Pottery Tips for Beginners

Pottery can be a fun way to express your creative drive in the manual arts. You don't need a lot of fancy supplies or a lot of money to get started. There are many types of pottery, but this article will discuss basic pottery supplies and suggestions. If you have patience, your work can result in some nice pieces, even if you are inexperienced.

If you are a self-starter, you may want to work with a product called Sculpey clay. This is self-hardening polymer clay that is easily molded. You can get blocks of this clay online or at most hobby stores.

  1. Roll it out to the thickness you desire with a rolling pin or knead the air out of the clay by hand until it is smooth and pliable. A clean sealed wooden or marble cutting board works well as a work surface. Start your project on a piece of wax paper or a flat glass dinner plate if you want to be able to spin the piece around as you work.
  2. Once you have the clay kneaded, you can use a butter knife to cut the clay into strips about inch wide and roll them into long ropes.
  3. Take one rope and determine the size of the base of your vase. Shape your base with the first rope and cut off the excess length. Join the ends together and place another rope of top of that one until your pot or vase is the height you want. Keep the majority of your clay moist by wrapping it in plastic wrap while you work, removing a section or two at a time.
  4. You can use a tongue depressor or your slightly wet fingers to smooth the ropes into a final smooth shape all around the piece. Sculpting tools to add engraved designs or use smaller rolls to add a lip to the top of a vase or bowl that you create. Sometimes you can get used dental tools from your dentist or vet. *You can make small statues up to 4 inches tall, but remember to put a hole through the bottom to let the air out. The main thing to remember is that statues or knick knacks need to be as hollow as possible without being too thin. If they are not hollow they can explode before they are dry enough and if they are too thin, they can crack apart while hardening or become very brittle once they are out of the oven.
  5. Your object can be easily cured (hardened) by placing your finished product (Unpainted) on a metal cookie sheet in your home oven preheated to 275 degree F. Bake 30 minutes for each 1/2 inch of thickness.
  6. Acrylic paint can works well for painting the hardened piece. If you work with precise measurements, you can even create pieces that fit together once they have been baked. This is the easiest and least expensive way to practice basic pottery methods...by starting small.

For the more adventurous, there are numerous books at your local library and you can buy actual clay in 8 to 20 pound blocks at your local art supply store like Azel Art, shops such as Hobby Lobby, or even online. This clay takes more kneading that the Sculpey clay and must definitely be kept moist throughout the life of the project. There are also books that take you through simple projects step-by-step, one lesson at a time. This clay will have to be baked in a kiln. Some local recreation centers offer use of their kiln for a small fee. You can also buy a small kiln if you get good enough to make pottery your constant hobby, but they can be pricey. Check out  www.clayworld.com, you can also find used kilns on eBay and places like www.craigslist.org under your city name.

If you need more-detailed help getting started, many community colleges offer Continuing Education classes that last from 8-16 weeks and meet for about 3 hours per class. They will supply you with a list of supplies, general instruction, and usually have a pottery wheel and kiln (a pottery baking oven) at the college.


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