Using clay to make pottery is nothing new – the art form has been around for thousands of years and is one of the oldest (and most practical) forms of art. Nothing beats the excitement of creating something that you can use every day out of what started out as a mound of dirt.
In this article, I will show you 3 easy ways you can start making pottery today, whether the purpose be for children and adolescents at a birthday party, or adults looking for a test run before taking a real ceramics class. I'll first give a bit of context to the art and then we'll dive right in!
Pottery is the ancient art form of making art from earthenware materials, namely porcelain, stoneware and terracotta clays. More simply, making pottery is the process of making pots such as cups, bowls, and vases from clay! The beauty of this art is that you can make a ball of clay turn into a masterpiece!
Check out this article for more info on the basics of clay for beginners >
Pottery is one of the most interesting arts to get involved in. The process that you must go through in order create a pot in a studio is complicated, yet rewarding. Not only that, but it has actually been proven to help boost self-esteem in children!
This guest article from PBS on how making art boosts self-esteem highlights proven ways that art is beneficial to children. These include reasons such as:
- Instilling pride in kids.
- Developing life skills.
- Increases test scores in the classroom.
Another article from Parents.com explains 6 ways to inspire creativity at home when encouraging your children to participate in art programs. The article notes how allowing children to be creative in how they explore art forms is crucial to development. My personal favorite exerpt from this article is the first rule:
"Prepare for a mess. Set up an art space where your kid can be free to experiment (and get messy!). Throw a drop cloth or a newspaper on top of your kitchen table or in the garage. If weather permits, let kids paint [or make pottery] outside."
I'd argue that while pottery can definitely be messy, the one advantage it has is that it won't stain your kids clothes unless you use acryllic paints to decorate your pots afterward. Just food for thought ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ceramics and pottery-making in a real studio is a long and involved process - but it doesn't have to be! In this post about throwing a pot on the potter's wheel and this post about glazing and firing your pots, I outline the the process and steps that must occur for beginners who are looking to take their pottery a bit more seriously in the studio, but today there are tons of awesome in-home kits that are able to be used so easily!
The aim of this site is to show how amazing of an art form pottery can be, and also show just how easy it is to set up at home nowadays. Today, we can bring the materials and equipment from at least 15 items down to just 4 or 5 with in home kits.
Now that you know enough about pottery and are excited to get started, lets jump in!
3 Ways to get started
The absolute #1 easiest way to get started at home is by using one of the many amazing products out there on the web. Pottery has always been a bit of a niche market, but has since grown to be a more popular industry with millenials being the driving force behind this. There are some incredible kits on Amazon and other sites that allow kids and parents (phew!) to bypass using an expensive kiln or expensive and messy paints that you have to buy separately.
Here are a list of the top 3 pottery sets for kids, which I talk more about in this blog post with more in depth rankings and reviews.
This pottery kit is one of the best on Amazon at the moment. It averages 4.2 Stars out of 5 which is very good for pottery kits. This one is slightly more expensive than some of the others at ~$60 dollars, but as my mother used to say, "if you buy cheap, you buy twice!"
What it comes with: Kit includes pottery wheel, 3 pounds of clay, 6 piece tool set, craft apron, table cover, 12 pots of paint, glaze, sponge, 2 paint brushes, illustrated instructions and idea book.
The Cool Maker set is another really good set. While it has a slightly lower rating on Amazon at 3.8 stars out of 5, it does have about 80 more ratings than the Faber-Castell set and also goes for about $20 less (~$40)!
What it comes with: 1 Cool Maker Pottery Studio, 1 Spray Bottle, 1 Tool Holder, 2lbs of Clay, 1 Paint Brush, 2 Sculpting Tools, 2 Coring Tools, 2 Sleeves, 10 Colors of Metallic Paint, 1 Playbook Instruction Guide
While this pottery set is not a pottery wheel, this is a great way to get uber-beginners into clay. Specifically, this might be good for small children who may like using clay but don't like to get too messy, or who prefer making wearable jewelry and bracelets as opposed to functional and decorative cups and vases. This set has earned an unreal 4.4 stars out of 5 out of over 500 reviews which is truly incredible. The amazing thing about this set is that it comes with a 60 page instructional book that is easy to read and super informative for parents and kids.
What it comes with: 9 colors of clay, charm bracelet, clay shaping tool, glaze with brush applicator, jump rings, charm loops, drying and display stand, and includes a 60 page instructional book with Klutz certified crystal-clear instructions.
Another way that you can easily get yourself or your kids (or both!) involved in pottery is by going to a studio and taking classes. This takes the mess away from the home and you don't have to worry about getting materials or tools as they are all provided. It's also a great way to meet fellow pottery enthusiasts and gain inspiration from watching and making pottery alongside seasoned veterans. The only downside is that these classes can be a bit pricier than in-home kits - but well worth it!
In these blog posts I go over the best pottery classes for kids in detail for Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. - three places I've lived in my life, but in this section I'll show you 2 amazing studios you can check out here in Boston if you are fortunate enough to be local!
ADDRESS: 60 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478
Indigo Fire Studio is one of the more reviewed pottery studios in Boston on Google and it's well respected by real potters. While this studio is a bit stricter on the age requirements for students to get on the potter's wheel (age 8+), it is as close as you can have your kids feel like they are real potters! Furthermore, they do offer handbuilding courses that some younger kids can take advantage of. Here are some more details that they list on their site on their classes:
All classes are $275. (except when noted)
All classes are 2 hours long and meet once a week for 6 consecutive weeks.
Min. age is 8 years old for a Pottery Class.
Pottery Wheel students receive ‘Studio Privileges’ during the session which allows you to practice in the studio whenever the studio is open and the wheels are available.
Students under 14 need an adult in the studio when they come in to practice.
2.) Mudflat Studios
ADDRESS: 81 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145
Mudflat studios is an old establishment (started in 1971), but has a brand new beautiful space. The recently renovated space was updated for $3.8 million and has state of the art equipment. In addition to over 30 wheels in the studio, they also have space for over 19 practicing artists to rent studio space. This is the stuff that will really get your kids excited about coming in. The vibe in the studio is great, the teachers are awesome, and they even have classes for different age groups of kids so if you have younger and older kids they can have their own classes tailor-made for them!
>>Ages 5-8: Mudflat offers after-school and weekend classes for children, ages 5-8, as well as a Home School class for students in this same age group. These classes introduce children to the wonderful medium of clay. Varied and exciting projects using handbuilding techniques, including animals, sculptures, containers, tiles and more will be undertaken. Both directed projects and experimentation will be supported and encouraged as each child's skill evolves. Pieces will be glazed and fired.
>>Ages 8-12: Mudflat offers after-school and weekend classes for children ages 8-12, as well as a Home School class for students in this same age group. Children will be introduced to wheelthrowing methods of working with clay. They will learn to create forms such as bowls and mugs and to decorate and glaze their finished pieces. Students will be encouraged to explore their own ideas on the wheel and use handbuilding techniques to enhance their work.
>>Teens 12+: Mudflat offers an after-school class for teens, ages 12 and up, as well as a class for Home School students in this same age group. Learn basic handbuilding and wheelthrowing skills and glazing techniques while working independently in a supportive atmosphere with other teens. Students will be encouraged to explore their own ideas while learning about the possibilities of clay. Examples of past student projects include functional tableware, imaginative sculpture and ceramic jewelry.
Pottery for beginners of older ages have considerably less options than kids do. Bigger kids and adults most certainly would not be suited for the simple wheels that are sold on Amazon. Therefore, the only real way to get involved without committing to a high-priced wheel at home would be to take courses at your local college or independent studio. If you then decide that you'd like to have a wheel at home, you can buy a simple, desktop wheel such as one like this from Amazon. While this is decently pricey, compared to normal wheels that go for *minimum* $800, this isn't too bad. Also, you could test the waters of Craigslist to see if you can find a cheap one instead.
Given this, rather than suggest products, I will show you a couple very useful resources that can help you along in your journey to put yourself up a leg on other beginners and so you don't feel completely useless when first starting out like I did!
The first good resource that you should definitely check out is this guide I wrote up on throwing a pot on the wheel. This will go over the basic steps needed in order to get started. If you give this a read and also take a look at this excellent video, this will give you a ton of context and give you a certain leg up when starting out:
The second key for throwing a pot here that kind of builds on top of the video and my guide is this step-by-step picture guide from Lakeside Pottery. I've scoured the internet for guides on how to throw and while YouTube videos definitely help, having to pause and rewind may not be the most user friendly way to go about this. This picture guide is one of the best and most accurate guides out there and with my overall summary, YouTube videos for context, and picture guide for comparison of steps, you will be more than equipped to succeed moving forward.
Now that you've gotten the low down on pottery for your kids and for beginners, it always helps to strive toward something so you can draw inspiration and mesh together/imitate many styles. I've put together a gallery of some of my favorite ceramic pieces of my own as well as some pieces that I absolutely love from other potters around the globe. Take a look and good luck getting started!