5 Ways to Learn Pottery

Pottery Making at Home and Online

Here are 5 ways to learn pottery making at home without a traditional ceramic class. Whether you live in NYC, Bangalore, Melbourne, Delhi, or Idaho, learning pottery online is possible with the right knowledge and these tips. You just need some form of a teacher and the right tools.

What is Your Biggest Pottery Frustration?

Let's be honest, pottery can be really hard sometimes. We all have our own difficulties, but by sharing them we can also help each other to overcome them.

Let me know what's frustrating you so I can make this website more and more helpful to you and others who are struggling.

I try to create a post about every comment with all the tips and encouragement I can offer. If you include your email, I'll let you know when it is available to view. (I don't publish your email)

What Other Visitors Have Said

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Bung Bowls 
Hi There! I have just discovered your site as I was looking for a solution to the valley I always seem to get when shaping my bowls. I am not sure what …

Do I need to use bats on my pottery wheel or can I do pottery without them? Not rated yet
Question: I can't find any websites that tell me whether or not I do. All I can find are links telling me about all the different types of bats that I …

centering the bottom 1/2 inch of clay Not rated yet
Dave: I seem to be able to center the clay just fine, except for the bottom part. Drives me crazy. Steve: You're definitely not alone there! I …

Crazing Problems Not rated yet
Hi Steve, I have crazing of my glaze a couple of weeks after firing. I am using a white earthenware clay which has good plasticitity-fires between …

Myself and Glazing! Not rated yet
Why is it that I sometimes HURRY at the end of a glazing cycle and take short cuts or get sloppy? It always results in a WTF moment and disaster! Not …

Pottery Is Way Harder Than It Looks Not rated yet
My first impression of pottery making was that it was going to be this free-flowing, easy, creative process. Then I tried to make a pot and my impression …

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The following story is about a student of mine who took three two-hour group pottery classes.

Those are all the classes she took, and she went on to become an exceptional potter.

She now creates large amounts of absolutely beautiful pottery with some of her own gorgeous glaze combinations.

She even sells it at craft shows.

Is it because I'm such an awesome teacher?

Well, I'd like to think that, but NO, that isn't the reason!

She doesn't even make her pottery on the wheel, which is what I teach. In fact, she HANDBUILDS EVERYTHING, and I didn't teach her how to do that!

It's a little embarrassing to admit that, but the point to my story is that she essentially taught herself. She taught herself by using patience, practice and a few good reference books.

That means you can too. Pick the learning style that is right for you, and stick with it until you learn to make the pottery that you've been dreaming of making.

With that being said, here are some great ways to learn to make pottery at home....

1) Use This Website

I think this goes without saying! This site is loaded with information about supplies and tools, wheel throwing, and even a 10 step ceramics class with videos that take you from holding a ball of clay to throwing a pot.

If you can't find something here, use the tabs in the left hand column or use the Site Search button to search this site for it. If you still can't find it, use the Contact Me button and I'll be glad to help.

2) Find Local Classes

This is a route commonly taken. I believe in it. I have spent many years teaching community pottery classes to adults and kids.

There are huge benefits to taking a pottery class in person.... - A group setting can be fun and dynamic.

- You meet new people and make connections to the pottery world.

- You see live demonstrations and usually receive one-on-one instruction.

- You can often get additional studio time, access to firing, and even different types of glazing opportunities at a school.

However, there are a few drawbacks.... - The classes are frequently too short, which doesn't allow you time to master the skill. (You need 10-20 lessons to really learn pottery well enough to feel confident with it, so if you can, take a longer class or multiple classes.)

- They are usually expensive, but can be well worth the money if you can afford it.

- You can't take the teacher (or the equipment) with you when you leave. (I have seen many students quit making pottery as soon as they were on their own, because when they tried to throw without the teacher they suddenly forgot everything they had learned and had no one to ask for directions.)

3) Buy a Good How-to Book

This is a great idea regardless of whether you use this site or take a class.

Books are inexpensive and loaded with good information.

A good how-to book (like the one to the right) can be kept close at hand near your wheel to refer to any time you are needing guidance.

If you are patient and self-directed, you can learn to make pottery quite well just from one good book.

Add in a few videos or live demonstrations to aid with seeing the process in motion and you can learn pottery at home.

4) Buy an Instructional DVD

If you're like me, you learn pottery better by actually seeing it done. A video is a great way to see the process unfold in real time.

By mimicking the hand positions and techniques of a good potter, you can pick up excellent throwing skills and learn pottery in a short amount of time. The internet has an abundance of incredible videos that can help you to learn pottery.

5) Get "Adopted" by a Potter

This is one of my favorite ways to learn pottery, and it's extremely effective. It's also harder to pull off.

However, the idea is simple. The best way to learn pottery is from someone who is already good at it. The problem is that when someone else is good at something you often have to pay them for their experience.

So, how do you get "adopted" by a potter? Your willingness to be creative is the only limit to that answer.



Here are a few ways that I have experienced learning from other potters myself, and I'll share a few other ideas too.

When I was in college I became the pottery studio work study. It was a low paying job requiring lots of physical labor stirring big buckets of slip. However, it put me in constant contact a woman who would become my favorite teacher.

Just by working around her I absorbed a lot of information about preparing clay, loading kilns, and mixing glazes that the other students missed out on in class. Eventually, I was put in charge of mixing the glazes for the classes and was really able to expand my skills. Plus, I was getting paid for the opportunity.

The first time I was inspired by pottery was at a junior high school friend's house. Her dad was an artist and he was friends with a potter. The potter had given him tons of pottery that the family used on a daily basis.

The cabinets were overflowing with his rustic, organic, unique pottery. Even though I never was "adopted" by the artist (we still don't know each other) some of his pots are still my strongest influences to this day.

So, what I really mean by getting "adopted" by a potter is to choose to put yourself in the path of potters and pottery in whatever way you can. I promise you'll be amazed at the opportunities and lessons that come with that choice.



What is your biggest frustration with learning pottery?

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This website was created by Steve McDonald. He is a writer, self-taught web designer, and lover of all things pottery. Connect with him on Google Plus.