typically isn’t as strong as the kiln-safe clay
  • You will want to follow the instructions more
  • You won’t be able to fire a bisque with this
  • It’s used solely for decorative ware, not necessarily functional ware
  • It is a good place to start, and typically oven-baked clay is much cheaper

So, if your goal is to learn how to get better at functional pottery, you better either have a kiln at home or have a kiln at a studio that you can work with. If your goal is to learn and create very basic pottery, then you should consider the oven-baked route for your next project.

Again though, this is clearly up to you.


Can My Kiln Handle the Clay and Glazes Temperatures?

This is another big one because while having a kiln versus an oven is important, you need to find out if it can handle the temperatures of the clay and glazes.

Typically, you have to consider the following when it comes to temperatures of clays:

  • Earthenware is the lowest to fire, at around 1500 degrees max
  • Stoneware is the next lowest, but even then it can get to around 2200 degrees
  • The hottest to fire is porcelain, and that gets to around 3500 degrees in some cases

Now obviously, this is pretty darn hot, and usually, you’re not dealing with the high-temperature porcelain unless you’re in a professional studio, so your biggest concern is really just how powerful your kiln is.

For example, if you have one of those dental kilns that they use to make crowns and such, which is probably on the lower end of the price scale, you’re only going to be able to fire the porcelain at a lower range, but it handles stoneware and earthenware just fine.

If you have a kiln that’s made to fire porcelain, you can typically fire it to much hotter temperatures, but again, this starts to add up and can cost a couple of grand if you’re not careful.

Now, another big thing is how many times you’ll fire based on the glazes. Some parts you’ll wanna consider are the following:

  • If you fire a bisque, you’ll need to fire twice
  • The average firing is around 10-12 hours
  • You will want the kiln supervised at all times
  • You should fire to the glaze temperature per the instructions on this

So yes, temperature plays a major part in this, and you need to as a potter, ensure that you are able to hit these higher ranges.


Is the curvature of the vessel I’m making good for drinking from, or is it too straight up?

This is another big part, whether or not your vessel will have a curvature to the sides, or if it will go straight up.

This isn’t just the rims, but it affects the following on your pottery:

  • The base
  • The sides of this

It can affect how the piece feels in your hands. Some of us are cool with glasses that feel a bit different in our hands, especially if they are still functional.

But, if you’re someone who likes to have a more rounded curvature to your pottery, you might want to look at how to adjust the curvature to this.

So how do you fix a pottery piece that’s got too straight of sides and base? Well, you can try the following:

  • Put it back on the wheel, turn it on, and just very gently move your fingers against it
  • You can take your fingers, lightly wet them, and move against the edges
  • You can slowly start to shave off the sides of this with a tool, or with your fingers
  • If you do choose to use this, always make sure that you do this before the pottery is leather hard

With all of these different ways to fix this, you can always take the time to fix these up, so that they can look better and are easier on the hands. If you’re designing functional ware, this is something you should commonly watch out for, because if it is too rough on the hands, you won’t want to use this.


Handbuild or Pottery Wheel?



There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these, and here, we’ll dive into why each of them matter, and why you should always focus on this with your next pottery project. This is another very important question, whether you want to build this by hand, or with a pottery wheel.

When it comes to building with your hands, you can make the following with them:

  • Slab pottery, including jars and containers
  • Coil pottery often used to create various jars and vessels
  • Pinch pottery, often used for bowls

With hand building pottery, there are some serious benefits and drawback to them, and below, you’ll find out each:

  • Handbuilding pottery is a bit cheaper
  • Handbuilding pottery requires less skill
  • Handbuilding pottery often is more limited in what you can do with it
  • It’s designed for more decorative ware, but it can be used for functional
  • You won’t get perfect symmetry with handbuilt pottery, so remember that

On the flip side, you’ve got pottery wheels. These are great because you can make so many different things with them, including the following:

  • Pots
  • Cups
  • Bowls
  • Vessels

Whatever you do with it, usually they tend to have a more rounded look to them. There are benefits and drawbacks to this though as well, and they include the following:

  • You need a wheel, which can get expensive if you choose to go electric
  • If you get a wheel that operates by pressing your foot, this gets tiring after a while
  • however, you can get more symmetry out of this, and if you’re trying to perfect your pottery, this is the perfect way to do it
  • It also allows for more perfection for rounded vessels, especially when compared to the other options

While both of these are great, you need to ask yourself which one do you see yourself using more and more often than not. From there, you can choose for yourself the better option that best fits your pottery needs, so that you can have a better pottery experience.


Do I want to make my own Clay and Glazes, or Should I buy my Own?

This is another question that’s more suited for those that are looking to make their own pottery, but it’s important to discuss if you’re creating pottery projects. Clays and glazes can be bought, or they can be made from a recipe.

You can use a wide variety of materials in order to create different types of clays, mostly different minerals and such. But, you have to be exact, which is a consideration a lot of people have, and why they shy away from making their own.

But if you are adventurous, I suggest trying this.

The benefits of buying your own include the following:

  • It’s obviously all right there
  • It’s measured out, so there isn’t room for error
  • It can be bought in bulk, so you have it for a lot of future projects
  • It’s good if you’re just wanting to jump right into a project, and you don’t care about making your own.

With your own, you can find a wide variety of recipes online, or on our site to help you make this. There are also some benefits to making them, and they are as follows:

  • Can potentially be cheaper if you make a bulk amount of clay
  • Allows for you to adjust the recipe as needed
  • You can create different clays that are different from others
  • Allows for some uniqueness and variety to them
  • Isn’t too hard once you get the hang of it

However, buying can initially be a lot more expensive, since usually all of the ingredients are sole in bulk, and you do have to spend time mixing this. There also isn’t a ton of room for error.

Regardless though, both ways are valid options when choosing to create clay that you can use in order to have a fun pottery experience.


How Big do I want My handles?

This is more on the functional side of pottery, but the handles that you have do matter for a variety of reasons. Handles allow for you to drink from the vessel, and if it does involve hot media in it, you’ll want something with handles.

The problem is if you have too big of handles, you’re going to have the following problems:

  • It’ll feel bulky
  • It’ll feel awkward
  • It typically won’t be as comfy to use

So you can’t have too big of handles. But, let’s take the flip side as well. If your handles are too small, this also poses a problem for potters.

The problem with too small of handles include the following:

  • They are more liable to break off since they are weaker
  • They again aren’t comfortable in the hands
  • There is more of a risk of dropping this

So you need to get this just right. Personally, I like to put my hand very gently against the edge of the handle. If it feels comfy to hold, without putting pressure on it, you’re good.

If you notice that there isn’t a lot to it, or if it’s too bulky and awkward, then you should definitely go back and try again.

Also, do check to make sure that if you are slipping the handles onto the top, that they are rightfully secured because an improper slip causes them to fall off.


Do I Need to Open My Kiln Quicker?

Sometimes, some pottery can be taken out faster than others, but it’s a good rule of thumb to let this slowly cool down.

However, there are different levels to this, and some potters may not even know that. But, you should never open it too fast, and that’s because of the following:

  • It can crack under the pressure
  • It might end up crazing
  • It might explode and shatter in the most extreme of circumstances

If you do need to open your kiln quicker, for time constraints or whatever, always make sure that you gently open this, and never do it when it’s hot.

Sometimes, people might take it out for different reasons, and that is the following:

  • You purposefully want the cracks
  • You want to expose it to room temperature a little faster
  • You want to paint it

This is usually not ideal, and I do suggest waiting for it to slowly go down, but as of note, it may take forever to, because the kilns are programmed to take a bit longer. So learn to be patient when you’re letting your pottery cool because it will prevent any cracks that you don’t want in your poetry from forming.


Can I Fix My Mistakes?

Finally, if you’re about to start a project, you need to know if you can fix your mistakes. If you’re working with a bisque, you’ll be able to.

If you notice that a mistake is there on the bisque, you can do the following:

  • Wipe it down with a damp sponge or a cotton swab
  • If it hasn’t been fully dried yet, get it back on the wheel or work on this once again

Again though, this is for the bisque. If you notice that your pottery is dray, you only have a few options to get rid of mistakes, and they are the following:

  • Gently scratch it with a skewer, tapered end of a brush, or a clay tool
  • Try to wipe it away with a damp sponge

Running this under water actually won’t do anything, and it will end up making the mistake even more apparent

However, when you have fired pottery, you’re going to have to do a few more techniques:

  • Lightly try to sand the area
  • Glaze and refire
  • Try to spraypaint
  • Look at the glaze that you have

But again, this is definitely something you shouldn’t have to worry about as much. If you’re prone to making mistakes at the level you’re at, I suggest doing the following instead:

  • Only work on projects that are at your skill level
  • If you need to master a technique, work on doing that before you begin
  • Always try to fix mistakes before you fire
  • If there was a mistake with the firing, do make sure that you learn from this before you try again
  • If there are any marks or whatever, try to very carefully rub them off
  • Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew with this

While I do understand challenging yourself is super important, you also need to make sure that there is room to make mistakes. Almost all pottery has a little bit of leeway, especially during the initial forming process.

But, if it’s a very advanced technique that doesn’t have a lot of giving for those types of mistakes, I would suggest waiting until you get better, and work your way up.

Pottery is a ton of fun, and there is a lot that you can do. Pottery projects are a great way to keep you busy if that’s what you’re going for.

But, before you begin, here are a few things that you should think about, especially since they do involve the quality of the projects. Remember that you are always learning, so it’s okay to ask yourself various questions before you start.

Asking yourself this can ultimately save you a lot of money and time in the future, and if you’re worried about anything on this list, do make sure you have an answer before you begin.



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