Updated: Oct 22, 2021
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There is SO much information and varying opinions on what you need to set up a Pottery Studio of your own. In my own humble opinion I think you can start with VERY little and keep building the space as you use it, and as you need to. When I left my paid employment I was paid a lump sum in owed holiday and I blew it on 'stuff' that is now gathering dust.
Building your own studio does depend on the type of pottery you want to do; wheel thrown pots or slab built structures. But I think you can start without the expensive equipment and save up for a wheel, slab roller and your own kiln at a later stage if you need them. Many potters stick to their few select tools and never have it all! So this is my take on what can get you playing with clay sooner rather than later!
To start with your work space could be a small corner of a shed, garage or home. Mine was a small corner of our conservatory so I got lots of light and the tiled floor was easily mopped. Clay does get dusty, even with the best intentions so try to choose a space that will confine dust and be easily wiped up. My advice is to plan ahead, start with your small corner but know that if that pottery bug catches, you'll be wanting a bigger and bigger space..
Well yep let's state the obvious. You kinda have to have clay. However you may be tempted to buy lots of different clays to try but in the beginning I think it's good to start with just one type. I didn't and I have 4 types of clay in my studio and only use 2. Although research is a must, a good tip is to check out what clay other potters are using. One of my clays is KGM because two of my fav experienced Instagram potters use and recommended it.
3) A TABLE
This doesn't have to be anything fancy. I have this from IKEA and it's cheap and cheerful, easily wiped clean and I am not overly precious about it. The white surface also makes a good clean background for progress pics for Instagram too.
4) A HEAVY DUTY BANDING WHEEL
These bad boys are expensive (and mega heavy) but I love mine and they are a worthy investment. The weight ensures they spin smoothly and while you could probably get away with a cheaper flimsy cake one, I recommend you get a cast iron heavy duty one. These ones on Amazon look good and (at the time of posting) aren't as expensive as some.
5) DENTAL TOOLS
Stainless steel these babies are gonna last you a life time. My dental tools are over 15 years old and still look brand new. I use them to cut, shape, sculpt, carve, whittle, poke, etch and refine clay with them.
6) CLAY CUTTING WIRE
This simple little tool is so useful I couldn't go without. You can even make them yourself but they are cheap enough to buy. My top tips for these are that the wire is both fine (some come quite thick) and not too long. Shorten it if needs be. This one comes in a beginners pottery tool kit which I found useful.
And lots of them. I use sponges to smooth clay I'm sculpting, throwing and to clean with. So a range of small and a couple of those big car wash mamas would be great. You have to clean clay wet, so soaking a big sponge and wiping everything down reduces horrible clay dust which can be dangerous and does the job nice and quick. I also use tonnes of these little round sponges, wash and reuse, so a pack of these are really handy.
And you thought I was overloading the glamour at sponges. But seriously you need to clean your space wet, so no sweeping or dusting. Wet sponges on surfaces and wet mop on the floor.
9) WATER TANK
If you don't have access to running water then you need to get some sort of water in your studio. I bought a camping water tank like this and fill it up every so often. I actually currently keep this outside and use a washing up bowl underneath it as the sink. It's super cheap and basic but for the mean time it keeps me rolling.
When I get a minute I'll be updating my system to include a clay trap. You can buy one like these but I plan on making my own. If you use a household sink you will need to think about how you can trap the clay so it doesn't block your system.
10) ACCESS TO A KILN
You don't need to necessarily own a kiln, just have access to one. There are potters and pottery suppliers who offer firing services. Check in with your nearest pottery supplier - if they don't rent kiln space then they will likely know someone. It's a really good opportunity to work out exactly what size, shape and type of kiln you need when it's time to invest in your own.
11) COMFY STOOL
Now the type of seat you get depends entirely on your own preferences, but sitting comfortably is so important and something I'm learning the hard way. Literally. My numb bum and I are lusting after one of these saddle stools. I sat in one at a recent (unrelated) osteopath appointment and it was heaven for my butt and back.
If you found this article helping in setting up your first studio, then I'd love to see it! Tag me in a pic of your studio and I'll share it to my Instagram and Facebook stories. If you can add to the list above, I'd love to hear your suggestions too!