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How To Make Pottery At Home: All Materials & Equipment You Need

Pottery Shelf

 

Making pottery at home is a fun activity that everyone in the family can enjoy. Whether you are looking to start making pottery as a hobby or professionally, the first thing you’ll need to do to start making ceramics at home is to get the right materials and equipment.

Regardless of the kind of objects you want to make, there are basic items you’ll need to buy to get started. In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to buy to start making pottery at home.

Clay is obviously the most important one, you’ll learn more about it down below. A pottery wheel will definitely make the pottery making process easier as it will help you shape the objects. Kilns are ovens where clay dries and transforms into beautiful ceramic pieces. We’ll also give you a list of basic tools that will help you create more precise, well-shaped and professional-looking pieces. Lastly, we’ll cover glazing, paint and the easiest ways to decorate ceramics at home.

 

Clay

Clay is nothing but fine-grained earth that can be shaped when wet. It contains sand, minerals, tiny rocks and other natural soil components in different concentrations. It comes in a variety of textures and colors depending on their particle size and composition. Clays that have high concentrations of iron oxide tend to have a rusty, red or orange appearance while those with no iron at all look gray or even white, which is the case with porcelain clay.

There are 3 types of clays: stoneware, earthenware and porcelain clay. They are all used for different purposes and have different firing temperatures as well as water absorption and shrinkage percentages.

Stoneware clay is the most versatile and easiest to work with. If you are a beginner who's trying pottery making at home for the first time, we recommend you to get stoneware clay. It comes in a variety of colors from white to dark brown. Once fired, stoneware clay is non-porous, which means it’s capable of holding liquid without having to glaze it. 

Earthenware tends to be thicker, heavier but weaker than stoneware. It’s also easy to work with but it needs to be glazed if you want your pottery to be permeable. This extra step requires extra time and materials, which might not be ideal for beginners. 

Porcelain clay is quite difficult to shape and requires a generous amount of water that needs to be strategically added to the mix while shaping it. If you don’t add enough water it quickly dries out and if you add too much water it can easily lose its shape and collapse. Learning how to work with porcelain clay takes time and a lot of practice, so it might not be the best option for those who want to try pottery making at home for the very first time.

While porcelain pottery looks beautiful, you might want to wait until you’re more experienced to give it a try.

 

Pottery Wheels

Pottery Wheel

Potters and ceramic artists use different pottery making techniques depending on the kind of items they want to make. If you want to make pottery at home, you can absolutely do it without a pottery wheel, but beware that you will be limited to creating objects based on molds or entirely shaped by hand, which will most likely result in pieces with imprecise and uneven looks.

If you are planning on making pottery at home more than once and especially any kind of round ceramic ware like pots, cups, plates or jugs, we encourage you to get a pottery wheel so you can unleash your imagination and create as many pieces as you want, the right way

Generally, pottery wheels range in price from just over $400 to almost $1,500. Budget pottery wheels, like the Speedball Artista Pottery Wheel, cost around $500. Similar models are  perfect for beginners and those who want to start making pottery at home.

Such basic models however, are slower, less durable and have a smaller clay load capacity than a high-tech professional model. It all depends on how much you’d want to use it.

Check out our full article on what to consider when buying a pottery wheel if you want to buy a pottery wheel to make pottery at home.

 

Kilns

Kilns are a type of oven capable of producing temperatures high enough to fire things like pottery and bricks; it simply dries the clay and turns it into ceramics once you’re done shaping it.

One way or another, clay needs to be fired and we strongly recommend you to get a kiln to do so. Kitchen ovens don’t get hot enough to fire pottery. You can always pit fire clay at home, but it’s quite complicated to set it up and even more difficult to achieve the specific temperature needed for specific kinds of clay. If it’s too hot your clay will melt and if it’s not hot enough it won’t dry properly. 

Depending on whether you’re working with earthenware, stoneware, or porcelain, the temperature range of the kiln you need will vary; and an electric kiln can easily be adjusted to fit your needs. 

Before you choose what kiln to buy, you might want to consider things like the kind of glaze you’ll be using, the size and quantities of the pieces you’ll make as well as the space you have available at home. 

We have written a comprehensive guide on the best ceramic kilns for home use. We recommend you to give it a read and get the kiln that best fits your needs.

 

Tools

Pottery Tools

Although you can technically start making pottery at home with just clay, a pottery wheel and a kiln, there are endless tools that can help you create more precise, well-shaped and professional-looking pieces.

Your pottery at home kit should have the following tools:

  • Needles: Used for measuring thickness, carving, trimming and piercing clay.
  • Cutter wire: Used for dividing large blocks of clay into chunks.
  • Ribbon tools: Used for trimming and carving when shaping clay by hand.
  • Scrappers: Used for final smoothing of the pieces.
  • Fettling Knives: They are very versatile, they can be used to separate molds, trim, pierce, carve, sculpt and even cut chunks of clay.
  • Chamois cloth: Used to compress the clay while it’s on the wheel to create smooth surfaces.
  • Calipers: Used to measure the distance between two opposite sides.
  • Brushes: Used for a variety of purposes but especially for glazing or applying slip.
  • Sponges: Used for shaping and cleaning surfaces.
  • Other modeling tools depending on the exact pieces you’d want to make.
  • Towels and aprons: Making pottery at home can get messy! A few towels and an apron will help you keep yourself and your space as clean as possible. 

 

Glaze and other decorating materials

There are quite a few pottery decorating techniques out there. However, if you are just getting started with pottery making at home, we recommend you to stick to glaze and paints while you learn how to use other decorating materials and more complex decoration techniques like carving or transfer printing.

Glazing is one of the most common and easiest decorating techniques. Glaze is a liquid, very much lick paint, that gives ceramics a smooth, glass-like surface. It comes in any color and it’s used to decorate and waterproof pieces. And, when it comes to paints, liquid latex or acrylic paints are the best for decorating pottery at home.

Glaze and paints are cheap and easily available online and in pretty much any art supply store

 

How To Start Pottery At Home

The first step to start making pottery at home is to get the right tools and equipment. All the above mentioned items are easily available online. You can find the pottery wheels and kilns here at SoulCeramics.com. All the other materials, including the clay can be found in most art supply stores.

If you are a beginner and want to start with the basics, we recommend you to get clay, a small ceramic kiln, a basic pottery wheel, and a few modeling tools. You can always upgrade your equipment as you learn new techniques to make pottery at home.

If you are interested in learning more about pottery and ceramics, check out our knowledge center where you can learn everything you need to know about pottery and knife making as well as glass fusing.

Good luck!

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