If just a whiff of a 10-pound box of virgin clay is enough to send you off on flights of fancy, having a pottery studio at your disposal could make you downright giddy. Pottery has been around since early man discovered that only sun was required to bake clays into utilitarian and art works, and even the Coors family—-yes, the beer pioneers—-is in the business. They’ve got a secret ceramics company named CoorsTek that’s making the family richer than beer by churning out automobile and NASA space shuttle parts and if you know someone who’s had a knee replacement, guess what company may have produced the part?
Impressed? You should be. Pottery making not only benefits society in many ways, but if you’ve fallen in love with the process of sitting on a stool manipulating a lump of clay on a spinning wheel, you know that hours speed by and the joy you feel during the creative process is indescribable. Equip a pottery studio to meet your aesthetic and organizational needs and join potters who say they’d be happy if they never had to leave it.
Essential #1: The right kiln
Shopping for a kiln is like going to a bakery and trying to pick out the cake that meets the crowd you’ll feed and your budget. A reliable kiln supplier, a veteran potter or ceramics teacher can make recommendations, but you’ve got the plastic and may already prefer a gas- over a wood-fired kiln. Electric kilns are obviously a better choice if your studio can’t be ventilated properly for wood burning and size wins out, but if your intention is to fire multiple pieces at the same time, you’ll require a large space and power supply to meet your needs.
Essential #2: Proper storage
New potters are often shocked to discover the laundry list of “stuff” that’s required to properly equip a studio. Next to a kiln, prioritize as much storage as space allows to make your clay working life simpler. Shelves, cabinets, work tables with drawers and bins capable of stowing tools, molds, large blocks of clay (potters may order 500 pounds at a time), aprons, towels, buckets of water (if you have no access to a sink), paints, glazes and rags are some of the items you need to function. That stated, don’t fill every nook and cranny. Save shelf room for works in progress to avoid crowding that results in damage to pre-fired and drying glazed pieces.
Essential #3: A pottery wheel
Once again, you’ll have too many choices. Opt for a simple pedal-driven pottery wheel or treat yourself to a sophisticated electric model, but before you decide where to headquarter the one you pick, assess areas of the studio that receive the most artificial and/or natural light. You’ll need a power outlet suited to industrial machinery if you own an electric model and don’t want to deal with frequent blown fuses. Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association said, “Situate your wheel close to your wedging table for convenience and time savings.” If you’re new to the hobby, look for gently used pottery wheels on the market before you invest in new equipment.
Essential #4: “Tools of the trade”
Beginning potters know that they can acquire basics in the form of a “kit” that includes from eight to 10 rudimentary items. Buy your tools individually and your list may include: wire clay cutters, brushes, potter’s needles, fettling knives, finishing tools, scrapers, paddles, rolling pins and turning tools. Additionally, stock coloring oxides, glazes, paints, hole and pattern cutters, carving tools, sponges, texturing tools, slab rollers and at least one extruder to knock out air bubbles before the clay is transferred to your wheel.
Essential #5: Safety and protective gear
If you’ve ever tried to scrub clay out of your clothing or shoes, you know that keeping protective gear on hand is as essential as a full complement of pottery tools. No apron is too long or big to be included in your arsenal, and if you’re splashing slip all over, an inexpensive pair of work glasses could prove an eye saver. It goes without saying that the potential for cuts and abrasions as a result of working with pottery tools and lifting projects in and out of the kiln is great, so you won’t regret having a first aid kit in your studio just in case there’s a mishap that must be attended to immediately.
As your fascination with this hobby increases in direct proportion to your skills, you’re going to find yourself adding some rather unorthodox items to your inventory because they have the potential to add distinct patterns and embellishments to your finished pieces, so leave room for those dental tools, pumpkin carving implements and crafty design touches other artists use that inspire your own designs. Just don’t be shocked when you find yourself so addicted to sleuthing out unique pottery tools, your friends refuse you shop with you!