5 Easy Tips To Start Making pottery for beginners [2023]

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Pottery is one of the world’s oldest crafts, and even in these day of mass manufacturing, handmade ceramics remain immensely popular.

In recent years, YouTube, television, and social media platforms have increased people’s interest in this ancient craft, and The Great Pottery Throwdown has helped to attract a larger audience and encourage more individuals to try their hand at pottery creation.

We collaborated with Katrina of Katrina Pechal Ceramics to create this comprehensive tutorial to ceramic creation. Whether you are a beginner wanting to build your first pinch pot or an experienced ceramicist considering purchasing a new potter’s wheel, you will discover a wealth of information and advice in this guide.

Here are 11 expert pointers on how to begin producing pottery.

Tip 1: Choosing a Method When Beginning a Pottery

There are three primary methods for creating ceramics. It is beneficial to choose a single approach to focus on initially. There are three primary ways to create pottery:

  • utilizing a pottery wheel, or wheel-thrown clay
  • Building pottery by hand
  • Pourcasting/SLip Casting

Numerous potters employ a combination of all three techniques. Yet when beginning a pottery pastime, it is advisable to focus on the technique that most appeals to you.

After gaining a bit more experience, you can always venture out and master the other ceramic techniques. So, choose one and get started!

Here is a summary of what each method entails. Consider which one appeals to you the most.

Using a Potter’s Wheel

Clay can be spun on a pottery wheel, which is a piece of pottery equipment. While the wheel turns, the clay is shaped into a bowl, mug, vase, or other vessel. This method is known as pottery throwing.

Certain pottery wheels are constructed to accommodate standing. Most are built to accommodate sitting while working. Others are meant to be placed on a tabletop, allowing you to choose whether to sit or stand.

Like with other hobby equipment, there is a bewildering variety of pottery wheel makes and models. Nonetheless, there are affordable wheels that are more than enough for beginning a pottery pastime. I will investigate purchasing a pottery wheel later in this essay. Alternatively, you can read this post about selecting a pottery wheel.

Building pottery by hand

Handbuilding is a ceramics technique that allows you to create forms using your hands and clay instead of a wheel. Before the invention of the wheel, the only method for creating utilitarian and artistic ceramic shapes was handbuilding. The first known ceramic object was handcrafted and dates back to 28,000 BCE. You need need clay, your hands, and a few simple tools to get started.

There are 4 primary methods of hand-building pottery without wheel:
  • Pinch pots
  • Coil Pot
  • Slab pottery
  • Using a mold

Pourcasting/Slip Casting

Slip casting is the process of producing ceramics by pouring or pumping deflocculated (water-reduced) clay slurry into plaster molds. During the technique, the absorbent plaster absorbs water from the slurry, and over a period of time (for example, 20 minutes), a layer builds on the surface of the mold. The slurry is then poured out, and the item is taken from the mold shortly after it shrinks slightly. This process is versatile and capable of producing both exquisite, fragile porcelain and robust, functional objects.

Tip 2: How to Choose Clay When Beginning a Pottery Hobby

There are numerous varieties of clay to pick from. Choose between pottery clay and air dry clay as your initial consideration.

Air Dry Clay

Air dry clay, as its name suggests, can be dried in the open air without being burnt in a kiln. There are numerous varieties of air-dry clay. Some is polymer and has a plastic-like texture. This is useful for making toys and jewelry. Nevertheless, if you wish to create pottery, you will need a clay that more closely resembles pottery clay.

It is possible to obtain air-dry clay that looks and feels like clay. Typically, this is fiber-reinforced regular pottery clay that dries hard without needing to be burned.

Some air-dry clay can be utilized in many of the same ways as pottery clay. For instance, air-dried clay can be utilized on the potter’s wheel. This is an excellent example from Amaco. It behaves similarly to ceramic clay but does not require firing in a kiln.

Pottery Clay / Ceramic Clay

There are three primary varieties of ceramic clay.
  1. Earthenware
  2. Stoneware
  3. Porcelain
1.Earthenware1745℉ (950℃) and 2012℉ (1100℃). Temp Range
2.Stoneware2305℉ to 2336℉ (1263℃ to 1326℃) Temp Range
3.Porcelain2381℉ to 2455℉ (1305℃ to 1346℃) Temp Range

Important To Know…
When throwing ceramics on a wheel, it is desirable to utilize a smooth clay body. Some clay contains grit, sand, or slime. This imparts strength to the clay and makes it easier to construct and shape.

Yet throwing on the wheel is difficult on the hands. The clay can feel gritty and scratchy, and it can slip through your fingertips. Use a more refined clay. Either of the following is suitable for wheel throwing:

But, if you opt to build by hand, using a clay with a small amount of grog can be advantageous. The addition of grit or sand imparts mechanical strength to clay, allowing it to retain its shape more readily during construction. This would be an excellent alternative:

Tip 3: Getting Your Clay Ready

Now the big day has arrived. You have access to clay and a few key equipment to get started. What then? The following step is to prepare the clay for pottery.

Before you can create anything out of clay, you must perform a process known as “wedging.”

What the heck is wedging? Well, a handful of things are required to make clay usable, and they are:

  1. Remove any air bubbles from the clay
  2. Awaken the soil
  3. Align the granules of clay

When firing pottery with air bubbles, it might shatter or even explode in the kiln. At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the moisture in the clay transforms into steam as the kiln heats. As the water transforms into steam, air pockets form in the clay. This results in the air pockets cracking under pressure.

To prevent your pottery from bursting in the kiln, you must remove air bubbles from the clay. And your work must be bone dry before to firing.

Wedging clay is a method for removing air bubbles from clay. Some potters compare wedging to kneading bread dough since the actions are comparable. Nevertheless, when you knead dough, you include air into it. Clay is devoid of air during the wedging process.

In addition to eliminating air bubbles, wedging awakens and makes the clay more workable. Moreover, it aligns the clay particles, making it easier to toss or shape.

There are a variety of approaches for wedging. This handy video will offer you an overview of the numerous ways.

Tip 4: Decorating Your Ceramic/Pottery

When we think of finished pots, vividly colored, glossy glazes typically come to mind first. But is that the only alternative? Let’s examine the many methods of pottery decoration.

  • Glazes
  • Overglazes and Underglazes
  • Textures
  • Decorating Slip

Pottery Decorating -#1 Glaze

Glaze is typically put to ceramics after bisque firing. Glaze is composed of elements that melt and transform into glass when they are burned in a kiln.
As the kiln cools, the liquid glass solidifies and forms an impermeable glass coating on the pottery.

A glazing can be transparent. Clear glaze is frequently used to coat, protect, and enhance previously placed ornamentation on ceramics. Alternatively, the glaze may have color, texture, and personality that is used to embellish the pottery.

Pottery Decorating -#2 Overglazes and Underglazes

Glazes can be layered onto one another to produce additional effects. The term for this is overglazing. Some “overglazes” are merely additional glazes that are put over an unfired glaze that will mature at the same temperature.

After the base glaze has been fired, true overglazes may also be applied. These overglazes will require a third fire at a temperature lower than that of the base glaze.

Pottery Decorating -#3 Textures

Clay is a master at disguise. With talent, clay may successfully imitate a variety of materials, from metal to worn-out shoes.

Clay can be imprinted. By pressing a variety of tools and items into the surface of wet pots, it is simple to imprint the surface with various textures.

Clay can also be carved. Greenware that is leather-hard is capable of bearing engravings and patterns. By doing so at the leather-hard stage of drying, the crispness of the cuts is preserved. Moreover, leather-hard greenware facilitates the engraving of elaborate designs.

Pottery Decorating -#4 Decorating Slip

The term “slip” refers to clay particles suspended in water to make liquid clay. It serves a variety of purposes in pottery. As an example, it is used to connect unfired clay pieces together, similar to glue. But, it is also used to embellish pottery.

Often, decorating slip is colored with ceramic stains or oxides. There are bottles of decorative slip for sale. Nonetheless, it is extremely simple to create your own colored slip.

Tip 5: Firing your Pottery

Typically, firing clay comprises three steps. Before firing, the first step is to dehydrate the clay. The clay is bisque fired during the second stage. Then the final step is decorating or coating the clay.

Bisque firing is the process through which soft clay is transformed into hard ceramic. After everything is completed, you can next decorate your pots. There are numerous alternatives available for customizing your ceramics at home.

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