CraftsPottery

How to Make Pottery at Home: Ultimate Guide

Want to try your hand at homemade pottery? You’re in the right place.

Whether you want to use a pottery wheel or work solely by hand, you’ll find everything you need to know here in this article.

When discussing how to make pottery at home, the first thing to consider is what kind of pottery you’d like to make. Some of the tools and materials you need will depend on the end product you want to create.

Regardless of the kind of objects you want to make, there are a few things you’ll definitely need to get started. Clay is the most important one, which you’ll learn about in more detail down below.

A pottery wheel is also a great investment if you want to make smooth and evenly shaped pottery.

Clay

You cannot make pottery at home without some form of clay. Clay is best described as fine-grained earth that contains sand, minerals, and other natural soil components in various concentrations. The material can be shaped when wet and then air-dried or fired to make a final product.

Clay comes in a range of textures and colors depending on the particle size and composition. Clays with a red or orange appearance are generally high in iron oxide, while those with a low iron concentration look grey or brown. Porcelain clay is usually pure white.

There are three main types of clay for pottery making: stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain. Each clay has a different purpose, appearance, and firing temperature as well as shrinkage percentage and water absorption. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the properties of each clay before deciding which one to work with.

You can find a wide selection of clay and pottery supplies here: https://www.theceramicshop.com/

Types of Clay

  • Stoneware – Stoneware clay is the easiest to work with. This makes it ideal for beginners who are making pottery at home for the first time. Stoneware clay comes in a range of colors from dark brown to greyish white, so you can choose a color that suits your preference. Once fired, this type of clay is non-porous and can hold liquid without needing to glaze it. This makes it perfect for creating mugs, plates, and pots.
  • Earthenware – Earthenware clay is heavier but weaker than stoneware. It’s fairly easy to work with but doesn’t have the non-porous quality of stoneware. This means that you’ll need to glaze your product if you want it to be impermeable. While this step can be done at home, it requires extra time and materials so bear that in mind before you commit. Once earthenware clay has been glazed, it can hold liquid just as well as stoneware clay, so is suitable for creating cups, bowls, and other kitchenware – just don’t forget to glaze it!
  • Porcelain – Porcelain clay has a beautiful white coloring. However, the material can be difficult to shape and requires water to be strategically added throughout the process. If you don’t add enough water, the clay will quickly dry out and if you add too much it will collapse. Because of this, it takes time and practice to create good porcelain pottery, so it may not be the best choice for beginners making pottery at home.

You can find out more about each type of clay here: https://spinningpots.com/the-best-clay-for-pottery/

Pottery Wheels

Unlike clay, a pottery wheel isn’t essential for making pottery at home. That being said, without a wheel you’ll be limited to creating pottery that is entirely shaped by hand. This can result in end products with uneven looks.

Lady using a pottery wheel at home

If you want to make pottery with a smooth and even finish, it’s worth investing in a pottery wheel. A wheel is particularly helpful if you want to make any kind of round ceramic ware like jugs, cups, pots, or plates. Pottery wheels range in price from $500 to $2000.

If you’re just starting to make pottery at home, you may want to begin with a budget pottery wheel. This way, you can get to know your craft and decide whether or not it’s worth investing in a more expensive wheel. If you’re an intermediate pottery maker, you might want to splash out on a professional wheel from the get-go. It all depends on how much you plan to use the wheel and what you plan to do with it.

Considerations

Cost

When buying a pottery wheel, the first thing to consider is the cost. Unfortunately, pottery wheels aren’t cheap and even the basic models can set you back $500. However, it’s definitely worth the investment if you want to make professional-looking ceramics at home.

The cost of the pottery wheel will depend on its features and capabilities. With this in mind, you’ll need to consider your needs before choosing a wheel that’s appropriate for you. Budget pottery wheels are popular amongst beginners and hobbyists who don’t need the high-tech features that a professional wheel offers. However, budget wheels have a smaller load capacity, lower power and speed, and are generally less durable.

Portability

The next thing to consider when buying a pottery wheel is portability. The ability to move your wheel about might not be important to you, but it’s definitely worth thinking about before choosing a pottery wheel.

Portable pottery wheels are smaller and lighter, meaning that you can easily transport them between rooms or to and from a studio space. They are also popular amongst teachers and those who give demonstrations at events and festivals. Of course, portable wheels usually have low load capacities as they’re smaller and lighter, so consider this before making a decision.

Kick wheel or electric

One of the biggest considerations when buying a pottery wheel is whether to go for an electric wheel or a kick wheel. As the name suggests, electric wheels rely on electricity to function; kick wheels on the other hand typically rely on no electricity and are powered by the artist’s foot.

One of the great things about kick wheels is that they’re quiet, while electric pottery wheels can be pretty loud when in use. This makes kick wheels a great choice for those who need complete quiet whilst working. It’s worth remembering that kick wheels are very heavy and difficult to transport, so they’re not ideal for those looking for a portable wheel.

There are pros and cons to both electric and kick wheels, so it’s worth delving deeper into each one before investing in a model.

Durability

When investing in a wheel to make pottery at home, beginners often opt for budget models. While this does keep the cost down, it’s worth considering the longevity of the wheel before choosing one. Typically, cheaper pottery wheels are less durable than more expensive ones, meaning that you’ll need to replace the wheel much sooner.

If you’re just creating the odd ceramic here and there, longevity isn’t necessarily something you need to worry about. However, if you’re using the wheel regularly to make professional-looking products, it might be worth spending a little more to get something sturdier.

Longevity

Many beginners find that a budget wheel suits their needs. However, it’s worth considering the longevity of the pottery wheel. As you put time and practice into your craft, your skills as an artist will develop and you may find that a cheaper wheel doesn’t have the longevity to grow with you.

To avoid growing out of your wheel too quickly, look for a model with a variety of features. If you can find a budget model with enough features to suit an intermediate potter – great! If you can’t, you’ll need to decide whether or not to invest a little more money on a wheel that will grow with you.

Kilns

Kilns are a type of oven used for firing pottery and bricks. Reaching much higher temperatures than a kitchen oven, they dry out the clay and turn it into ceramic once you’ve finished shaping it.

A man using an electric kiln

While it’s possible to air dry clay, you’ll get the best results from using a kiln. Kitchen ovens don’t get hot enough to fire pottery, unfortunately. The other option is it pit fire your pottery at home, but this can be complicated to set up and hard to achieve a specific temperature needed for clay. If the pit is too hot your product will melt and if it’s not hot enough it won’t dry properly.

The type of kiln you’ll need will depend on whether you’re using stoneware, earthenware, or porcelain clay. If you want to work with different types of clay, invest in an electric kiln that can be adjusted to fit your needs. Before choosing a kiln, you’ll also need to consider the size of your products, the glaze you’ll be using, and the available space in your home.

Before using your kiln, make sure you’re up to date with the latest kiln safety advice.

You can find more information on this here: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-use-a-kiln-safely-2746167

Considerations

Type of clay

When choosing a kiln, the first thing to consider is the type of clay you’ll be using. Different types of clay require different temperatures for firing, so it’s important to get a kiln that suits your needs. If you want to use the kiln for stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain, it might be worth looking for an adjustable temperature so you can use it with all the materials.

Price

When purchasing a kiln, another important consideration is the price. Kilns range in price from around $300 up to $4000. Typically, the cheaper kilns are smaller and have fewer features than the more expensive ones.

If you’re just starting out in the world of pottery, you might find that a budget kiln suits your needs. This is particularly true if you plan to make small ceramics as a hobby.

As your skills grow, you might find that a budget kiln no longer suits your needs. You may then need to invest more money in a mid to high-range kiln with a wider range of features. To avoid splashing out twice, some potters prefer to invest in a mid-range kiln from the get-go. This will ensure longevity and allow your kiln to grow with you as an artist.

Type of glaze

It’s also worth thinking about the type of glaze you’ll be using before choosing a kiln. Glazes don’t all melt at the same temperatures – some require a low-fire range of temperatures while others need high fire ranges. To make sure you get a kiln that suits your needs, check the type of glaze you’re using and find the appropriate firing temperature.

A colorful bowl with glaze

Size of your pottery

Next on the list of considerations is the size of your ceramics. To determine what size kiln you need, you need to consider the dimensions of your final products. It’s also worth thinking about how many pieces you want to fire at once; obviously, the more pieces you want to fire, the bigger kiln you’ll need.

Size of your room

Before investing in a large kiln, you’ll need to make sure it fits in your desired space. Consider the height, width, and length of the kiln, and remember that it will need space on either side for breathing room.

A minimum width of 2 feet on each side is recommended for breathing space. If you can’t fit a large kiln in your space, don’t panic. You’ll be surprised by how much you can fit in small to medium-sized kilns. Just remember to have a close look at the maximum dimensions before investing in one.

Top loading vs front loading

There are two main types of kiln: top-loading and front-loading. While top-loading kilns are usually cheaper, they can be difficult to use without a stool or step. Top loading kilns may also place strain on your back and cause pain later down the line.

With this in mind, many potters recommend front-loading kilns for their convenience and health benefits. They may be a little pricier, but most people agree that they’re worth the extra money.

Available power

The final thing to consider is how much power you have available. As you’d expect, the bigger the kiln the more energy required to use it. To make sure you’ve got enough power to run the kiln, check the voltage and amperage requirements of the kiln and check you have these available in your home or studio space.

If your desired kiln has higher energy requirements than you have available, there are two options – choose a smaller kiln or pay to have the necessary requirements installed in your home.

Tools

While you can start making pottery at home with just clay and a kiln, various tools speed up the process and help you to create more professional-looking pieces. Below, we explore some of these in more detail.

  • Cutter wire – Cutter wire is important if you want to split large blocks of clay into chunks. It’s much quicker and easier than using a knife.
  • Needles – Needles are used for carving, trimming, piercing, and measuring the thickness of clay.
  • Scrappers – Scrappers are used for smoothing your end products.
  • Ribbon tools – Ribbon tools are used for carving and trimming clay when shaping it by hand.
  • Chamois cloth – Chamois cloth is used to compress clay on the wheel to create a smooth and even surface.
  • Fettling knives – Fettling knives have a variety of uses, including trimming, piercing, carving, sculpting, and cutting clay. They can also be used to separate molds.
  • Calipers – Calipers are used to measure the distances between two sides of a product.
  • Sponges – Sponges are used for shaping the clay and for cleaning surfaces.
  • Brushes – Like Fettling knives, brushes have a wide range of purposes but are particularly good for glazing your end products.
  • Apron and towels – Making pottery at home is incredible, but it can certainly get messy. With this in mind, it’s worth picking up an apron and a few towels to help keep yourself and your space clean.

Glaze and decorating materials

Once you’ve finished shaping your pottery, it’s time to decorate it. There are many decorating techniques out there, but it’s probably best to stick to glaze or paints if you’re just getting started. Once you feel comfortable with these, you can try out more complex decorating techniques like transfer printing or carving.

Glazing is one of the most popular decorating techniques – probably because it’s pretty easy and it looks great. Similar to paint, glaze is a liquid that gives pottery a smooth, shiny surface. It comes in a variety of colors and can be used to decorate all kinds of clay. It’s also waterproof, meaning that it can make earthenware clay impermeable.

If you don’t need your pottery to be impermeable, or you’re working with stoneware clay, you can use paints to decorate your ceramic instead. Acrylic or liquid latex paints generally work best for decorating pottery at home. These paints can be picked up for a reasonable price online or in an art supply shop.

You can explore pottery tools in more detail in this Pottery Tool Guide List: https://potterycrafters.com/recommended-tools-hand-tools/

How to get started

As we discussed earlier, the first step to making pottery at home is to invest in the tools and materials. Everything we mentioned above can be found online or in most art supply stores.

Before bringing your tools and materials home, you’ll need to find a space to work. If you’ve got the space, setting up a designated pottery studio is a great idea. This way, you can keep all your tools and materials in a set area and always have them to hand.

If you don’t have room for a designated pottery studio, don’t panic – not all hope is lost! Consider making space in your garage or spare room to house your appliances. If you need to pack your pottery wheel away after use, investing in a portable model is a great option. This way, the wheel will be small and light enough to store in a cupboard or wardrobe in between uses.

If you’re creating pottery in the house, remember to consider the mess it can create. Wet clay splattered onto the carpet or soft furnishings isn’t ideal, and things won’t get any better when the clay dries. Unfortunately, dry clay produces a lot of dust which can get everywhere if you’re not careful.

To make things easier, try to create a space somewhere with wipe down surfaces. Tile or vinyl flooring is perfect as it can be easily cleaned at the end of your session. Cover any soft furnishing with protective dust sheets to avoid damage.

In summary

So, there you have it – how to make pottery at home. Whether you’re an intermediate potter or a complete beginner, we hope you’ll find everything you need to get started here in this guide.

The main considerations are choosing the right clay, investing in a kiln and a pottery wheel if you want to go down that route. If you’d prefer to leave the pottery wheel for now, that’s no problem, you can absolutely create beautiful ceramics without one – just be prepared to shape every piece entirely by hand.

Before bringing your tools and materials home, we recommend setting up a workspace. As we mentioned earlier, a spare room or garage is ideal for this. However, if you don’t have space for a designated studio, find a suitable place in another room in the house. For ease, choose somewhere with hard surfaces that can be wiped down after each session – tiles or vinyl flooring are perfect.

If you use a pottery wheel, it’s also important to keep this clean. You can find an in-depth tutorial on this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73FRDQhh7Mk

To make sure you choose the right equipment, consider the type of clay you want to use, the glaze, and the size of the ceramics you plan to create. This will help you to choose a kiln, pottery wheel, and other accessories that suit your needs.

 

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the occasional whiskey or two...

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