Cool, dense, pliable – there’s something very primal about the appeal of wet clay. There has been huge, renewed interest in pottery, spurred on by social media and pandemic lockdowns. While some people enjoy it as a creative outlet, others see it as mindful and therapeutic; and with increasing attention on hand-made, artisanal and unique homewares, pottery can even become a career or business opportunity. If you are ready to start experimenting with clay, here are some great sources of advice, techniques and project suggestions:
Pottery for Beginners is, in essence, a pottery course-in-a-book. It starts with primers on equipment, technique, clay types and setting up a workspace; then moves onto 10 progressive projects, each focussing on a key skill. While each project is standalone, together they present the full range of fundamental pottery skills. You will learn to hand-form as well as how to use the wheel to form bowls, plates and other easy kitchenware. Additional tutorials on glazing and decorative techniques will help you personalise the finish of your pieces. Having previously shared her skills in workshops, podcasts, magazine articles as well as in her thriving online community for potters, Kara Leigh Ford is ready to help and inspire her readers to start their own journeys in pottery.
Creating clay objects is a slow, tactile, focussed activity that in many ways seem the complete opposite to the fast-paced, online and constantly connected lives that we normally lead. The process of firing the pieces can challenge our need for control by introducing an (often delightful) unpredictability, encouraging us to “go with the flow”. No wonder more and more people are seeing a mindful, meditative or therapeutic quality to pottery. Lucy Davidson celebrates the wellbeing benefits of pottery in this book of small projects that do not require a kiln or a wheel: be surprised and delighted by ideas including miniature bunting, coasters and terrazzo-style bracelets.
Bring visual interest and a sculptural quality to your pottery pieces by learning to carve clay surfaces. In 16 easy to follow projects, London-based potter Hilda Carr demonstrates a range of decorative carving techniques synonymous with her style – including incising, combing, inlaying to sgraffito, faceting and fettling. With clear, detailed instructions as well as
guides on how to create form as well as information on glazing and firing, Carve Your Clay is a great technical sourcebook for all skill levels.
The Handbuilt Potter: Master Timeless Techniques by Melissa Weiss
This book stands out in two ways: firstly, it focusses solely on handbuilding techniques including coil, slab and moulds – no pottery wheel required. Secondly, Melissa Weiss provides valuable hard-to-find advice on how to use “wild clay”, that is, dig up local clay soils and process it into clay suitable for pottery. She also shares her own recipes for unusual glazes incorporating ash, salt and other dry materials – tips that will help you include a hyper-personal, hyper-local element to your creativity.
There is something very satisfying about making objects you can use everyday, that are not only beautiful, but functional as well. Pottery You Can Use is a detailed guidebook that will show you how to create pieces that work best for you – pieces that stack well, are nice to hold, with lids that fit and handles that stay on. From plates, cups, and saucers to casserole dishes, pitchers, and tureens, Jacqui Atkin offers detailed advice from design and calculations, to choosing the best materials, techniques and glazes for your pieces. The combination of clear, beautiful photos and succinct but informative text makes Making Pottery You Can Use a valuable reference for beginners through to professional ceramicists.
If you are curious about pottery but worried about the mess and the specialised equipment, then air-dry clay and polymer clay may be a good starting point. These lightweight clays are readily available at craft stores and can be air-dried or baked in a domestic oven. In this, her first book, craft blogger Francesca Stone has channeled her talents for creating easy, on-trend projects into a range of decorative homewares, including coasters, planters, candle holders and bookends – that achieve the organic, handmade ceramic look using air-dry or polymer clays. The projects require only a few basic tools and show you fundamental techniques that will help you realise your own pottery ideas!