Hope you are doing well and reading this in good health :)
Let's talk about a topic that has recently become very popular In Bangalore, and the rest of India since a few years. ‘How to set up your very own pottery home studio!'
Even though most of you have taken short workshops or courses, maybe have done several months of pottery at a school, when you want to relocate the setup in your home, it seems like a daunting task.
One of the main reasons this being a difficult task is due to space constraints in most residential homes, the difficulty of allotting an entire room to pottery, and more so, because information on pottery is very scattered. We sometimes cant find the right tools, don’t know if the pricing makes sense, which one to choose as a beginner and which tools should we buy just to get started.
To take up pottery as a craft or a serious hobby or a profession, is a tad bit more expensive to start with, than most craft forms that I've come across. Which is why it's not wise to buy a whole lot of equipments or tools in the beginning. You want to buy the absolute basics, work your way around limitations, get creative with some homemade tools and then invest a little by little.
So let's dive right in and talk about what tools and equipments you need to setup your basic studio at home without taking up too much space, spending too much money and something can last you for years to come.
Heres a video that summarises the contents of this blogpost which you can refer to while you reading or separately.
Lets break down our setup into five parts-
- The Throwing Station
- Wedging Area
- Tool Collection
- Clay Segregation & Storage
- Recycling Of Clay
THE THROWING STATION
*Throwing is a term used for working on the potters wheel.
For beginners, we would recommend buying 25-50kg of terracotta clay (some countries- earthenware) or stoneware clay to start with.
Terracotta clay or earthenware is easier to work with, less fussy, does not need glazing, is cheaper and fires to lower temperatures of around 900-1100 degrees. At the same time, its red in colour due to the iron oxide in it and can stain your walls, floors, wooden surfaces. It is harder to clean.
Stoneware Clay is also pretty good for beginners, its grey or white in colour, needs to be glazed in order to use it, is slightly more expensive than terracotta, fires to 1200-1250 degrees. It’s as good to work with on the wheel and does not stain your space like terracotta does.
With these pointers in mind, plus the costing and maybe what you’ve already learnt in your pottery classes, you can make a decision on which clay to buy.
Note - As you will have to recycle your clay which needs a few buckets and a considerable amount of space, don’t buy two different kinds of clay, or the same kind of clay from different suppliers as no two clays should get mixed together. Stick to one clay for as long as possible, or expand into more when you have more space.
Where can you buy this in India?
*These are the three suppliers which ship all over India, and have a variety of various types of clay and sell in small quantities. You will see me giving you links from these three suppliers in the rest of this post. Do check them out for future buys too :)
2. The Pottery Wheel
This is your main equipment and the biggest investment to start with (that is if you are not buying a kiln). Pottery wheels come in three types-
- The Manual Kick Wheel
- The Electric Wheel (Most Popular)
- The Traditional Hand Wheel
The Kick wheel is my personal favourite, which works simply through kicking, without any Electrcity, giving you a decent work out and lets you sit in good posture, reducing back pain.
It does take up a lot of space and is heavier that the other wheels.
It’s manufacturer is in Delhi, India (That’s the only one I know off as of now).
If you’d like to get one of these made, email us at email@example.com and I'll send you the contact.
Cost- Approximate Rs.15,000/- with transportation (I got it shipped from Delhi to Bangalore at this cost) so it’ll be lesser or more for you according to where you stay.
The Electric Wheel is way easier to work with, lightweight, works on normal household switches, doesn’t consume too much electricity.
It does has a mechanical feel to it, a tedious task to clean if you want to clean every time you sit on the wheel and is more expensive that the other wheels.
I recommend the Shimpo RK-55 Wheel, a good model to start with, which also continues to an intermediate and advanced level. So you wouldn’t need to invest in a bigger one until you start throwing with more than 7-10 kgs clay ball at a time.
*Make sure you set up your workspace next to a plug point and get an extension cord.
Where can you buy?
- Bhoomi Pottery
- You can also find local brands on amazon who sell electric wheels, though I haven’t used them nor I know anyone who has, but they are cheaper and worth giving a shot.
The Traditional Hand Wheel
This wheel is normally used by Indian Local potters, who sometimes sell too. They cost around Rs.6000/- Rs.10,000/- These wheels are harder to use, and if you’ve learnt with the local potters, you might find it easier to find and use.
3. Adjustable Stool
When we work on the wheel for long hours, sometimes we get back pains just by sitting at an incorrect height. Also, for bigger quantities of clay, I prefer to sit a little higher to able to apply more body strength while working on the wheel.
For this reason, an adjustable stool for the wheel is necessary, so you don’t have to worry about changing your stools in the future.
I recommend the Shimpo Adjustable Stool.
Where can you buy it?
4. Basic Pottery Tool Kit for Throwing
There’s a basic toolkit that’s available all over the world on amazon, Ali Express, Itsy Bitsy Craft Stores, Stationary shops. This kit has 8 tools in it which will last you for years, can be used by beginners to advanced potters and is super cheap.
It includes the wire tool, sponge, two wooden ribs, aluminium rib, needle tool, two trimming tools.
It usually is sold for Rs.265/- on amazon, Rs.300-Rs.350/- in stationary and craft stores, and some online brands. Some manufacturers make the wood a little darker and make it more expensive. So you can choose your own :)
We also sell this tool kit for our clay jams. Besides the toolkit, we also include a kg of terracotta clay that’s used in our clay jams, a canvas board to work on, and a personalised pouch for the tools :)
You can buy it here!
- Slow Pottery
Bats are removable discs made of varying size and material, most commonly made in wood or MDF material. The size that you will need, is the size of the wheel head of your pottery wheel.
They have varying uses in a pottery studio and we recommend buying 3-5 pieces.
The main purpose of bats is to attach them onto the wheel head using screws or clay, making a pot directly on the bat and lifting off the bat when you’re done, without disturbing the pot.
Where can you buy them?
We have given here a link of a bat size that works for the Shimpo RK-55 electric wheel but you can also find other sizes from the supplier you bought your wheel from.
6. A Side Stool
This can be a small stool, a table or anything that you have handy around the house. It’s main function is that you can place a bat on top and put your freshly thrown pots on. You don’t want to get up from your wheel every time you make a pot. So keep a stool/table on the side so you can keep you pieces, a cup of tea, your phone, whatever you need. This can be custom made as seen in our video, or use what you have at home :)
7. Water Bowl
You need a water bowl to do any kind of pottery. Plastic water bowls are the most convenient as they are light and as you don’t need to buy this over and over again.
Find a size that can hold two-three mugs of water so you have ample space to dip your hands in and at the same can be used for handbuilding, making handles etc
You can buy this from any plastic shop, home centre. We found a lovely white bowl from MUJI, as you know how hard it is to find a white plastic in local stores in India!
8. Apron & Hand Towel
This is so you keep your clothes clean and have a washcloth to wipe your hands when they get too mucky in between different tasks.
Get a canvas/denim/cotton apron with a slit in the centre so it covers your thighs when you sit on the potters wheel.
You can make do with a cloth on your lap or with a cooking apron, but they aren’t very functional and sustainable.
You will always need a set of washcloths handy around the studio and a main hand towel that you can keep close to yourself.
Where can you buy them?
- Sara Shop
- We’ll be selling gorgeous denim and cotton ones super soon :)
THE WEDGING AREA
1. The Wedging Table
Wedging is the process of preparing clay, removing air bubbles. During the preparation, sometimes we also need a spot for drying out very moist clay or adding in water to hard clay, mixing different ingredients to clay etc
For all of these purposes, we need a wedging table that’s made of hardwood that can take a lot of pounding, as we throw/slam around 10-20kgs of clay easily. The wood also needs to be water resistant as a lot of moisture goes constantly into the wood.
I recommend a custom wedging table made by a carpenter, made of marine ply/rubber wood or any other water resistant wood you know off. In a custom make, you also get to determine the height which suits you, so you aren’t bending too low or feeling too short for the table.
As we work with 5-10kgs at a time, the right height is very important to avoid any pains during this process.
When clay is very soft, we also need a spot on the table that’s covered with a basic white canvas cloth so excess moisture can be absorbed. Make sure the canvas is properly attached to the wood.
For those of you who would like a more portable option due to space issues or anything else, there are also wedging boards available that you can place on a normal table and use. The table at the bottom still needs to be strong. Some people also place these boards on the ground to wedge :)
Where can you buy them?
2. Weigh Scale
- To weigh out your clay to make pots. Ideal practice is to always to weigh your clay before making anything.
Where can you buy them?
Heres a simple one on amazon.
3. Bowl & Scraper
When we prepare clay, we leave a lot of dry bits of clay behind which can get mixed in our clay. Make sure to clean your wedging area with a scraper and collect the dry bits in a bowl which can be later added to the dry clay area.
The scraper we use is the painters metal scraper normally found at hardware stores.
For a bowl, any will do :)
1. Banding Wheel
A Banding wheel is basically a disc that rotates on a stem or base in varying sizes and material.
This is the same kind of tool that’s used for baking as well. In pottery, you can use them for handbuilding, decoration techniques, trimming etc
Where can you buy it?
- Clay station
- You can also find simple plastic ones on amazon that are sold for baking, though they aren’t strong enough for advanced projects.
2. Slab Roller & Guides
This is used to roll out slabs of clay which is popularly used in handbuilding projects and sometimes in combination with wheel thrown pots. It’s good to have a set in the studio.
The slab roller is a solid wooden pin which rolls out the clay, The guides are what the roller rolls on so the thickness of the clay stays consistent. Which is why potters usually have different thicknesses of guides for different projects.
We have custom made sticks made by a woodworker. You can either get them made or buy them online from the link below.
Where can you buy them?
3. Plastic Bags & Newspapers
- Plastic Bags are used to keep clay in so they don’t dry out, also used to cover pots that you’ve made. You can keep a few thick plastic bags to keep clay balls and some thin garbage plastic bags to cover pots. They can be washed regularly and used over a long period of time.
- Newspapers are handy and useful for different tasks. Keep a small lot in the studio.
4. Other tools
While you explore different techniques, glaze application, bigger pots, you will invariably buy lots of tools. The kinds are endless. At the same time, instead of hoarding lots and not using them well, buy tools as and when you come across its usage. Even better, do try using tools around you, in your kitchen, at a toy store, nature like pebbles, leaves, sticks, branches, seeds, flowers, cookie cutters etc
CLAY SEGREGATION & STORAGE
In order to be a potter, have a small studio and maybe even have a full blown studio one day, you have to be very proper about clay segregation and storage to avoid impurities getting mixed up. It’s important to reuse the clay as a lot of it becomes slurry or clay water and you don’t want to waste precious clay.
How do you go about doing this?
We usually find clay in three forms in most basic studios.
- Ready Clay - This is the clay ready to be used.
- Dry Clay - Dry clay could come from pots that you didn’t want to keep, so you break them into small pieces once they’ve dried out, or trim shavings, clay that you accidentally didn’t store in your packet which is now dry or any other reason.
- Slurry - Slurry is basically all the clay that comes off while we throw on the wheel, and goes into the water bowl. Its liquid clay or clay water. We don’t throw it out in the drain, its stored separately and recycled back into clay.
- You want to buy three different buckets with lids - size around 9L and above according to how much clay you use up on a daily basis. Store clay in different forms in them, keep the lid on and don’t let dust come in. These could be placed indoors or outdoors according to your setup.
Once you’ve segregated your clay and stored it properly, according to your daily usage and quantity stored, you might want to schedule a recycling day.
Note - As your clay quantities increase, this process becomes physically demanding, and you might want to ask for help, if you have any issues/injuries.
The process of recycling will be covered in a separate video and blogpost. In the meanwhile I'll tell you what you need to buy and keep ready before you start the process.
Recycling is done in a lot of different ways especially when people have ample space for their studio/farms/backyards. This kind of recycling that we have mentioned here suits most people who have space constraints.
- A flat plastic tub. A tub with a large surface area at the bottom and is not too deep or heavy.
- Plaster of Paris - minimum 5 kgs
- Hammer - To pound dry clay for recycling.
By using the above materials, we’ll be making a spot for the clay to be dried out. The plaster of Paris absorbs the water from the clay, making the recycling process quicker.
The process of making it and recycling the clay will be covered in a different video and blog post!
So there you go guys, this is the shopping list. Go on and get your materials while we make the next video of recycling your clay :)
Do let us know your queries in the comments below!