How do I get started in Pottery?
Pottery is a wonderful hobby that lets you use your creativity to make beautiful, useful works of art. We’re preaching to the choir, we know. But, like any hobby, it does require a certain level of investment when you’re ready to “get serious.”
The good news is that there are several levels of “getting serious” that allow you to test the pottery waters at your own rate and comfort level. Here’s a few paths to a lifetime of muddy hands. Think of this as the Goldilocks and the Three Bears of getting started in pottery - all you have to do is find the one that’s just right for you!
Level One: An interest in pottery but unsure if it’s for you
You’ve always had an interest in pottery but have never touched clay. You want to test the waters and see if it might be something you want to get into, without spending too much money.
If you want to get started in pottery but don’t want to invest a ton, the best thing you can do is just get your hands dirty! Here’s what you’ll need:
5 to 25lbs of clay – A bag of clay costs about $15. You can get it online or at the Seattle Pottery Supply store (among other places). We recommend a “Cone 4-6” or “mid-range” body to start. Check out the Sea Mix 5 for light white, Vashon Bluff for off-white or brown, and Klamath Yellow for a dark red or brown body.
A few tools – At this basic level, the goal is to just get your hands dirty, but you will need a few basic tools to get started. We recommend at least a sponge, needle tool, rib, and a brush (for glazing).
Glaze (optional) – If you want to make your piece functional, you can also pick up a glaze, though it’s not entirely necessary at this level.
Access to a kiln – Many pottery suppliers, like Seattle Pottery Supply, offer kiln firing services. Bring your creation over and we’ll fire it for you at an affordable price. For most beginner pieces, it’ll cost only about $5.
Once you get the essentials, just play with them! There are no wrong answers when it comes to pottery, and at this level, the goal is to simply get used to working with clay and have fun. Let your imagination run wild and see what fun creations you can make. And, of course, there’s plenty of tutorials online, can we suggest pinch or coil pots?
When all is said and done, you can pick up the barebones equipment you’ll need to get started for around $50. It’s not a major investment, and you can get a feel for whether you want to take your pottery interest to the next level or move on to something else without any buyer’s remorse.
Level Two: More committed to learning but don’t want to make any major investments
If you’re more committed than the “Hesitant Halloysite” group but still aren’t ready to invest in your own equipment, then you might be a level two beginner, which we like to call “On-the Fence-Feldspar” (for the beginners out there, Feldspar and Halloysite are materials used in clay - it’s our little clay fun). The goal is to create more specifically functional pieces, rather than simply messing around with the clay.
At this level, you’ll need a few more pieces of equipment than the first group:
50 to 100lbs of clay – For specific projects, you’ll need more clay to work with. We recommend getting at least two or three different kinds of clay to find out which best fits your style, and give you some wiggle room to make mistakes. Check out Fools Gold speckled clay, Eclipse super-dark clay, and Sea Mix 5 for a solid all-around clay, and add some uniqueness to your projects!
Tool kit – You’ll need a decent-sized toolkit to really get a feel for everything pottery has to offer. This will allow you to use multiple techniques and work on a wider range of projects. We recommend the 9-piece Kemper toolkit and a Hake brush. At this level, you might also want to think about renting studio space or a wheel to try some different pottery techniques.
2-3 glazes – Glazes are what make your pottery creations functional (and pretty!). You’ll definitely want to grab at least two or three to really experiment with different finishes. Our SPS glaze line has some great options, so you can try out multiple colors and styles. Remember to match the cone (△) of your clay to that of your glaze.
Small plaster wedging board – Since you’re creating functional pieces, you’ll need to build strong foundations. A small plaster board will help you wedge, roll coils, and maintain a strong base for your pieces.
Access to a kiln – The kiln finishes your pieces and makes them ready for use. Since kilns are expensive and take up a ton of space, it’s best to simply use local kiln firing services. You can find one near you with a Google search. Of course, if you’re in the Seattle area, come by and use SPS’s kiln firing services. You can even do two levels of firing, a bisque fire and then a glaze fire, to make your pieces look even more professional.
Armed with all your equipment, the goal at this level is to build specific, functional pieces. It’s a good idea to take a few classes or follow along with YouTube videos. You can also find some fun pottery tutorials on the SPS website, including the Nerikomi Method—which is an excellent beginning project!
The tools and equipment at this level will probably cost a few hundred dollars. If you’re on the fence about getting into pottery, it’s a relatively small investment to create some unique functional pieces and really get a feel for what pottery has to offer.
Level Three: Ready to jump right in
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t dip their toes in the water and likes to jump right in with both feet - or have been taking some classes and want to move to the next level - you’re what we like to call a “Steadfast Silica.” You’re committed to learning about pottery and ready to make a few investments to build a solid base and really explore a new hobby.
If you’re sure pottery is for you, here’s what you’ll need to get started:
100 to 200lbs of clay – If it looks interesting, grab it! The more types of clay you have to work with, the more you’ll learn.
Multiple glazes – Similar to the types of clay, learning about the different types of glazes and how they work with different bodies will give you a better foundation to explore your hobby.
Large plaster wedging board – The bigger the board, the bigger projects you can work on! Pick up a large plaster wedging board, so you can explore various projects.
Tool kit – The basic 9-piece Kemper toolkit and a Hake brush is a good start, but feel free to pick up other tools that might give you more versatility in the studio.
Wheel – If you’re sure about getting started in pottery, investing in a wheel will help you take your skills to the next level. Plus, it’s just fun! For beginners, we recommend the Shimpo Aspire. It’s a small, portable wheel that fits in just about any space and can handle up to 15lbs of clay (which is way more than most throw ever). At around $625, it’ll give you all the capability beginners need without breaking the bank or taking up too much space in your house.
Access to a kiln – Kilns can be advanced for most beginners to own, even at the “jump right in” level. It’s always best to use a local kiln fire service to finish your projects. (When you’re ready for a kiln of your own, check out our favorite home pottery studio kiln).
With your upgraded equipment arsenal, it’s definitely a good idea to take a few pottery classes, so you can learn to use each tool properly—especially your wheel. Once you build a solid knowledge foundation, just get out there and experiment! Since you have more clay and glazes, you have the benefit of failing. Yes, it’s a benefit! Make a mistake? Just grab some more clay and try again. It’s the best way to learn.
SPS Is Here to Help You Start Your Pottery Journey!
Ready to start your pottery adventure? Whether you’re a “Hesitant Halloysite” who just wants to feel some clay or a “Steadfast Silica” who’s ready to jump right in, Seattle Pottery Supply has all the goodies you’ll need to get started. From a large assortment of clay, glazes, and tools to helpful services like kiln firing and pottery tutorials, we have everything any level of beginner could need.
Buying pottery supplies can be complicated—especially for beginners. If you need help picking out the right clay, glazes, or tools to explore your new hobby, our friendly experts are standing by. Just give us a call, email us at email@example.com or pop into the store, and we’ll help you discover your new favorite hobby.