Pottery at home: the best tips and ideas for beginners

Ceramics & Pottery

How do I start doing pottery and ceramics at home?

The sight of trendy ceramic tableware already puts you in the best mood at the breakfast table.

Then we have good news for you: With the right materials and a few practical tips, you can easily start making pottery yourself – and even on your own four walls!

But it’s not just the great result that will sweeten your day: working with clay in itself is great fun.

In addition, pottery is a creative hobby that is also perfect as a balance to hectic everyday life. In this guide, we’ll explain what you need for pottery at home and what’s the best place to start.

5 Reasons Why You’ll Love Pottery Making at Home

Why pottery is sure to become your new favorite hobby? We’ve already touched on one important point: Pottery just looks great! But besides the beautiful end result, there are plenty of other reasons why you should definitely give working with clay a try:

Genuinely unique pieces

No one will have exactly the same mug or plate as you. By the way, this also makes your DIY artwork a particularly personal gift.

Welcome to change

Are you also spending so much time in front of the screen right now? Whether at work, binge-watching series, or on social media: A little break does us good sometimes!

So relaxing

Pottery is generally considered the perfect activity for unwinding. Some pottery fans even compare it to a little meditation session.

Countless design possibilities

Vases, plates, figurines, mugs and so much more: there are many techniques.

For children

Pottery at home is also great fun for the little ones. Here they can not only improve their fine motor skills but also develop all their creativity.

pottery at home

What materials do you need for pottery at home?

You don’t need a fully equipped workshop or much previous experience to make pottery. And even a potter’s wheel is not necessarily part of the basic equipment. Your hands are the most important tool besides the clay! Nevertheless, you should have a few utensils at hand that will make your work much easier.

Your basic set for pottery should therefore include:

  • Clay.
  • Rolling pin for rolling out.
  • Wire for cutting the clay.
  • A surface such as a washable tablecloth or a wooden work surface.
  • Bowl with lukewarm water.
  • Sponge for moistening and smoothing the clay.
  • Pottery tools or alternatively a knife, fork, and spoon.

Practical depending on the desired shape are also:

  • Modeling loop.
  • Two wooden strips to roll out the clay to the desired thickness.
  • Cookie-cutter.
  • Acrylic paints color the clay.
  • Cookie stamp.

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Do-it-yourself pottery with the wheel

You have already tried pottery at home and want to try a little trickier project? Then we recommend advanced users buy a potter’s wheel. This will make your cups, vases, and other vessels especially even – and soon your own pottery will look better than purchased!

A distinction can be made between models with or without electric drives. With a variant with an electric drive, even pottery is somewhat easier. Inexpensive models for beginners are available for about $200. In a course or online tutorial, you can learn how to work best with the potter’s wheel. Practice makes perfect!

Which clay is best for pottery at home?

Not all clay is the same! For beginners, the so-called semi-fat potter’s clay is best suited. It is particularly easy to shape. Nevertheless, you can also create complex pieces with it. It is also practical that the semi-fat clay usually dries without cracks and forgives small mistakes. Because they happen quite automatically, especially in the beginning!

Also, note that clay must be fired at different temperatures. For earthenware, this is around 1050 °C, for stoneware even 1100 – 1300 °C. Stoneware is even less sensitive after firing, dishwasher safe, and also suitable for the garden. Stoneware, on the other hand, you should better use it only for decorative objects.

Learn to make pottery: these techniques you should know

Got your basic equipment together? Then now it’s time to try it out! After all, it is important to first familiarize yourself with the material. In addition, even as a beginner, you can already test out different techniques:

Simple clay work with the ball technique

Particularly simple and practical for creating smaller vessels: the ball technique or thumb technique. Here you form a round ball with the clay and then press a hole in the center with your thumb. Then gently press against the walls all around. In this way, you hollow out the clay little by little until the desired shape is created. By the way, the technique is perfect for soap dishes, shallow candleholders, or pretty jewelry bowls.

Tip: Use a damp sponge to smooth out small imperfections in the clay!

The rolling technique for flat works

Also, great for beginners is the roll-out technique. Simply roll out the clay to the desired thickness. Make sure that the surface is reasonably even. Then cut out the desired shape with cookie cutters or around the glass. You can then use a wooden skewer to drill a small hole where you can hang the piece later. Perfect for homemade Christmas tree ornaments or gift tags!

Pottery with the bead technique

You can also get really great results with the bead technique. Here, you roll several clay beads of as much thickness as possible and stack them on top of each other. So that the individual parts also stick together, use slip in between. The transitions can be spread or left visible as you wish.

Instructions for the build-up technique

The build-up technique allows you to connect several individual pieces of clay together. That is why it is also called the slab technique. For example, you can conjure up cups, vases, or flower pots!

To do this, cut out a circle with the desired diameter and a rectangle of the same width. Then use a fork to scratch the edge of each where you want to join the pieces together. Apply a little slip here and glue the individual pieces together like this. Carefully smooth out the transitions.

Note: Be aware that clay shrinks as it dries and fires, as water molecules evaporate during the process. This means you should always create slightly larger molds when in doubt.

Making slips for pottery at home

Have you ever heard of clay slip? If not: it is a mixture of clay and water. You use it to join individual pieces together. You can also use it to add embellishments. So slip is a kind of glue for clay work. But how can you make the mixture at home?

Make your own slip – here’s how:

  • It is best to take small dried clay scraps and put them in a canning jar.
  • Then add water, approximately in the ratio of 75 percent clay and 25 percent water.
  • When the clay residues have soaked through after a while, you can pour off excess water and stir the mixture well. Prepare the slurry even a day in advance!

pottery without the wheel

Can you fire ceramics at home?

Basically, once your clay treasures have dried through, they need to be fired. Usually twice, once in the bisque firing and then in the glaze firing. Only then are the molds stable, waterproof, and can take your place on the breakfast table!

This part of the pottery process can usually not be done from home. After all, firing the clay requires very high temperatures that your normal oven can’t reach. However, a kiln is not an inexpensive affair and is really only worth it for professionals.

Relate: Best ceramic kiln for home use

Air-drying modeling clay: pottery without firing

If you prefer not to use a kiln when making pottery at home, you can also use alternatives: It is best to use modeling clay instead of clay. You can either fire it in your own kiln, or it can even be air-dried.

You should not use this variant as tableware, but you can conjure up numerous stylish decorative items or even your own jewelry. Once the modeling clay has dried, you can also paint it, varnish it or decorate it further according to your taste.

Pottery with children: Simple ideas and tips

Working with clay is not just for adults! Pottery is also a lot of fun for children. Therefore, a great idea is to attend a pottery class with the whole family. A children’s birthday party in the pottery workshop is also perfect for working together, and the children can take their own treasures home afterward.

By the way, the best way to make pottery with children is to give them some guidelines or inspiration at the beginning. Simple shapes such as simple clay figures, star cutters, or flat bowls are particularly suitable. Otherwise, smaller children in particular will be overwhelmed at first. Later, you can give your children free rein to develop their creativity to the full. That way, they can create little works of art at home, too!

How I make ceramics at home – Video

Additional Questions

What pottery technique a beginner should start with?

If you’re new to the captivating world of pottery, one of the initial techniques you should consider is termed as “coiling.” This process initiates with shaping a slab of clay to form the foundation of your artifact. Then, another strip of clay is rolled into a lengthy, thin cylinder, which is progressively coiled on top of the slab, giving life to your pottery creation. It’s a simple yet engaging method, making it ideal for beginners.

What’s the easiest thing to make in pottery?

If you’re seeking the pandora’s box of pottery ideas, start initially by crafting beads – it’s the most straightforward pottery project. Not only does it allow you to familiarize with the clay’s texture and moldability, but it also offers a remarkable way to introduce children to the mesmerizing realm of pottery.

Can I teach myself pottery at home?

Indeed, you can self-learn pottery at your own pace and comfort, right from your home. Many people, including myself, have embarked on their pottery journey predominantly as self-taught hobbyists. Helpful resources such as books, online tutorials, social media networks of experienced potters, and YouTube offer valuable avenues to gain insights and expertise in pottery.

What are the three basic pottery techniques?

The fundamentals of pottery can be seen in its three primary handbuilding techniques – pinch pottery, coil building, and slab building. If you’re curious about pinch pot, it’s a technique where you insert your thumb into a clay ball, continuously pinching the clay between your thumb and other fingers while rotating it. This repetitive movement thins, shapes and raises the vessel, giving a distinct form to your pottery creation.

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