What is it?
Pottery, essentially the art of making objects out of clay and treating them with heat, is one of the oldest pastimes on earth. Archeologists know that humans were potting from at least before the Neolithic period. While items like bowls, vases and mugs can now be easily mass-produced in a factory, the artisan pottery scene is thriving.
London, and indeed the whole of the UK, is potty about pottery at the moment. The art market is re-embracing the power of earthenware, while pottery is equally popular at a grassroots craft level. Earlier this year, the crowds at events such as Ceramic Art London showed just how cray cray Londoners are for clay, with urban dwellers increasingly craving tangible and grounded skills in the hyper digital age. Plus, you can make some great Christmas presents!
What equipment do I need?
If you want to do some sculpting, or to make something like a pinch pot, you could just buy some air-dry clay and get your hands messy. But, if you want to make something that looks a bit more professional, you will probably need a potter’s wheel and a kiln – which heats up to about 1000F. Your housemates probably aren’t down with you installing those in your kitchen, so you’re best off using the equipment at a pottery class or an open-access members’ studio, such as Turning Earth.
Who are the experts and how do I learn?
London is full of great pottery studios, many of which offer courses for beginners. Be aware, however, that these tend to fill up seriously quickly, and you may have to join a waiting list. South Londoners can learn the tricks of the trade at The Kiln Rooms, a group of Peckham pottery studios which host everything from one-off taster sessions to a professional practice course. East London’s Crown Works Pottery offer beginner throwing lessons, so you can master using that wheel. Before you know it, you’ll be the next Grayson Perry.
Who will I meet?
If the BBC’s The Great Pottery Throwdown taught us anything, it’s that the world of pottery attracts all sorts. There’s no doubt that pottery is increasingly popular with young people, but you’ll most likely meet all ages and demographics of people at a pottery class. In fact, that’s one of its joys. At an open-access studio you’ll rub up alongside everyone from professional ceramic artists to enthusiastic amateurs.
How do I become a teacher’s pet?
Shaping slippery clay on a whirling wheel isn’t, it must be said, the easiest of tasks. There’s no substitute for practice, so just take it slowly and don’t freak out if things go totally wrong at first. It’s all part of the process. Pottery takes calm and concentration, so if you can try to see at as an almost meditative act, you’re bound to be top of the class.