If you’re looking for a new at-home hobby, pottery could be just the thing. Here, an expert explains how to make a simple pinch pot, as well as how to expand your skills in order to be able to make vases, lamps and more.
Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.
Formerly considered something that required a kiln, a studio and the watchful eye of an expert, pottery became a hobby that many beginners took up at home in 2020. Lockdown restrictions are now easing and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by social plans after over a year mostly spent at home. An afternoon of at-home pottery could be the perfect tonic to your busy schedule as it’s a relaxing, surprisingly simple way to get creative. DIY pottery also allows you to create new items for your home that feel immediately personal.
Brands like Sculpd, who offer at-home pottery kits, have made getting good at pottery even easier and resident potter Ellie Rhodes explains that “pottery is simply the making of objects from clay.” You can use clay to make almost anything, from trinket dishes to vases to lamps. You can also do it from anywhere, as Ellie adds that “doing it at home gives you the freedom to do it how you want; by yourself, with friends, with family, in the garden, in the park.”
Traditional pottery requires a spinning pottery wheel – a technique called throwing – but you can create designs that are just as intricate as those made on a wheel at home with hand-building techniques. Here, Ellie shares her expert insights to help you learn where to start with getting into pottery at home, alongside a tutorial for making a pinch pot, which can be used to store trinkets or as decoration.
What you will need to make a clay pinch pot:
- 1kg air dry clay
- A board to rest your clay in, such as a chopping board
- A knife or scalpel
- A sponge
Optional extras (for added details and decorations):
- Wooden knife
- Wooden modelling tool
- Glossy varnish/sealant
- Acrylic paint
How to make a pinch pot:
- Form a small amount of clay into a smooth ball that fits nicely in the palm of your hand. Try to make it as smooth and round as possible.
- Now press your thumb into the centre of the clay until it’s just over halfway through. Don’t push your thumb all the way through!
- Use your fingers and bend your thumb to pinch out the shape of the bottom of your pot. Turn the clay as you pinch in a smooth rotating motion. Each pinch should slowly increase the size of the hole your thumb made and widen the pot.
- Change the position of your hands so that your fingers are inside and your thumb is outside. Pinch the sides upward and outward.
- When you’re happy with the shape of your pinch pot, start working on thinning out and shaping the rim with your finger and thumb, making sure the walls of your pot are even thickness.
- Make sure the base of your pot is flat and the pot stands straight. You can use a carving tool to remove any material from the base.
- Almost done! Leave it as is, or use the tools and any extra clay to add your own creative flair and the sponge with some water to smooth any imperfections in the clay.
- Let your pot dry for at least 24 hours before painting your masterpiece!
- You can add a coat of the varnish to seal the paint once it dries and to provide protection from water. This varnish will give it a glossier finish.
Ellie’s top tips for getting good at pottery at home
Something like a pinch pot is a great place to start with at-home pottery because it’s a great tactile hands-on piece to get started with and it can help you get to grips with working with clay. The reason it’s called a pinch pot is because you pinch it with your index finger and thumb to create the shape.
“Creating a pinch pot allows you to move onto slightly more advanced pieces like a vase,” Ellie explains.
“We love our customers’ creativity with some using things like flowers to imprint patterns on the surface of their clay pieces,” Ellie says. The beauty of at-home pottery is that you can add a personal touch to the pieces you create, so definitely take advantage of that.
Look for inspiration
You’d be surprised by the kinds of items you can create doing pottery at home, even as a beginner and Ellie advises you to do some research by looking at pottery Instagram accounts like theirs to see what other people have been able to make at home.
Ellie also suggests that you have a picture or drawing of what you’d like to make in front of you to help your creative process.
Don’t overthink it
“Don’t think too much about it at first,” Ellie advises. “Get your hands into the clay and start moulding it in your hands.” They explain that you only need to set aside an hour or two to get into pottery at home but it’s best not to take it too seriously. Instead, put some music on and enjoy the process.
Remember that mistakes can be easily fixed
“If you feel like it’s not going to plan, you can just squash your piece into a ball and start again,” Ellie says. This is the beauty of at-home pottery - there really is no pressure to get it right first time. “Don’t’ worry about imperfections as you go because these can be easily smoothed over later,” they add.
For more tips on getting started with at-home pottery head to Sculpd’s website where you can buy one of their pottery kits. You can also read more arts and crafts content at Stylist.co.uk.
Ellie Rhodes, resident potter
Ellie Rhodes is the Resident Potter at Sculpd, a home air-dry pottery kit business for clay creators of all abilities.