Updated: Jan 29
When the pandemic hit my local studio shut down along with so many other businesses in my area. I had planned on someday having a studio with all the bells and whistles, a gorgeous kiln, and the know how to conquer it all. But that someday shifted overnight.
At this point in time, I had my own wheel and a few buckets, but that was pretty much it. I was left with a choice to wait for my local studio to reopen or to dive in head first to learn about the wonderful world of firing, glazing, and well apparently growing my business very quickly. I took some classes in college and felt like I had enough know how to get this going. I researched a lot but felt like there was not a lot of resources for putting together an at home studio.
So here are a few items I think might help get you started on setting up your space.
Removing a whole bat or throwing off the wheel can tend to slow me down. Bats can also be expensive and take up a lot of space. With a bat system, you have one larger bat with smaller removable inserts so that you don't have to waste time switching out big disks.
The nice thing about the Bleeker Station bat system I use is that you can buy more inserts as you go. This one is the most affordable option I could find at the time and is well worth the investment. It also gives me a goal to work towards each time I sit on my wheel - to fill up each and every bat!
Price: $40 +$25 for each set of 6 added inserts.
Saves: Time + Space
Caution: Keep them clean and be sure not to leave your pieces on them for too long or they can start to dry unevenly.
2. Just add water glazes - Ok, well that is not the technical term but it always reminds me of pancakes.
You don't have to mix your own glazes to be a "real potter." I believed that at first and quickly realized that so many famous potters use trusted brands like Laguna Clay, Amaco, Mayco, and so many more.
I recommend buying a sample pint before you decide on what colors you want, but once you do, you can buy dry glazes by the pound and just add water. I spend between $3 - $7 dollars a pound with my dry glaze so do not pay crazy pricing as you start out.
If you plan on your dipping your glazes in a bucket, I recommend starting with small buckets and about 15 lbs of at least 3 - 5 colors you really like. Once you get going you might decide to switch to a 5 gallon bucket and will want about 20-40 lbs. of your most popular glaze to fill enough of the bucket and have extra when you get low or the water evaporates out.
If you choose to paint them on, make sure you get really good lidded vessels so they don't dry out. Each glaze is different so be sure to check it's website for any special directions. Be sure to get some nice brushes as well!
Saves: Shipping costs of premixed glazes and the stress of testing your own recipes when you first start out.
Do not mix your own glazes unless you have one of these PLEASE! This is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. This will help protect your lungs long term from silica dust both from glazes and even clay dust on the floor when you clean.
Side Note: Be sure to never sweep or dust your studio. Always use a wet sponge, mop, or wet rag to wipe up clay dust.
Price: $20 - $50.
Saves: your lungs*
Obvious I know, but there are some ways to save money on this step. Check out FB Marketplace, Craigslist, or your parents garage. If they have one of those garden tables or old ikea type islands, you are in luck! I use mine to wedge, attach handles, and glaze on...separately of course! You might also consider building one with MDF or other boards.
For shelves, I currently use old shelves my dad's work was going to throw out as well as ones from Lowes. I can perfectly fit my bats on there while throwing. Plus, they are stackable. Space is always something you will be short on, but having second hand shelves or inexpensive ones are well worth it.
Lastly, with carts, you might want one as your studio gets a little bigger as they can be expensive. I use mine to store dried pots or bisque pots. I got one from a Pier 1 store closing sale but there are many options like this one - https://www.lowes.com/pd/Oceanstar-3-Tier-Heavy-Duty-All-Purpose-Utility-Cart/5001499679. Be sure to check craigslist, marketplace, and your parents garage!
Price: Free - $200
5. Tons of Buckets!
You'll want a little sink like station to get all that icky clay off your wheel, some for throwing, and some for collecting pots that did not quite make it to the kiln. Be sure to ask your friends and neighbors for help on this one. Any bucket will do. If you have a friend that works at a restaurant, be sure to ask them, too. Trust me this could save you lots of money.
Price: Free - $100
Save: Your pipes from having clay go down them.
6. Cinder Blocks
Depending on your height, propping your wheel up on some half sized cinder blocks will help you sit up straighter while throwing. I also recommend getting a desk chair you don't mind getting dirty as these tend to have more support than a stool.
Price: Free - $30
Saves: you from back pain
I hope as you start your pottery journey, you find many free things to get you going and that this article helps give you some direction! Feel free to email me if you need some tips and more studio hacks - I have lots. Get out there and get creative!
*Please note that I am not a doctor. Your lungs are important so be sure to research more ways to keep them safe at your studio.
**I am not a paid affiliate from these links. Images were uploaded from Unsplash and mix media.