Pottery making is a fun and creative activity that can lead to functional tableware, vessels, sculptures and installations. But before you can get started, there are a few basic supplies you will need to purchase or rent.

The most popular clays for pottery are earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The best one for you will depend on where you will be firing your work and what type of pottery you will be creating.

Needle Tool

If you’re a clay/ceramics addict, or plan on becoming one, then it’s time to invest in the right ceramics supply tools. These essential tools will make it easier to work with your hands in a way that’s gentle on them and allow you to achieve a professional result without breaking the bank

For those working with slabs and coils, a needle tool is an essential piece of equipment. It’s a smooth and fine needle with a sharp point that can poke holes of different sizes in your clay, and it comes with a plastic cover to prevent accidental pricks. The handle is also rounded and comfortable to hold in your dominant hand, so you’ll be able to work for longer periods of time with less discomfort.

Felting is a traditional fiber art that’s making a comeback, and this punch needle tool makes it easy to realize your soft textile designs. The ergonomic, rounded design is crafted from cherry wood and features a handle that unscrews easily to switch out your felting needles.

This punch needle also works with yarns of varying thickness, so it’s great for projects that require both fine and chunky yarns. Unlike many other punch needles, this one is also adjustable to give you different loop heights and create more texture to your work. It’s the best option for those who’re serious about this craft and want to be able to complete their punch needle designs quickly and effectively.

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Clays

Clay is the basic building block of ceramics. It is a group of layered silicate minerals with atomic structures of silicon dioxide tetrahedra and aluminum hydroxide octahedra fitting together and sharing oxygen atoms. The structure is the key to clay’s many unique properties including plasticity (the ability to be moulded).

Plasticity is a clay’s ability to be formed into almost any shape when it is moistened. This property is the result of surface chemistry that attracts water electrolytically, gluing and lubricating billions of particles together.

Choosing the right clay for your students depends on their level of experience, the types of ceramics they are making and the temperature they will be firing to. Different clays are also easier or harder to manipulate, and some require special handling techniques.

Ball clays are the most commonly used type of clay. They have an excellent balance of strength and plasticity for handbuilding. They are usually a mix of two or more clays, and have differing soluble salt content, particle size distribution, drying shrinkage and fired maturity, and behavior in slurries.

Kaolins have much lower LOIs than ball clays, and can be less plastic. They are often mixed with a large percentage of bentonite to get adequate plasticity, but can produce beautiful translucent porcelains. They may exhibit dimples in glazes if not soaked long enough.

Clay Tools

There are many different clay tools available to take your pottery creations to the next level. Some are more useful than others, depending on your desired end result and your level of skill and comfort handling clay. A few essential ceramic tools to add to your tool kit include scoring tools (which can be anything from a serrated metal rib to groups of wires crimped on a handle) and fettling knives, which are very versatile.

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These are a staple in every potter’s toolkit and can be used for a number of purposes, including trimming, etching, and drawing surface designs. They are very useful for creating a fine manipulation in the clay that can’t be easily done with fingers or any other bladed tool.

A loop tool is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of hardened wire twisted into an endless variety of shapes and sizes that create unique curvatures in the clay. These can be used to remove curved areas of clay during decorating or sculpting and can also be used to trim the feet of wheelwork in its beginning throwing stages.

Ribbon tools are very similar to loop tools but have one major difference: the tool head is a flat piece of metal rather than a wire. They are utilized on model and thrown projects, and their varying loop sizes can give you a variety of curves in the clay.

Pottery Supplies

Pottery supplies allow artists to shape, decorate, and finish their work. They can include clays (such as stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware), glazes, brushes, rollers, sponges, and a kiln.

A potter’s wheel, a device that lets ceramicists create symmetrical forms with the power of their hands, is essential for creating larger, more complex pottery. There are two primary types of wheels: the manual and electric. For beginners, we recommend the Shimpo VL-Lite — a quality floor-mounted pottery wheel with a price point that makes it affordable for most new ceramicists.

Clays: Pottery clay is available in different types, each with distinct properties and firing temperatures. For example, kaolin clay (which is also known as china clay) produces porcelain pottery that mirrors the style developed during the Shang Dynasty in ancient China (1600 – 1046 BC).

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Glazes: Pottery glazes are vitrified coatings that melt and harden in a kiln to protect and decorate pottery. Different types of glazes serve specific purposes, including enhancing color, adding texture, or waterproofing.

Brushes: Pottery brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes for applying glazes, underglazes, slips, and other decorative materials. They are also useful for smoothing clay surfaces, blending seams, and controlling moisture when shaping.

Pottery tools and supplies can be found in craft stores and online. Many are also sold in specialty pottery supply shops that offer raw ingredients such as nepheline syenite and wollastonite, which act as fluxes to lower the melting temperature of glazes for ceramic kilns.