How To Set Up A Small Home Pottery Studio On A Budget
Setting up your own personal pottery studio at home takes a fair amount of planning and investment. So before you start any renovations or make any major decisions, it’s important to know what to expect.
A realistic plan, a sound budget, and the ability to make some tough choices are all crucial for successfully starting your own home pottery studio.
So let’s go over the most important things you need to know in 5 simple steps!
1. Coming up with a plan
No two pottery studios are the same. You want to make sure that yours will be everything you need and simultaneously for it to stay within your budget and space limitations. So a good plan is important!
Your plan should include several key items such as all the supplies and tools you will need to buy, which space to allocate to your studio, an efficient floor plan, etc.
To help you get started, here are a few important questions you should ask yourself:
How many people will be using the pottery studio? Most people are planning to only use the studio by themselves. However, some might also plan on giving workshops or share their workspace with others. In which case you will need considerably more space and invest in more equipment.
What building techniques do you use? There are roughly four different ways to mold the clay: handbuilding, slab pottery, coil pottery, and throwing clay. Depending on which of these you use, you’ll have to buy different equipment (such as a pottery wheel or a slab roller) and find the appropriate space in your studio.
What volume of ceramics will you produce? Consider how many pieces you will be making on a monthly basis. If you are planning on making a lot of simple pieces, you’ll need addition storage space and a large kiln. If you don’t have enough time to work in your studio on a regular basis or if you want to focus on producing unique and highly detailed pieces, you can get away with a smaller studio and cheaper equipment.
Do you want to glaze and fire your pieces in your studio? A pottery kiln is the most expensive piece of equipment in a pottery studio and can be a big investment, especially if you need a big one. So it’s not surprising that not all home pottery studios have a kiln available. You could use a firing service until you are able to afford your own kiln. If you do decide to buy a kiln, you need to make sure it fits in your budget, and you can find the right place in your studio for it. I’ll go into more details later in this article.
Is a pottery studio at home the right choice for you? This is maybe a question that’s not always asked, but important nonetheless. Setting up a pottery studio requires a lot of money and will take up at least one room in your house. If you are still new to pottery, signing up for a communal studio or taking classes might be a better way to get started.
2. Finding the right place
Let’s talk a little bit about where to set up your pottery studio. You definitely want to assign a specific room just for pottery, since the clay and dust will easily ruin any furniture that you may have. So throwing clay on a pottery wheel in your living room is a no-go.
You want to make sure that the room you go with is easy to clean. In particular, you want a room with a smooth floor that can handle some water. A vinyl or linoleum floor will work great, while a carpeted floor should be avoided at all cost. Removing (dried) clay from a carpet is nearly impossible. You can always install a vinyl floor in your room of choice, considering it’s pretty cheap.
The room should also be well ventilated. Having several big windows that you can completely open would be ideal. The dust from the clay, the glazing, or the fumes from the kiln can all be bad for your health when inhaled. To minimize your exposure to these, you want to work in a well ventilated room.
If you made a rough plan already of the equipment and supplies you will need, then you can make an estimate of the number of electricity sockets you will need. Your pottery wheel, kiln, slab roller, lamps, etc. will all need to be plugged in somewhere. Since you normally want to place each piece of equipment in its own corner/area, having at least two sockets on opposite walls would be preferable.
Quick access to water in the form of a sink is not necessary but would be a big pro. You will constantly need to use water when working with clay or when cleaning your workspace. If you have no sink in your room, a few big bucket filled with water might do the trick as well.
And finally, a room with lots of space to work with is of course preferable. Cramming everything into a small area is asking for accidents to happen. Make sure there is plenty of space left to walk around free. Moreover, you might want to buy additional equipment or need extra storage space later on. So leaving some free space for possibly expanding or upgrading your studio would be a good idea.
3. Buying pottery supplies
It’s no secret that you will have to buy a lot of supplies to set up a pottery studio at home. But if you have made pottery for a while now, you probably already have some of the basic things such as clay, sponges, water bottles, trimming tools, brushes, etc.
So for now, let’s look at the biggest and most important purchases that you will have to make.
Throwing the clay on a wheel is the fastest way to mold it in the shape you want. Not surprisingly, in most pottery studios you’ll find one of these.
You can find some small and cheap wheels for beginners under a few hundred dollars. But if you are serious about setting up a pottery studio, I would recommend going with one of the bigger and professional wheels. These will normally cost you at least $1000, but if you look around for a while you can usually find a used pottery wheel that is heavily discounted.
The most important things to look for when buying a new pottery wheel are how strong the motor is, how loud the motor is, the maximum RPM, the centering capacity, the size of the wheelhead, and the durability.
For more information, you can read one of our other articles:
- Pottery wheel buying guide
- What to look for when buying a used pottery wheel
- How expensive is a pottery wheel
A pottery kiln is used to fire and/or glaze your pottery. A good, decently sized kiln can be quite expensive. And if you can’t afford one, using a firing service at a local community studio can be an option. However, having your own kiln would be a great addition to any home studio.
The price difference between a small and a big kiln is huge. A big kiln can easily cost two or three times more than a smaller model. So it’s important to take a look at your plan again and consider how much pottery you will be making on a regular basis. Firing pottery takes a long time, so even if you run a small kiln day and night, there are only so many pieces you can fire.
Besides the size, you also want to consider if the kiln uses electricity or gas, if it’s manual or computerized, if it’s a front or top load, and how much electricity it takes to fire.
You might want to read our pottery kiln buyer’s guide as well for more information.
There are some alternative methods to fire pottery without a kiln, such as pit firing. But these methods are either not very accessible, not very reliable, and simply produce inferior results compared to a regular pottery kiln. Mainly because they can’t produce the same temperatures as a kiln.
The last thing you should know is that the maximum kiln temperatures are often denoted in cones. If you are not familiar with cones, you can read a simple explanation in our article on pottery cones.
Every pottery studio needs a large and stable table to work on. Since you will be spending a lot of time at this table, you want to keep the basics of ergonomics in mind. Mainly, you want to make sure the table is the right height, so you don’t need to hunch forward and hurt your back.
If you are spending long stretches of time in your studio, you might also want to be able to work while standing. Either a standing desk or a platform with adjustable height on top of your work table will do. Frequently switching between sitting and standing is so much better for your back than sitting all day long.
As a potter, you will need a lot of storage space. Installing a few shelves on one of your walls is a quick and efficient way to use the limited amount of space you have.
You don’t just need storage for all your tools and supplies, but also for pottery that needs to dry before firing, pottery that has been fired but still needs to be glazed, and for all the final pieces. And when your pottery is still drying, you won’t be able to stack your them, so it will take a lot of space.
Consider using one of your walls just for storage and install several shelves. Of course, you could also store your pieces in a smaller, separate room.
If you have a kiln in your home pottery studio, you’ll probably want to allocate some space for glazing as well. You do not want the glaze and the clay to mix at all, so most studios will have different tables for working with clay and for glazing.
If you don’t have enough space for two separate areas, you’ll have to make sure to thoroughly clean everything before glazing and/or use a plastic cover over your table.
Also read our article on glazing for clay for more information.
Sometimes you don’t want your clay to dry out. For example, if you have to stop halfway through a project, and you want to finish it some time later. If you would just leave the clay on your table, it will dry out and be too hard to work with. To prevent that from happening, you’ll have to keep it damp and prevent it from drying out.
There are several ways to do this. If you have enough space in your studio and the volume of pottery you produce is high enough, you could buy an old refrigerator or greenhouse.
However, if this is not an option for your studio, you could try to cover your clay pieces with some plastic and place it in a dark place. This doesn’t work as well, but might be good enough if you come back quickly.
If you live in a warm climate, the clay might dry out so quickly that it will start to form cracks if you just leave it to dry naturally. In that case, placing your pieces in a damp area might help to slow down the drying process and prevent cracks from forming.
If you are mainly using slab pottery techniques, you might want to invest in a slab roller instead of a pottery wheel.
As a beginner, you can use a rolling pin to prepare your slabs. But rolling slabs of uniform thickness is difficult, laborious, and time-consuming. So you want to invest into a slab roller sooner rather than later.
To keep your studio clean, you’ll frequently have to wash the floor, plates, tools, etc. However, pouring glaze or clay directly down the drain is not a good idea. Clay and glaze easily get stuck in your pipes and will clog things up.
An easy way to prevent this is to install a clay trap to collect anything that you might have accidentally flushed away in your sink.
A good trap might be a little more expensive than you would expect. But it’s cheaper than having to get all your pipes fixed later on.
You might want to give the Practicon Glecko trap a try.
4. Mapping out the studio
Now that you have a room, all the equipment, and the necessary supplies to start your home pottery studio, it’s time to start thinking about a floor plan or general layout of your studio.
If you have enough space, you want to give each step in the pottery making process its own little section in your studio.
For example, place your worktable in the middle, designate one wall just for storage and shelves, and place your glazing table, pottery wheel, and kiln each in their own corner.
Most of your equipment require access to electricity, so keep the location of the sockets in mind when mapping out your pottery studio.
Moreover, a good layout should facilitate a good workflow. Which means that you should be able to move easily from one side to the other, and everything is easily accessible.
Pay some special attention on the location of your kiln. It can be placed inside your studio, a separate room, a garage, or a garden shed. However, since pottery kilns reach very high temperatures, you want to make sure there is nothing flammable nearby that could cause a fire hazard.
Additionally, the kiln can also emit harmful fumes while firing clay. So placing the kiln in a separate, well ventilated room is the best option.
Consider reading this article if you want to know more about safely using a kiln.
5. Making difficult choices
Now that you planned and mapped out everything, there is only one step left to do. But for many it’s also the most difficult one, namely making some difficult choices.
By now, you’ve probably realized that you won’t be able to build the perfect home pottery studio that you dreamed of. Maybe you can afford everything, or maybe the empty room in your house simply isn’t big enough.
So it’s time to choose which things to buy first, and which things you can buy later on.
Most people will opt to buy a pottery wheel and decide to buy the kiln a few years later. But you could also argue for exactly the opposite.
You can use handbuilding techniques to mold your clay, but you can’t fire pottery without access to a kiln.
In the end, you’ll have to go with what makes the most sense for your situation. If you can’t have it all, go over your plans again and start making those difficult decisions.