Setting Up Your First Pottery Space

Table of Contents

The essentials include a dedicated area with good ventilation and easy-to-clean flooring. Equip the space with a potter’s wheel, kiln, sturdy work tables, and shelving for storing your creations. A basic tool kit with ribs, needle tools, and wire cutters is a must. Don’t forget to stock up on clay and glazes. Safety is paramount, so ensure you have a fire extinguisher and dust mask. Optional items like a slab roller or extruder can be added as you gain experience. Make sure to have adequate lighting and electrical outlets for your equipment.1

Here is my list of items and considerations you’ll need for setting up your first pottery space. The list is categorized into “Necessary” and “Optional” items for your convenience.

Necessary Items


  • Dedicated Area: A dedicated space for pottery, preferably with good ventilation.
  • Flooring: Easy-to-clean flooring like concrete or tiles.
  • Electricity: Access to electrical outlets for equipment.


  • Potter’s Wheel: Electric or kick wheel for throwing clay.
  • Kiln: Electric or gas kiln for firing pottery.
  • Work Tables: Sturdy tables for hand-building and glazing.
  • Shelving: Shelves for storing greenware and bisqueware.
  • Wedges: Wooden or plaster wedges for kneading clay.


  • Basic Tool Kit: Includes ribs, needle tool, wire cutter, and sponge.
  • Bats: Removable wheel heads.
  • Calipers: For measuring pots.


  • Clay: Choose based on your needs (e.g., stoneware, porcelain).
  • Glazes: Commercial or homemade glazes.
  • Slip: Liquid clay for joining pieces.


  • Ventilation: Ensure good airflow to disperse fumes and dust.
  • Fire Extinguisher: For safety near the kiln.
  • Dust Mask: To protect against clay dust.

Optional Items


  • Natural Light: Windows or skylights for natural lighting.
  • Sound System: For music or podcasts while you work.


  • Slab Roller: For rolling out large, even slabs of clay.
  • Extruder: For creating consistent shapes.
  • Pug Mill: For reclaiming and mixing clay.


  • Texture Mats: For adding texture to clay.
  • Specialty Ribs: For specific shapes and designs.


  • Underglazes: For adding color to greenware.
  • Oxides and Stains: For specialized coloring techniques.


  • Safety Goggles: For eye protection.
  • Apron: To keep clothes clean.

What is the Best Home Pottery Studio Setup for a Beginner?

By setting up a well-thought-out space with the essentials, you’ll create a conducive environment for learning and creativity. As you gain more experience, you can start adding more specialized tools and equipment.2

Space and Location

  • Choose a Space: A spare room, garage, or even a corner of your living room can work.
  • Ventilation: Make sure the space is well-ventilated for safety reasons.

Essential Equipment

  • Potter’s Wheel: A tabletop wheel is a good start for beginners.
  • Kiln: A small electric kiln is usually sufficient for beginners.
  • Work Table: A sturdy table for wedging clay and hand-building.
  • Shelving: For storing your works-in-progress and finished pieces.

Tools and Supplies

  • Basic Tool Kit: Includes ribs, needle tools, wire cutters, and a fettling knife.
  • Clay: Earthenware is usually recommended for beginners.
  • Glazes: Start with a few basic colors and types.

Safety Measures

  • Fire Extinguisher: Always have one near the kiln.
  • Dust Mask: For when you’re working with dry clay or glazes.

Optional but Helpful

  • Slab Roller: For those interested in slab building.
  • Extruder: Useful but not necessary for beginners.
  • Splash Pan: To keep your wheel area clean.

Learning Resources

  • Books and Tutorials: Invest in some beginner’s guides or online tutorials to get you started.

Budget Considerations

  • Start Small: You don’t have to buy everything at once. Start with the essentials and add on as you go.

How to Store Clay in Your New Home Studio

Storing clay properly is crucial to maintain its workability and longevity. Here are some tips:

For Unused Clay

  • Plastic Bags: Store unused clay in heavy-duty plastic bags, making sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Double Bagging: For extra protection, consider double bagging the clay.
  • Containers: Airtight plastic containers can also be used for storing clay. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.

For Works-in-Progress

  • Cloth and Plastic: Wrap your unfinished pieces in a damp cloth and then in a plastic bag to keep them from drying out.
  • Storage Bins: Place the wrapped pieces in a plastic storage bin with a lid for added protection.

For Reclaim Clay

  • Separate Buckets: Keep a bucket with a lid for clay scraps that you plan to reclaim. Add a little water to keep the scraps moist.

Environmental Conditions

  • Cool and Dry: Store your clay in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
  • Humidity: If you live in a very dry climate, consider storing your clay in a room with a humidifier to prevent it from drying out.


  • Date and Type: Always label your clay with the date of purchase and the type of clay to keep track of its age and to ensure you’re using the right clay for each project.

The Pottery-Making Process from Start to Finish

Step 1: Choose Your Clay

Select the type of clay that suits your project. Earthenware is easier to mold but more porous. Stoneware and porcelain are denser and have high heat tolerance.

Step 2: Wedging the Clay

Knead the clay to eliminate air bubbles and achieve a uniform consistency. This prepares the clay for shaping.

Step 3: Choose a Pottery Making Technique

Decide on the technique you’ll use: throwing on a wheel, coiling, or pinch pot. Each has its own set of skills and final aesthetics.

Step 4: Crafting the Pot

Use your chosen technique to shape the clay into your desired form. Make sure the walls are uniformly thick to avoid cracks during firing.

Step 5: Trimming and Decorating

Once the clay is leather-hard, you can trim excess clay and add decorations using underglazes, slips, or sculpting tools.

Step 6: Bisque Firing

Let your piece dry completely, then bisque fire it in a kiln. This first firing removes all moisture and makes the clay more porous, ready for glazing.

Step 7: Glazing

Apply glaze to the bisque-fired piece. You can dip, brush, pour, or spray the glaze, depending on the effect you want.

Step 8: Glaze Firing

Load your glazed piece into the kiln for the final firing. The temperature will depend on the type of clay and glaze you’ve used.

Additional Tips

  • If you make a mistake, you can recycle the clay.
  • Make sure the clay is bone dry before any firing to prevent cracks.

Final Step: Admire Your Work!

Once the piece has cooled down, it’s time to admire your handiwork. Whether it’s a simple mug or a complex sculpture, the process is rewarding.

Recommended Pottery Wheel for Beginners

For beginners, an electric pottery wheel is often recommended due to its ease of use and control. Electric wheels come with variable speed settings, allowing you to adjust the wheel’s speed to your comfort level. This is particularly helpful for those who are still learning to center and shape the clay.

Another advantage of electric wheels is their compact size, making them suitable for small spaces or home studios. They are also relatively quieter than kick wheels, providing a more focused and peaceful working environment.

Brands like Shimpo, Brent, and Speedball Artista offer beginner-friendly models that are not only reliable but also reasonably priced. These wheels are designed with the novice in mind, offering features like splash pans to keep the work area clean, and sturdy construction for long-lasting use.

In summary, an electric pottery wheel is a great investment for beginners because of its user-friendly features, speed control, and suitability for small spaces.

Cost-Effectiveness of a Small Electric Kiln vs. Outsourcing Bigger Projects

The decision to invest in a small electric kiln for your home studio or to outsource bigger projects depends on several factors:

  1. Volume of Work: If you’re planning to produce a large volume of pottery or ceramics, having your own kiln could be more cost-effective in the long run.
  2. Type of Projects: Small electric kilns are great for smaller items but may not be suitable for large or complex pieces. If your focus is on bigger projects, outsourcing might be a better option.
  3. Initial Investment: Kilns are a significant investment. Besides the kiln itself, you’ll need to consider installation costs, including electrical work and ventilation.
  4. Operating Costs: Electricity costs can add up, especially for high-firing kilns. Gas kilns are generally more cost-effective for larger operations but are more complex to install and operate.
  5. Space: Kilns require a safe, well-ventilated space. Make sure you have enough room in your home studio.
  6. Skill Level: Operating a kiln requires some expertise. If you’re not comfortable with this, outsourcing could be a safer choice.
  7. Convenience: Having a kiln at home is undoubtedly more convenient and allows you greater control over your projects.
  8. Outsourcing Costs: Check the costs of outsourcing kiln services in your area. Sometimes, local studios offer kiln rentals at reasonable rates.

Important Considerations for Setting Up a Clay Sink Trap

  1. Location: Choose a spot that’s easily accessible but won’t interfere with your workflow. It should be near your main work area but not so close that it becomes a hindrance.
  2. Plumbing Compatibility: Make sure the trap you choose is compatible with your existing plumbing. You may need to consult with a professional to ensure proper installation.
  3. Size and Capacity: The trap should be large enough to handle the amount of clay and sediment you expect to produce. A small trap will require frequent cleaning, which can be cumbersome.
  4. Material: Opt for durable materials that can withstand the corrosive nature of clay and glazes. Stainless steel is a good option.
  5. Ease of Cleaning: The trap should be easy to disassemble for cleaning. Some traps have removable buckets or screens that make this process simpler.
  6. Water Flow: Ensure that the trap doesn’t slow down the sink’s drainage. A poorly designed trap can lead to water backup and other plumbing issues.
  7. Environmental Concerns: A clay trap helps prevent clay and other materials from entering the water system, which is beneficial for the environment. Make sure your trap is effective in capturing these materials.
  8. Budget: While it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, remember that a good-quality trap is a long-term investment that will save you time and effort in the long run.
  9. Local Regulations: Check if there are any local building codes or regulations that you need to comply with when installing a sink trap.
  10. Installation: While some artists opt for DIY installation, hiring a professional ensures that the trap is installed correctly, thereby preventing future issues.

Safety Precautions When Working with Clay in Your New Space

  1. Ventilation: Ensure good airflow in your workspace to disperse airborne particles and fumes from glazes or other chemicals.
  2. Dust Control: Clay dust can be harmful when inhaled. Use a damp sponge to clean surfaces and consider investing in an air purifier.
  3. Chemical Storage: Store glazes and other chemicals in clearly labeled, sealed containers away from food and drink areas.
  4. Protective Gear: Wear a mask when handling powdery materials, gloves when dealing with chemicals, and protective eyewear when necessary.
  5. Fire Safety: Keep a fire extinguisher accessible, especially if you have a kiln in your studio. Know how to use it and check it regularly to ensure it’s functional.
  6. Electrical Safety: Make sure all electrical outlets and equipment are in good condition. Avoid using extension cords for high-wattage equipment like kilns.
  7. Slip Hazards: Clay and water can make floors slippery. Use non-slip mats around your work area and clean spills immediately.
  8. Tool Safety: Keep sharp tools organized and out of reach when not in use. Always cut away from yourself and keep your hands behind the cutting edge.
  9. Heavy Lifting: Use proper lifting techniques when moving heavy bags of clay or equipment. Consider using a trolley or asking for help.
  10. First Aid: Keep a first aid kit handy for minor injuries. Know the location of the nearest emergency room and have a list of emergency contact numbers.
  11. Child and Pet Safety: If children or pets have access to your studio, make sure that all hazardous materials and tools are out of their reach.
  12. Noise Levels: Prolonged exposure to noise from equipment like potters’ wheels or mixers can be harmful. Consider using ear protection.

Ventilation System for Small Electric Kiln in Home Studio

If you’re planning to use a small electric kiln in your home studio, proper ventilation is crucial for both safety and the quality of your pottery. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Downdraft Ventilation System: This is the most recommended type of ventilation for electric kilns. It pulls fumes and heat from the kiln and vents it outside, ensuring a cleaner and safer workspace.
  2. CFM Rating: Make sure the ventilation system has an adequate Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) rating to handle the size of your kiln. A higher CFM is generally better for more effective ventilation.
  3. Ductwork: Use metal ductwork to channel the fumes outside. The duct should be as straight and short as possible to maximize efficiency.
  4. Exhaust Fan: An exhaust fan can be installed near the kiln to help disperse heat and fumes. However, this is generally less effective than a downdraft system.
  5. Window Vent: If a more complex system isn’t feasible, placing the kiln near a window and using a window fan can provide a minimum level of ventilation, but this is far less ideal.
  6. Professional Installation: For safety reasons, it’s advisable to have the ventilation system professionally installed. This ensures that it meets all safety codes and is operating efficiently.
  7. Regular Maintenance: Once installed, make sure to clean and check the system regularly for any blockages or inefficiencies.
  8. Local Building Codes: Always check your local building codes and regulations before installing any ventilation system. Some areas may have specific requirements that you need to follow.

Optimizing Storage Space with a Small Shelving Unit

  1. Vertical Space: Utilize the vertical space by adding more shelves, if possible. This allows you to store more items without taking up additional floor space.
  2. Adjustable Shelves: Opt for shelving units with adjustable heights. This way, you can customize each shelf to fit different types of supplies and equipment.
  3. Bins and Containers: Use clear storage bins or containers to keep smaller items organized. Label each bin for easy identification.
  4. Frequently Used Items: Keep the most frequently used items on the middle shelves for easy access. Less frequently used items can go on the top or bottom shelves.
  5. Rolling Carts: If the shelving unit has wheels, it can be easily moved around for cleaning or reorganization. If not, consider adding caster wheels.
  6. Wall-Mounted Pegboards: Use the wall space above or beside the shelving unit to install a pegboard. This can hold tools, brushes, and other small items.
  7. Drawer Inserts: If your shelving unit has drawers, use drawer dividers or inserts to keep smaller items organized.
  8. Lazy Susan: For items like glazes or small tools, a Lazy Susan can be a space-saving and convenient option.
  9. Foldable Supplies: Items like drop cloths, aprons, or even certain types of equipment that are foldable can be stored in flat bins to save space.
  10. Inventory Check: Regularly go through your supplies to get rid of or donate items you no longer use. This will free up space for items you actually need.
  11. Multi-Functional Furniture: If possible, opt for furniture that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a work table with built-in storage can provide additional space.
  12. Safety: Make sure the shelving unit is secure and won’t tip over, especially if you’re storing heavy items. Wall anchors can provide extra stability.

Additional Tips That Can Help You Make The Most Of Your First Pottery Space

  1. Lighting: Good lighting is crucial. Natural light is ideal, but you can also invest in high-quality, adjustable lighting to ensure you can work any time of day.
  2. Flooring: Consider easy-to-clean flooring like concrete or tiles. Clay and glaze spills are bound to happen, and you’ll want a surface that’s easy to maintain.
  3. Electrical Outlets: Make sure you have enough electrical outlets for your wheel, kiln, and any other electrical equipment. An electrician can help you set up a dedicated circuit if needed.
  4. Workspace Flow: Think about the flow of your workspace. Place equipment and supplies in a way that minimizes the need to move around too much, making your crafting process more efficient.
  5. Temperature Control: If possible, invest in a heating or cooling system to make your space comfortable year-round. Temperature can also affect how clay dries, so it’s an important consideration.
  6. Inspiration Board: Create an area where you can pin up sketches, photos, or anything that inspires you. It’s a small touch that can make a big difference in your creative process.
  7. First Aid Kit: Safety first! Keep a first aid kit handy, especially if you’re working with tools and hot equipment.
  8. Community: Consider joining online forums or local pottery communities. The advice and camaraderie can be invaluable, especially when you’re just starting out.
  9. Budget: Keep track of your expenses. Starting a pottery space can be costly, so it’s good to know where your money is going and where you might be able to save.
  10. Documentation: Keep a journal or digital notes on your projects, glazes used, kiln temperatures, and outcomes. This will help you learn faster from both successes and failures.
  11. Test Runs: Before diving into big projects, do some test runs to get used to your new setup. This will help you identify any changes you need to make to your space or process.
  12. Enjoy the Process: Last but not least, enjoy the journey. You’re creating a space to make art, so make sure it’s a place where you feel inspired and happy.

Here Are Two Thought-Provoking Questions For Discussion That Explore The Deeper Aspects Of Setting Up Your First Pottery Space

Question 1: How does the physical layout and organization of your pottery space influence your creative process and artistic output?

The physical layout and organization of a pottery space can have a profound impact on both the creative process and artistic output. Here are my aspects I wish you to consider:

Influence on the Creative Process

  1. Flow of Movement: A well-organized space allows for an efficient flow of movement from one station to another (wheel to table to kiln), which can make the creative process more fluid and less interrupted.
  2. Mental Clarity: A clean, organized space can help foster focus and mental clarity, which are crucial for artistic creativity. Clutter can be distracting and may impede the creative process.
  3. Accessibility: Having tools and materials easily accessible can encourage experimentation and spontaneity, which are often integral to the creative process.
  4. Inspiration: The aesthetic qualities of the space itself, lighting, color, decorations, can serve as inspiration and influence the mood of the artist.

Influence on Artistic Output

  1. Quality: A well-organized, functional space enables better quality work by reducing errors that might occur due to misplaced tools or insufficient workspace.
  2. Quantity: Efficiency gains from a well-planned space can lead to increased productivity, allowing for more pieces to be created in a shorter amount of time.
  3. Complexity: As you add more specialized tools and equipment, the range and complexity of pieces you can create will expand.
  4. Safety: A focus on safety through proper organization reduces the risk of accidents, ensuring that you can continue to work and create without interruptions.
  5. Collaboration: If the space is organized with collaboration in mind, it could open up opportunities for joint projects or educational sessions, enriching your artistic output through shared ideas and techniques.

Interplay between Space and Art

  1. Evolution: As you grow in skill and experience, your needs may change, requiring a re-organization or expansion of your space.
  2. Personalization: Over time, the space will likely evolve to reflect your artistic preferences and idiosyncrasies, making it a mirror of your artistic self.

In summary, my experience has taught me that the layout and organization of your pottery space is not just a backdrop for your artistic endeavors but an active participant in them. It can either support or hinder your creative process, and in doing so, influence the quality, quantity, and nature of your artistic output.

Question 2: As you add more advanced tools and equipment like slab rollers or extruders, to what extent does the increasing complexity of your space affect both the scope of your work and your relationship with the craft?

I have found that the addition of advanced tools and equipment to a pottery space can have a multifaceted impact on both the scope of your work and the relationship with the craft. Let’s take a deeper look:

Impact on the Scope of Work

  1. Techniques and Forms: Advanced tools like slab rollers or extruders expand the range of techniques and forms you can explore. For example, slab rollers make it easier to create large, uniform slabs for hand-building, and extruders allow for more complex shapes and patterns.
  2. Scale: Advanced equipment can facilitate work on a larger scale, both in terms of the size of individual pieces and the volume of work produced.
  3. Efficiency: Specialized tools can make certain processes faster and more efficient, freeing up time for more intricate detailing or experimentation.
  4. Quality: High-quality tools often result in a better end product, as they allow for greater precision and control.

Impact on Relationship with the Craft

  1. Skill Development: The use of advanced tools often comes with a learning curve, which can be both challenging and rewarding, deepening your skill set and expertise.
  2. Artistic Identity: As you master new tools and techniques, they can become part of your unique style and artistic identity.
  3. Complexity and Simplicity: While advanced tools can add complexity to your work, they may also simplify certain aspects of the creative process, changing the way you relate to the fundamentals of the craft.
  4. Investment: The financial and time investment in advanced tools signals a deeper commitment to the craft, which can affect how seriously you take your work and how you are perceived as an artist.
  5. Expectations: With more advanced tools, there may be higher expectations—both self-imposed and from others—for what you are able to produce, which can influence your relationship with your art in complex ways.

Balancing Act

  1. Adaptation: As your workspace grows in complexity, it will likely require reorganization and perhaps even physical expansion, affecting your daily routines and workflows.
  2. Mindfulness: There’s a risk of becoming too tool-focused and losing sight of the basic joys and challenges of working with clay. Balancing the old with the new is essential for a fulfilling relationship with the craft.

As you can see, the introduction of advanced tools and equipment into your pottery space can significantly broaden the scope of your work while adding layers of complexity to your relationship with the craft. I have found it offers both opportunities and challenges that can enrich your artistic journey in myriad ways.


  1. Scotchie, Virginia. Setting Up Your Ceramic Studio: Ideas & Plans from Working Artists. United States: Lark Books, 2005. ↩︎
  2. Young, Alistair. Setting Up a Pottery Workshop. Netherlands: A. & C. Black, 2006. ↩︎
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