How to Learn Pottery Cheaply, at Home

Pottery became a trend about a year after I started to learn and a lot of that was thanks to the BBC’s Great British Pottery Throwdown.  What I found at the time of my learning was that there were limited opportunities for classes in the UK and that what was available was somewhat costly and often over-subscribed.

After learning the very basic fundamentals, I decided I could do better on my own, in my own space, with my own wheel and as much clay as my household would allow (which still isn’t enough).  My advice to anyone wanting to learn on a budget would be to find a second hand kick wheel online.  I found mine on Gumtree for just over £100.  Note, though, that kickwheels are hefty, big objects.  If you don’t have the space for one, the cheapest portable wheel available to the UK is the Shimpo Aspire, at over £600 if you get the pedal rather than the handle (get the pedal!!!)… if you have the tools, though,you can make yourself a wheel at a fraction of the cost:

Then you want a thrower’s starter pack (ribs, sponge, throwing stick, basic trim tools), a cut off wire, and some clay.  The cheapest source of clay in the UK is Potterycrafts, which is even cheaper if you can get to Stoke and go to them directly.

As far as learning goes, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of throwing tutorials on YouTube.  I’m of the opinion that Simon Leach is the best teacher among these tutorials.  A lot of the videos purporting to be How To videos are actually just someone silently throwing, but Simon’s take you through step by step and were instrumental in getting me from hollowed out lumps of clay, to actual pots.  Here are two of his most useful beginner videos:

Showing the individual stages, hand movements, and evolutionary shapes of the form is so useful.

I would always recommend doing a throwing course at some stage  – but using vids like these should help get you over the beginners’ stage a lot more quickly.  It really is a steep learning curve but once you get over it, there’s no stopping you!