Learn How to Throw Pottery with These Step-by-Step Instructions

Learn How to Throw Pottery with These Step-by-Step Instructions

Are you fascinated by the art of pottery and eager to try it yourself? Look no further! In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of throwing pottery, from preparing the clay to finishing your masterpiece. Whether you’re a complete beginner or have some experience with pottery, this guide will help you refine your skills and create beautiful, unique pieces.

Before diving into the exciting world of pottery, it’s important to understand the basics. Pottery throwing is a technique that involves shaping clay on a spinning wheel. It’s both a creative and technical process that requires patience, practice, and attention to detail. With the right tools and mindset, you can create functional ceramics or works of art that you’ll be proud to display or give as gifts.

The first step in throwing pottery is preparing your materials. You’ll need clay, water, a pottery wheel, and various tools such as a sponge, wire tool, and trimming tools. Additionally, having a clean workspace and a clay-friendly apron will help keep the mess to a minimum. Once you have your materials gathered, it’s time to start shaping your masterpiece.

Learn pottery: a complete guide for beginners

Pottery is the art of creating objects out of clay. It is a versatile and satisfying hobby that allows you to express your creativity and create beautiful, functional pieces. Whether you are a beginner or have some experience, this guide will help you learn the basics of pottery and get started on your journey to becoming a skilled potter.


Before you start throwing pottery, you will need a few essential materials:

  • Clay: Choose a clay that is suitable for pottery, such as stoneware or earthenware.
  • Pottery wheel: This is the main tool used for shaping the clay.
  • Clay tools: These include trimming tools, wire cutters, and shaping tools.
  • Kiln: A kiln is used to fire the pottery and harden it.
  • Glazes: Glazes add color and a protective coating to the pottery.


Here are the basic steps for throwing pottery:

  1. Prepare the clay: Knead the clay to remove air bubbles and make it more pliable.
  2. Center the clay: Place the clay on the pottery wheel and use your hands to center it.
  3. Create an opening: Use your thumbs to create a hole in the center of the clay.
  4. Shape the clay: Use your hands and shaping tools to shape the clay into the desired form.
  5. Trim and refine: Use trimming tools to refine the shape and remove excess clay.
  6. Dry the piece: Allow the pottery to dry completely before firing it in the kiln.
  7. Fire the pottery: Follow the instructions of your kiln to fire the pottery at the appropriate temperature.
  8. Glaze the pottery: Apply glazes to the pottery and fire it again in the kiln to create a glossy, colorful finish.
  9. Enjoy your pottery: Once the pottery has cooled, it is ready to be used or displayed!

Tips for beginners

  • Start with simple shapes: When starting out, it’s best to begin with basic shapes like bowls and cups before moving on to more complex forms.
  • Practice centering: Centering the clay is one of the most important skills in pottery. Practice this skill until you are comfortable with it.
  • Be patient: Pottery takes time and practice to master. Don’t get discouraged if your first few pieces don’t turn out perfectly.
  • Experiment with glazes: Glazes can completely transform the look of your pottery. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and techniques.
  • Join a pottery class: Taking a pottery class can be a great way to learn from experienced potters and meet other pottery enthusiasts.

With practice and patience, you can become a skilled potter and create beautiful pieces of pottery. Enjoy the process and have fun exploring your creative side!

Preparing materials and tools

Preparing materials and tools

Before you start throwing pottery, it’s important to gather all the necessary materials and tools. Here are the items you will need:

  • Clay: Choose a clay type that is suitable for pottery throwing. Common options include earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
  • Pottery wheel: Invest in a pottery wheel that suits your needs and budget. Make sure it is in good working condition.
  • Water: Have a water source nearby to keep the clay moist and lubricate your hands and tools.
  • Bat: A bat is a flat surface that you attach your clay to on the wheelhead. It allows you to easily remove your pottery from the wheel.
  • Canvas or muslin cloth: Place a canvas or muslin cloth on the wheelhead to prevent the clay from sticking and to absorb excess moisture.
  • Clay tools: Some essential clay tools include a wire tool, needle tool, ribs, sponges, and a selection of trimming and shaping tools.
  • Apron and towel: Protect your clothes with an apron and have a towel handy for wiping your hands and tools.
  • Bucket or basin: Use a bucket or basin to hold your water and for cleaning your tools.
  • Clay storage: If you’re working with clay that needs to be kept moist, have a sealable container or plastic bag to store your clay when not in use.
  • Kiln: If you plan on firing your pottery, you will need access to a kiln. Either invest in your own kiln or find a pottery studio where you can fire your pieces.

Make sure you have all these materials and tools ready before you begin your pottery throwing journey. Having everything prepared will make the process much smoother and enjoyable!

Understanding the different types of clay

The type of clay you choose for your pottery projects can greatly affect the outcome of your finished pieces. There are several different types of clay available, each with its own unique properties and characteristics. Here are some of the most common types of clay used in pottery:

  • Earthenware clay: This type of clay is easily workable and has a lower firing temperature compared to other types of clay. It is often red or tan in color and is commonly used for making tiles, ceramic dishes, and decorative pieces.
  • Stoneware clay: Stoneware clay is versatile and durable, making it a popular choice for functional pottery. It has a higher firing temperature than earthenware clay and can range in color from light gray to dark brown. Stoneware clay is ideal for making dinnerware, vases, and other items.
  • Porcelain clay: Porcelain clay is known for its fine texture and translucent appearance when fired. It is often white or very light in color and is highly sought after for creating delicate and refined pottery such as teacups, figurines, and decorative objects.

Each type of clay has its own unique properties that affect how it handles, dries, and fires. It’s important to choose the right clay for your project based on the desired outcome and the techniques you plan to use.

When selecting clay, consider factors such as its plasticity, shrinkage rate, firing temperature, and color. Experimenting with different types of clay can help you find the one that suits your style and preferences best.

Comparison of different types of clay:
Clay Type Plasticity Shrinkage Rate Firing Temperature Color
Earthenware clay High High Low Red or tan
Stoneware clay Medium Medium High Light gray to dark brown
Porcelain clay Low Low High White or light

Understanding the properties of different types of clay can help you make informed decisions when it comes to your pottery projects. Take the time to explore and experiment with various clays to find the ones that suit your artistic vision and desired outcome.

Kneading and preparing the clay

Kneading and preparing the clay

Before you can start throwing pottery, it’s important to properly knead and prepare the clay. This step ensures that the clay is free from air bubbles and mixed evenly, making it easier to work with.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to knead and prepare the clay:

  • Gather your supplies: To start, you will need a block of clay, a clean work surface, and a spray bottle filled with water.
  • Prepare your work surface: Find a clean space, like a table or countertop, that you can dedicate to working with clay. You may want to cover the surface with plastic or a canvas to prevent sticking.
  • Condition the clay: Begin by wedging the clay to remove any air bubbles. To do this, push the clay down with the heel of your hand, fold it in half, and repeat. Continue to knead and fold the clay until it becomes more pliable.
  • Moisten the clay: As you knead, the clay may dry out and become stiff. Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby, and spritz the clay every now and then to keep it moist and workable.
  • Check for consistency: Once the clay is soft and pliable, check for an even consistency. Gently pull the clay apart to see if there are any dry or hard spots. If you find any, continue to knead and moisten those areas until the clay is uniformly smooth.
  • Store the clay: Once the clay is properly kneaded and prepared, store it in an airtight container or wrap it in plastic to keep it from drying out before you’re ready to use it. This will help ensure that your clay remains in optimal condition.

By taking the time to knead and prepare your clay properly, you’ll have a solid foundation for creating beautiful pottery.

Centering the clay on the wheel

Centering the clay is an essential step in the pottery wheel throwing process. It helps create a stable base for the clay and allows you to shape it into various forms. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to center the clay on the wheel:

  1. Prepare your wheel: Make sure the wheel is clean and well lubricated. Adjust the height and angle of the seat so that you are comfortable and have a good view of the clay.
  2. Knead the clay: Before you start centering, knead the clay to remove any air bubbles and ensure its consistency is even throughout. This will make it easier to work with.
  3. Create a cone: Take a small piece of clay and throw it onto the wheel head. Use your palms and fingers to shape it into a cone shape. This will help you center the rest of the clay.
  4. Wet the wheel head: Dampen the wheel head with water to create a slightly slippery surface. This will reduce friction and help the clay move more smoothly.
  5. Place the clay on the wheel: Take the main piece of clay you will be working with and place it on top of the cone you created earlier. Press it gently to attach it to the cone.
  6. Find the center: Use your hands to apply pressure to the clay while it is spinning on the wheel. Begin with your palms and gradually move your fingers towards the center. Feel for any resistance or wobbling.
  7. Apply downward pressure: Once you have located the center, use your hands and fingers to apply downward pressure. This will help the clay stick to the wheel head and prevent it from moving as you shape it.
  8. Keep your hands moist: Wet your hands regularly to maintain a good grip on the clay and to prevent it from sticking to your hands.
  9. Repeat if necessary: If the clay becomes off-center, stop the wheel and repeat the centering process until it is centered and stable.

Centering the clay may take some practice, but with time and patience, you will become more proficient. Once the clay is centered, you can move on to shaping and forming it into your desired pottery piece.

Shaping and trimming the pottery

Once you have centered the clay on the pottery wheel and have successfully opened and raised the walls of the clay, it’s time to shape and trim the pottery. This step will help give your piece its final form and remove any excess clay.

To shape the pottery, use your hands and the tools provided. You can gently push and shape the clay into the desired form, whether it’s a bowl, vase, or plate. Use your fingers to smooth out any imperfections and create a clean surface.

Trimming is an essential step for creating a finished piece of pottery. It involves using a trimming tool to remove excess clay from the bottom of the pot. This process helps create a foot or base for the pottery, making it stable and aesthetically pleasing.

Before trimming, ensure that the clay is sturdy enough to withstand the trimming process. If the clay is too wet or soft, it’s more likely to collapse or become misshapen. You can check the clay’s consistency by pressing your finger gently into the side of the pot. If it leaves a mark but doesn’t collapse, it’s ready for trimming.

When trimming, hold the tool at a slight angle and gently scrape away the excess clay from the bottom of the piece. Be careful not to trim too much or create an imbalance, as it could affect the stability of the pottery.

After shaping and trimming, you can add any final touches or decorations to your pottery. This could include using carving tools, adding texture, or applying colored slips or glazes.

Remember, shaping and trimming pottery requires practice and patience. Don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts don’t turn out as expected. With time and experience, you’ll develop your own unique style and techniques.

Drying and preparing for firing

After finishing the pottery piece, it needs to be dried properly before it can be fired. Drying is an important step as it helps remove any excess moisture from the clay and prevents the piece from cracking or exploding during firing.

Here are the steps to properly dry and prepare your pottery for firing:

  1. Air drying: Start by leaving your pottery piece to air dry for a few hours or overnight. Place it in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, to prevent uneven drying. This will allow the moisture to slowly evaporate from the clay.
  2. Trimming and smoothing: Once the pottery has air dried slightly and is firm enough to handle, you can use a trimming tool to remove any excess clay or rough edges. Smooth the surface using a sponge or a rib tool.
  3. Slow drying: After initial air drying and trimming, it’s important to let the pottery piece dry slowly to avoid cracking. Cover loosely with a plastic bag or a damp cloth and let it dry for a few more days. This slow drying process allows the moisture to evenly distribute throughout the clay.
  4. Checking for dryness: To check if the pottery is dry enough for firing, touch the bottom or the thickest part of the piece. If it feels cool or damp, it needs more time to dry. If it feels room temperature and dry to the touch, then it’s ready for firing.
  5. Bisquing: Once the pottery is dry, it’s ready for the first firing, also known as bisque firing. This firing helps remove any remaining moisture and makes the piece strong enough to withstand glazing. Follow the specific instructions for your kiln to bisque fire your pottery piece.

Properly drying and preparing your pottery for firing is essential to ensure the final piece turns out strong and beautiful. Take your time with this process and be patient to achieve the best results.

Glazing and adding decorative elements

Once your pottery piece has been fired and is ready for the final touches, it’s time to glaze and add decorative elements.


Glazing pottery adds color, shine, and protection to your piece. Before glazing, make sure your pottery is clean and free of any dust or debris. Here are the steps to glaze your pottery:

  1. Choose your glaze: There are various types and colors of glazes available. Select the glaze that best fits your desired look.
  2. Prepare your glaze: Follow the instructions on your glaze package to prepare it for use. This may involve stirring, thinning, or adding water.
  3. Apply the glaze: Using a brush or dipping your piece into the glaze, evenly and thinly coat the surface of your pottery. Make sure to cover all sides and edges.
  4. Let it dry: Allow the glaze to dry completely before moving on to the next step. This may take a few hours to a few days, depending on the type of glaze and environmental conditions.

Adding decorative elements:

Decorative elements can make your pottery piece unique and visually appealing. Here are some ideas for adding decorative elements:

  • Carving: Use carving tools to create intricate designs or patterns on the surface of your pottery.
  • Stamping: Use stamps or found objects to create texture or pattern by pressing them into the surface of your pottery.
  • Inlay: Create contrast and visual interest by filling carved or stamped areas with a different colored clay or glaze.
  • Additions: Attach small clay pieces, such as handles or decorative elements, to your pottery using slip or glaze.

Remember, each pottery piece is unique, so feel free to experiment and find your own style when it comes to glazing and adding decorative elements. Have fun and enjoy the creative process!

Firing and Finishing the Pottery

After you have shaped and dried your pottery, the next step is to fire it in a kiln. Firing is the process of heating the pottery at high temperatures to transform it into a durable, finished product. Here’s a step-by-step guide to firing and finishing your pottery:

  1. Prepare the kiln: Before firing, make sure the kiln is clean and in good working condition. Check the kiln shelves and posts for any debris or glaze drips, and remove them if necessary. Also, ensure that the kiln is properly ventilated and that the temperature controls are set correctly.

  2. Load the pottery: Carefully place your dried pottery onto the kiln shelves. Make sure to leave enough space between the pieces for air circulation. Avoid touching the kiln shelves or other pottery pieces to prevent glaze marks or damage during firing.

  3. Fire the kiln: Follow the recommended firing schedule for your type of clay and glazes. Slowly increase the temperature to remove any remaining moisture from the pottery. Once the pottery is fully dried, gradually raise the temperature to the desired firing range, usually between 1800°F to 2300°F (982°C to 1260°C). Maintain the temperature for the recommended duration to achieve the desired result.

  4. Cool down: After the firing is complete, allow the kiln to cool down naturally. Avoid opening the kiln too early as it can cause thermal shock and damage the pottery. Let the kiln cool to room temperature before unloading the pottery.

  5. Inspect and finish: Once the pottery has cooled, carefully remove it from the kiln. Inspect each piece for any flaws or imperfections. If needed, use sandpaper or a sponge to smooth any rough edges or marks. Apply any desired glazes or finishes and fire the pottery for a second time if necessary.

Remember, firing and finishing the pottery is a crucial step in the pottery-making process. It’s important to follow the recommended guidelines for your specific clay and glazes to achieve the best results. With practice and attention to detail, you’ll soon be able to create beautiful, finished pottery pieces that you can be proud of.


What materials do I need to throw pottery?

To throw pottery, you will need clay, a pottery wheel, water, pottery tools, and a kiln for firing the pottery.

Do I need to have any prior experience to throw pottery?

No, you do not need any prior experience to throw pottery. This step-by-step guide is designed for beginners.

How do I prepare the clay for throwing?

To prepare the clay for throwing, you need to wedge it, which involves kneading and compressing the clay to remove air bubbles and make it more uniform in consistency.

What are some basic pottery throwing techniques?

Some basic pottery throwing techniques include centering the clay on the wheel, opening the clay to create a hollow form, pulling walls to shape the clay, and trimming the excess clay from the bottom of the pot.

How long does it take to learn how to throw pottery?

The time it takes to learn how to throw pottery varies for each individual. Some people may pick it up quickly, while others may take more time to develop the necessary skills. With practice, most beginners can start creating basic pottery within a few weeks.


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