Pottery Tips for Beginners

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Your complete guide for Beginners looking to get into Pottery or Better at Pottery. 

Pottery Tips for Beginners

Pottery is famous all over the world since ancient times. Pottery work is nothing but the most beautiful projection of artwork, where just a lump of clay becomes a unique and aesthetically pleasing piece. Not only for professional purposes, but people also choose it as a hobby to spend their leisure time while doing something creative and productive.

If you have ever wanted to get into pottery or you’re struggling to get the most out of it, then you’re at the right place. Well, here we will present some important tips and tricks that you should always keep in mind when you begin pottery to make your pottery even better than before. But before proceeding onto the pottery tips, first, let’s know why one should choose to work with ceramics.

Benefits of choosing to work with pottery

Crafting beautiful pottery works from a lump of clay is not only a fun way of passing the time, but it also has got some health benefits. Let’s have a look.

Activities How does it help?
Creating something new It helps you to imagine more and finally aids you to give your imagination shape.
Focusing on something Pottery is a task that is quite impossible to accomplish if you don’t concentrate on it adequately. So, in this way, it improves your concentration.
Experimenting and exploring The more you work with it, the more it helps you in experimenting and exploring something new and unique.
Kneading, twisting, and shaping The more you knead and twist the clay lump with your hand, it works as an exercise for your hands, wrists, and fingers. Also, it works magically in reducing stress.

Pottery Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Despite the art of pottery having the afore-said benefits, some people refrain from opting for this art, thinking that it’s a tough job. However, you must keep the fact in mind that once you become used to, the tricks and techniques, there is no way of looking back. So, now we will provide a few pottery tips that can be useful for those who are willing to try their hands on this artwork for the first time.

Be comfy

One thing that you need to take care of when you go to your first pottery class or session is, to wear comfortable clothes, not stylish ones as you’re going to deal with clay and create pottery. And if you wear stylish clothes, they can get stains, and you may end up ruining them. Hence, always take care of your comfort, not your style.

Here are a couple of tips regarding clothes that you can use during your pottery class.


Don’t expect to be amazing right away

Well, creating pottery pieces is not an easy task. It is an art that requires regular hard work and patience. You’re not going to create amazing things right away; it will take time. The motions are often hard to duplicate most when it comes to pottery. If you indulge in a pottery class, you will probably see your instructor throw the pottery like it’s nothing.

However, it is not easy. The actual reason behind it is that they’re doing it for so many years & they’re used to doing it. So, never get frustrated and lose hope; keep trying and have some patience. Here are the key points that you should follow if you want to master pottery:

  • Keep your expectations low, especially in the beginning.
  • The determination to learn one new thing each session
  • Try to keep the frustrations at bay

If you go in with your expectations super high, such as you think you’re going to end up throwing beautiful pieces right away, or you’re going to be the next master of pottery, you’re going to end up hating this beautiful art. You should go in with the idea that you want to do a little better than the last time, and even if it’s just learning to move your hands a little bit in each direction in a different way, you will definitely progress. However, it will take time, and if you keep doing hard work, you will definitely be going to achieve your goals.

Learn Clay Throwing Techniques

If you’re really having trouble with pottery in the beginning, you should join a wheel-thrown pottery class. Find the pottery classes near you and choose the best one. While you can explore the internet and learn the techniques by reading articles or watching videos if you join a class, you will be able to meet experts who can help you with their experience & your instructor will tell you about your mistakes and help you to get better at pottery.

You can find ceramics art classes at different places, including:

  • Community colleges
  • Art studios
  • At ceramic businesses
  • At pottery businesses
  • In general art places
  • At the community center in some cases

You should look into this, and see which ones work for you. Apart from this, you should also keep your budget in mind. Some pottery classes require you to buy everything that you need for it, but if you’re going to a studio, it might be an inexpensive option they might have all the materials in advance.

Typically, with a class that you’re going to want, you will probably want to meet up for a couple of hours each week, and hopefully, you can get one that gives you the basic materials that you need, and from there, you will be able to learn pottery.

Do some research, and if you feel like you need to better hone this skill, it’s certainly worth checking out these pottery classes, since they can help you to become a master in pottery.

Clay can Be Reworked

Now, let’s say that you make a beautiful thing, but something seems off about it, or maybe, you’re trying out something that you wanted to see if it would work, but it turns out to be a disaster. At this point, many potters get dismayed and start hating the pottery.

However, you should not do this because it happens to everyone, even professionals. Moreover, as already discussed, pottery takes time to learn. It isn’t something you get right on your first try. Moreover, clay is a very forgiving medium. Unlike other forms of sculpting, you can get away with reworking clay.

If you mess up working with clay, there are a lot of things that you can do, including:

  • Knead the parts that you want to fix
  • Re-form it
  • Create a new shape
  • Wad it up
  • Rework it again

Let’s say that you work with a piece of clay on the wheel for the first time, and you mess up. Is it time to just completely give this up? Not at all. You can wad and rework this if you feel like you need to do so. It is The best part that any professional potter likes the clay so much. Even if you do manage to screw up, you can always fix it before firing so that if it does need some kinks to be taken out, you most certainly can do that.

Besides messing up by forming a wrong texture or incorrect structure of your clay piece, another problem that you may face regarding clay is rock hardening it. Being a newbie potter, you might get perplexed if you find your clay has turned rock-hard. Do not worry! Soften it before working with it.

Here are some methods that can enliven your clay again.

Methods Process
Kneading and moistening If your clay is partially hard, knead it again and again for some time, and put it into a sealed air-tight plastic bag by spraying some water inside it. Wait for some time, take it out, and knead the clay again.
Soaking into water Put the rock-hard clay into a container and add some water to soak it until it becomes workable again.
Adding clay softener There are some clay softeners available in the market that you can use to apply on your clay and knead it until it becomes soft.

Set Aside Cleanup Time

When you work with clay, along with water, it creates an actually messy texture. It is vital to clean up your workplace once you are done with your pottery work. There are a few things that you should keep in mind when you’re cleaning up pottery, and this is what you should follow:

  • Use a sponge to wipe down surfaces and trap any clay pieces
  • Put any excess clay back in the storage area
  • Make sure all pottery tools are washed and dried before you finish
  • Make sure that you sweep up the appropriate areas before you leave your studio or the class for the day

It’s super important to make sure that you do this. You want to make sure that you have everything put away, because not only does it make less of a mess for you next time, you can end up damaging the lungs. The reason behind it is that the clay contains silicate, and when it becomes dust, and you breathe, you inhale it, which will affect your lungs and respiratory system. Do make sure that you put some time aside to make sure that you have your audio cleaned. It’s imperative, and it will help with your future clay-making endeavors.

Practice at home

One thing that you will also want to consider when you’re making pottery is the action of doing this at home. While classes are good, if you’re only working with classes, you want to make sure that you’re not focusing on this only. When it comes to practicing at home, there are a few ways that you can. They are as follows:

  • Set aside a room for a small clay-making place, and a small kiln. It doesn’t have to be anything huge
  • Put together a huge location that works for you, maybe even dedicating the garage or something like an empty room.

The latter is for if you’re serious about doing this, and you want the space. But, if you have a piece that maybe you want to work on at home, you can wrap it, bring it home, and from there, you’ll be able to work on this. It’s actually a great way to get better with clay if you feel like you need the help.

Take your time and actually learn how to do this. Clay making and pottery, both are very in-depth processes that might be easy to start with, but not when you’re trying to master, so make sure that you take the time that’s needed in order to better yourself, and to make sure that you get the most out of this as well.

Enjoy your experience

You should also go in trying to enjoy the experience. You shouldn’t go in here with the feeling that you have to get it right the first time.

That’s a common mistake a lot of people tend to make. It’s due to the fact that all our life, we’re trying to make sure that we do it right. We sometimes struggle with the element of just making mistakes. But, if you do go in with a mindset like that, you’re only going to hurt yourself. Take some time and try to make sure that you do put the right mindset forward.

Here are a couple of tips to help you with this.

  • Don’t get stressed
  • If you make a mistake, see it as a mistake, and don’t worry about it
  • Keep moving along, and encourage the movement of the clay, but don’t get hung up on mistakes
  • Breathe deeply every time you get stressed or anxious about the experience
  • Remember why you’re here

Keeping all of this in mind whenever you’re working in the studio can make a world of difference and help you with mastering your pottery as well. Do come into it with a healthy mindset for your own personal success, and the success of you mastering the skill.

Get your own supplies

You should also consider getting your own supplies as well. If you get your own supplies, you can do your own stuff at home.

Some pottery classes give you the chance to take home the supplies, but not every single place does that. Plus, once you’re done, you might have to give it back, but if you’re serious about getting into pottery, you should start to put the effort forward, and start to get the materials that you need for this.

The best thing to do is to make sure that you’re getting what you need for this. Get the items that you feel are the best fit for you and your skill level. Minimally, you should have this:

  • Pottery space
  • Clay
  • Wheel
  • Kiln

We’ll go into more of the pottery tools that you need later, but this is good beginners step, and honestly, you don’t need a whole lot to begin working with pottery, and if you’re worried about completely messing it all up, take the time to learn what materials you’re working with, and from there, work to master your pottery and the craft itself.

Get proper knowledge of your equipment/ingredients:

Pottery work is nothing but all about following the correct tricks and techniques. While working with the supplies, you must become pretty familiar with the components. Without knowing the nature of the equipment with which you’re going to work, you will never be able to get control over them properly. So, it’s essential to know the traits of the ingredients or tools that you will be using.

  • Clay: The sole material for crafting a pottery work is clay. So, you should know the nature of your clay first. There are different types of clays available in the market. So, it’s quite tricky to choose the right one, especially if you’re a beginner. For that, you need to become a good observer. Try to notice how much time your clay takes to get hardened, how much moisture is there in it, and how much moisture it absorbs to become workable enough. Here are some of the fundamental traits that you should look for in a good clay:
  • Flexibility: The clay should be pliable enough so that it becomes easy to work with. The fine flexible texture allows you to knead, twist shape, and blend the clay the way you want.
  • Less sticky: Your clay shouldn’t become much sticky when you’re adding some water to it. If it sticks too much to your hands, you’re going to create nothing but a total mess, which is quite frustrating enough. So, it is crucial to choose clay that is not so sticky.
  • Softness: Opt for a lump of clay that is quite soft, and gets your job done comfortably. While kneading and twisting, it doesn’t become frustrating so you can shape the clay with ease.
  • Color of the clay: There are natural colors in clays that come from the essential minerals present in them. Such natural shades give your clay project a pleasant and beautiful color. While choosing the clay color, try to select the one that is compatible with your project and doesn’t create any problems when you try to glaze it or paint it.
  • Non-Toxic and Safe: As clays are natural properties of the Earth, it is non-toxic and environment-friendly. So, whether you’re using it to make pots for your daily usage or any other purpose, make sure to opt for the clays that you’re not allergic to or doesn’t contain any harsh chemical. Choose the one that is safe to work with.
  • Wheel: The wheel plays a vital role in shaping your clay. So make sure you have chosen the right pottery wheel for your work. What to look for in a potter’s wheel? Here you go:
  • Longevity: Before investing in your first pottery wheel, make sure it is durable enough that you need not compromise your pottery work at any cost.
  • Configuration of the wheel head: Choose the dimension of your wheel head based on the size of the pottery you’re going to make.
  • Portability: Opt for a portable wheel, so that you can carry it to your suitable place easily.

To buy your first set of pottery wheels, you can opt for SKYTOU Pottery Wheel Pottery Forming Machine and enjoy sculpting as much as you want.

  • Glaze: Glazing is an integral part of pottery. Though as a beginner, you need to become adept at shaping and sculpting more, there are no limitations if you want to start your glazing work at the beginning itself. For glazing, you need to keep the following things in your mind.
  • Ingredients of glazing: You should know about the type of glazing you’re going to apply to your pottery piece. Whether you want to give it a glossy or shiny effect or a matte texture, you need to take the ingredients accordingly.
  • Consistency of the mixture: The glazing mixture you’re going to apply to the surface of your pot should have a perfect consistency so that it is neither too thick nor so thin. It should have a creamy and milky type of texture.
  • Glazing temperature: You need to be well acquainted with the temperature suitable for glazing. Too high or too low a temperature is going to ruin your job.
  • Kiln: Being a beginner, you must know about the nature of the furnace. The temperature of your oven is crucial for your pottery work. Before beginning the firing process, you need to decide how much temperature you will set for your kiln. Also, be careful enough about the furnace, as you’re going to get exposed in front to heat and fire, which is quite risky. Take the necessary safety measures before working with a kiln.

Celebrate your successes

When it comes to pottery, you want to celebrate your accomplishments. Did you manage to finally make the piece that has been giving you the worst experience ever? If that’s the case, then take the time to celebrate it.

You definitely want to learn, but if you only focus on the faults, you’ll definitely never get better. You also need to focus on the successes that you can get from this, and the different benefits that you can achieve from this.

Some things that you can do to celebrate your success are the following:

  • Give yourself a pat on the back or reward
  • Display the work somewhere and tell others about it
  • Consider selling it if you feel the pottery piece is extra-ordinary
  • Record the amazing feat that you did in a journal so that you know exactly what you did

Whatever the reason for your success might be, you should take the time to acknowledge something such as this. Pottery isn’t something that you get right the first time, and if you’re mastering a technique, it could take a little bit more time. But, if you work on this, better your skills, and take the time to work on the good things and master them, you’ll be happy with your success.

Experiment with bodies when you’re throwing

Now, when it comes to finding the right clay body that works for what you want to create, it can be a bit harder for you to figure out. Sometimes, you might think you have the perfect clay body, only to find out that you’re struggling with it.

Or maybe, you’re throwing it too dry, and it’s not working. Or maybe, you’re throwing it too wet, and that is making it mushy. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to experiment.

Here are a few rules that you should keep in mind

  • When you’re using a big throw, use a softer clay
  • For bigger pieces, throw them dry
  • With smaller pieces, you can get it wetter
  • When you wedge, do so using the strength and weight of your body on a wedging table

When you’re wedging clay, make sure that the height between the fingertips and the bottom of the floor is equal. If you’re not able to get that, you should raise your body by standing on something, or you can move down to a floor and wedge.

You should make sure that when you wedge, you do it comfortably, and in many cases, if you get good, you can wedge up to thirty pounds of clay in a sitting. Typically, about 20 is the average, but when you’re beginning with pottery, you might struggle with the starting point. If you’re having a lot of trouble, start out with some 5-pound pieces, and then add in a pound or two with each session. You should take your time, figure out the best clay body that works for you, and it is important to work with different ones and see what feels well when you throw, and what doesn’t feel well.

Watch your posture

The biggest thing that you need to keep in mind as a beginner potter is to watch the throwing posture. Throwing posture is so important because it can end up messing you up later on. Some of the things that can happen if you have bad throwing posture are the following:

  • Stressing the legs and feet
  • Hurting the wrists
  • Creating a carpal tunnel
  • Hurting your fingers

When you’re at the wheel, your posture should be a key focal point. You should sit at the level of the head or higher. Don’t be super arched over. You should keep your back straight, and the arms locked together, and make sure that most of the body is working with this. If you start to hunch over a lot, you should use a mirror to watch for this, and see your profile. You should make sure that you put your back straight naturally that you do, and don’t sit there with a curved spine.

Some people like to throw standing, and others like to do it with a chair in a different position. Some like to raise the seat of the wheel, or the wheel itself, or put some block or a platform onto there. If you do this, you should figure out what works for you.

Some like to stand against the wall in order to brace themselves and have more strength. Whatever you do, you should definitely do what will work for you. Some swear by standing on a foam rubber mat since it will reduce the stress on feet and legs, but that might not be what works for you.

The best thing to do is to watch your throwing posture, and if it hurts, you take care of the problem right away and don’t make the pain continue.

Best tools for pottery throwing

Finally, let’s talk about pottery-throwing tools. While you did learn a little bit about the best things to have if you decide to get serious with pottery, one of the things that you should work on trying to get and mastering as well are certain pottery tools. Pottery tools help to make the experience way better, and they’re something that you can get from any pottery store pretty easily.

Here are a few of the top pottery tools that you should consider getting if you’re going to be throwing pottery.

  • Chamois leather: This is actually used to smooth the rims of the pot. While you can use other ways, this is one of the best and most efficient ways to actually smooth the pots.
  • A wooden rib: It is used to help smooth the base of a pot or bowl that is small. It is good for plates as well.
  • Tools to pin: These are good for cutting wobbly pots at the top or getting air bubbles out of the clay. You should start with thin ones since they work best.
  • Throwing stick: These tools clean up the outside of the pottery, and you can make an undercut bevel with this. If you do use a bevel, it’ll make pot cutting much easy.
  • Trimming tool: Good for pots with foot rings, and it can refine the clay shape once it becomes firm.
  • Sponge: It is used to help keep the pot wet when you’re throwing. A dry pot won’t work well for you, and it’s hard to throw. It essentially will lubricate the pot as well to make your experience easier. It’s also used to help remove the water inside any pots that you can’t get water out, or even when you’re throwing a bowl, and you gotta get the excess water out the bottom.
  • Cut off the wire: This will remove the pot once it’s done. The best thing to use is nylon or metal with any wooden toggles.

These tools will help you get the most out of your pottery that is possible. You can opt for the SE 8-Piece Pottery Tool Set, as this package includes all the pottery tools you may need to create a masterpiece. Also, this pottery sculpting toolset is quite reliable and can help you in crafting your masterpiece.

With all of these tips, you’ll be able to know how to master pottery in no time. Pottery takes some skill, and it can be a bit hard, to begin with, it, but now that you know its basics, you’ll be able to throw and create some beautiful pieces as well.

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