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Pottery workshops across the UK have reported sell-out sessions, and hypnotic DIY videos have overtaken our social feeds. Want to join the party? Here’s how to get started.
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A selection of ceramics in a pottery studio A selection of ceramics in a pottery studio

Reinventing the Wheel

Pottery workshops across the UK have reported sell-out sessions, and hypnotic DIY videos have overtaken our social feeds. Want to join the party? Here’s how to get started.
Read More

By: Jennifer George

Reinventing the Wheel

Reinventing the Wheel

Pottery workshops across the UK have reported sell-out sessions, and hypnotic DIY videos have overtaken our social feeds. Want to join the party? Here’s how to get started.

By: Jennifer George

DIY ceramics is a phenomenon that coincided with two significant recent events: the pandemic-induced shrinking of our worlds, and the re-launch of TV’s The Great Pottery Throwdown. Stuck inside, we spent too much time staring at both our televisions and interiors, and lo, the obsession with ceramics and pottery exploded. The Craft Potters Association, which promotes British studio potters and ceramicists, almost doubled its members in one year and #ceramics has 16.8million tags on Instagram alone.

My urge to take to the wheel came from both a practical and emotional perspective. The weight of the pandemic had left my brain frazzled and nerves on edge. I have an underlying creative itch, which I thought I would scratch by filling my new home with some ‘pieces’ of my own.

Feeling a creative itch of your own? Here's how to get into pottery, from a fellow novice ceramicist.

1. Throw Yourself In

There are roughly three methods when it comes to pottery: wheel-thrown pottery (which I chose), hand-building pottery and slip casting (which uses a mould). Focus on the one that appeals to you – you can always combine methods later.

For me, it was love at first throw. The wedging (roughly and rhythmically manipulating the lump of clay to a smooth ball) allowed a gratifying release of pent-up energy. The tricky centering (ensuring your clay is stable and wobble free on the wheel) was, well, centering. The focus and patience required let me enter an almost meditative state.

Some (myself included) will fail, flopping and folding beneath your fingers, but the beauty of clay is that you can simply throw again. And again. Each time learning, each time figuring out your tempo. I left my first workshop with six successful shapes (a few are probably too abstract to call bowls), five of which survived the kiln firing, and an additional requirement for my new house: a garden-shed-cum-pottery-studio.

2. Seek Ceramic Inspiration

The best ceramics accounts to follow for easy inspiration

@annaninanl

Inspired by the founders' travels across the globe, Anna + Nina is known for its colourful, playful homeware.

@hotpotteryuk

Hot Pottery is a London-based collective makes characterful tableware splattered with a signature speckled effect.

@nataliejwooddesigns

Indie potter Natalie J Wood is known for her minimalist, hand-crafted designs.

@elementclaystudio

Ceramicist Heather Knight mixes modern textures, patterns and shapes inspired by nature.

3. Find Your Wheelhouse

The best pottery workshops and courses to hone your craft

For beginners: Turning Earth

With studios in Haggerston and Leyton, Turning Earth is a thriving open-access members’ studio. Full courses are 8 or 12 weeks long.

For scandi-chic: Skandihus

Danish ceramicist Stine Dulong’s has three beautiful studios: two in Hackney and one in Walthamstow. Try a taster session or take a six- or 12-week course.

For fast learners: The Kiln Rooms

This Peckham studio offers one-off four-and-a-half-hour taster sessions as well as five-week beginners’ courses where you can learn all the basic techniques.

4. Learn from the Masters

This is part of the joy of the DIY potter. I find my own inspiration on the third floor at Liberty. Japanese pottery is world renowned and one brand making waves here is Kaneko Kohyo, which originally began as Japan’s largest producer of sake serving bottles, but is now, over 100 years later, the discerning tablescaper’s go-to for minimalistic but striking tableware.

Vaisselle is designer Léa Zana’s ‘lockdown project’ turned booming, bright and beautiful ceramic business. A footwear designer by trade, Léa inherited a passion for objects from her grandmother ("A hoarder, who has an attic full of wonderful crap") and love of vibrant colour from her travels around India, Sri Lanka and Europe as a child. The shapes of her pieces (designed by her and made by a husband-wife duo in Andalusia) are fairly traditional, based on antique Spanish and Southern French ceramics, but with a "colourful twist".

Lead image: courtesy of Kaneko Kohyo

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