014 – Advice for Pottery Beginners

MudTalk Podcast
MudTalk Podcast - Pottery, Ceramics, Business
014 - Advice for Pottery Beginners


Start with Why by Simon Sinek – mentioned in the podcast (affiliate link)

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Expert Clay Blog


pottery advice for beginnersAnd we’re back. Finally. If you’ve been following along you may have noticed that there has been a long wait for this episode. I thought over the summer I would have more time… but then I got really busy for a while. Mostly doing awesome things. I’ll probably post some of the awesome things on my instagram @artbyfuzzy. You can check it out there so I don’t have to bore you with the details here.

Anyway, thanks for your patience! This is episode 14 of the MudTalk Podcast and it’s a great one. The topic is: Advice You Would Give Yourself As A Beginner. There were an enormous amount of responses so I trimmed out quite a few that were similar to others. Sorry if your comment didn’t make the cut.

As always, you can check the show notes at expertclay.com. One thing to note before we get started is that the advice offered here was aimed at someone else so some of it may not fit your business, personality, style or situation.

There was a variety of advice. We’ll start with some very general advice and then hear some encouraging words. There was also advice to keep learning and stay focused. At the end we will hear some really practical advice and then a couple of responses that were MY favorite.

General Advice

So let’s start with some general advice, mostly short and sweet.

Pradnyagulwani Let go…

Tara_bane Let it go and it will flow

Veralucile_ Slow down

Terraforms There’s no accounting for taste.

Jay.decker You don’t know if you’ve gone far enough, until you’ve gone too far.

Nicolaashley1101 Practice, practice and practice

S.hellybelly Cut your nails.

Stewartcampbell61 Listen to everyone, ask questions, then do it your way.

Crazikaren Go for the money

Sheri_mccullah Start younger with the Arts.

Sarahbethpottery The ‘perfect pot’ is overrated

Encouragement / Positive Attitude

There were plenty of responses full of encouragement and reminders to have a positive attitude.

Fibromyalgia_fitness If I knew Im going to get all I want, I would never stress and had lots of fun. Stress has made me sick but fun could make me more healthy to enjoy my blessings.

Clay_lady Enjoy the journey of crafting pottery and people you meet along the way.

Yuvikabader Be patient. As the old Indian saying goes, do the work and don’t worry about the outcome. Love these conversations. And this virtual clay community you have created :) thanks!

Highleycrafted Have more confidence in yourself and go for it.

Anni_s_t Have fun and try bolder stuff

Dtaylorsatm Believe in yourself now! Don’t listen to the naysayers! Recognize your limits, but excel in the possibilities.

Musingaboutmud You think it’s fun now? Just you wait… ???it only gets better.

Judykepes Don’t let your negative inner voice rule your thinking- you will look back at your stuff 20 years later and say” wow, that sh**s pretty cool, wonder why I thought it all sucked”

Angeltilpottery Be patient!

Airingout_clay Don’t stop. Do what you love.

Redboatstudio “Patience is a virtue make yourself rich” Very true working with clay :)

Melliferapottery You will get there, so enjoy the ride!

smileygirlartis t It seems like progress is slow now, but be diligent, be patient, and you’ll improve faster than you thought you could! Don’t be afraid to experiment, don’t be afraid to cut something in half, don’t be afraid to try new glazes. You got this!

Dsummrs Stop being so critical of yourself and make stuff every day!

East2westpottery You WILL make a better version of the last thing you made. Keep making.

Earthartam Yes, go for it! It all turns out great! Oh wait…that’s what my younger self told herself.

Ceramic_amateur Don’t get emotionally invested in a piece until it is fully complete and set in place

Hillbippieclayco You’ll solve one problem and another will arise. Keep solving ✌️

Artbygretamichelle Just keep throwing stuff.

Bluee_pottery Your teacher doesn’t always know what your capable of, you can do a lot more than they think you can so just go for it

Hnilebo You can always try again and again and again and…

Michellebowceramics Make space in your life to do this now… buy a pottery wheel… join a pottery club… go for it ??

Kali DG Throw… often, everyday, anytime and under any circumstances…. teach your body to remember so your mind can relax… this is your happy place.

Kerry D Don’t stress about centering! It will happen! Keep practising! ?

Learning? / Improving

Now we’ll hear some advice about learning or improving.

Flowergurl4eva Learn all you can about glazes, before spending lots of money on them.

Woodywood250 Learn all you can. Absorb it like a sponge and don’t ring it out!

Orvietoclayart There is no substitute for putting the time into learning, exploring and experimenting.. to finding your vision and intimately getting to know the medium. Take risks they are short cuts to knowledge downloads ?

Laurieandwilliam You’ll ALWAYS and forever be trying to improve your skills, so relax!

Teval_guner Every mistake teaches you something, so smile at the mistakes you make.

Atomicselection You will get the experience exactly after the point at which it would have been useful.

Wildfirepotterypenn You think you know a lot, but you know less than a drop in the bucket.

Lori W Don’t fuss over individual pieces; focus on gaining skill, not how many pots are on the board at the end of the day.


There were a few responses about staying focused.

Mepifano Don’t waste time, do this and nothing else.

Jh_ceramics Only make what you enjoy making, NOT what you think other people will like.

Sandywithaq Pick one thing and do it well.

D.nelson.oman.art Give yourself time. Time and focus are your best assets.

Doris L R You don’t have to make production pottery. One piece of art is original. Don’t be bound by perfection. Imperfection is beauty.

Practical Advice

Some of the following responses offer some practical advice.

Crw_designs Great topic. So many ideas…. Don’t take breaks from creating. Involve yourself more with the clay community. Don’t work in your classroom; have your own space.

Ericabodinepottery Work smarter, not harder. If a piece isn’t working out, and it’s taking you longer to fix it than it would to make a whole new piece, make the new piece. Also, sometimes there are days that just aren’t clay days. You know, when nothing is working out. Those days are for working on other things. Cooking, relaxing, or just self reflection. It’s a balance.

Santesalvoni Don’t forget to breathe. Really. Don’t hold your breath. And , slow down. Take a minute to clean the slip off your wheel before thinking of your next pull

Ceramicbianka Cut everything in half.

Bluelotuspottery That I like slab work more than wheel work.

Littleblackberrycreekpots Brace yourself Effie. And don’t forget to come out of the studio long enough to enjoy the other parts of your life, too. And pick some shows in places that you just want to go and see for yourself.

Chadantomlincreations Use the sponge to pull! It wasn’t till someone suggested I use the sponge that I finally was able to make decent pulls.

Mamawikisonfromtheville How important it is to slip and score !?

Christinesteinstudio Measure twice cut once

Casapangea make more pieces

Kathrynburnsclay Throw more pieces away.

Pam E Tester tiles are worth the wait and extra effort! There are no short cuts in pottery making.


These last few are a few that stuck out to ME. This part could be a lot longer because there were so many responses that I really loved. But here are 3 of my favorites.

Claybylaura Relax and learn from your mistakes! I’ve learned to enjoy the process as much as the finished product. As a beginner, I wanted to keep everything I made. Now, if the end-result of my effort is flawed and not worth keeping (even after firing), I try to learn from the experience and let go (trash) of the bad result.

Goddessoffire The path you take is right one for you. No matter what path you take.

And a similar idea was shared by

Littlepotteryshop When I first started out I would look at my more accomplished classmates’ work and question my own. I’ve learned to never compare your work or your path in life to anyone else’s. Be inspired, take chances, and take your time and things will evolve beautifully just as they are meant to!

I like the idea that even though we are all working with clay, we are all different. Sometimes I feel like everyone else is telling us, hey, you have to do this or that. You have to have a bunch of instagram followers, you have to fire to a certain temperature, you have to throw 1000 pots per day, you have to use certain glazes, you have to focus on one thing, you have to charge a certain amount for your work, you have to spend more time with your family, you have to do this for the rest of your life, you have to do certain events, you have to get into galleries… and the list goes on. Most of the time people are just offering friendly advice which is actually really nice of them. The problem is that they don’t see things from your perspective. They usually don’t know your situation or your background or your dreams. That’s why it’s important to be careful about comparing yourself to other people. It’s okay to do things your way. I’ve just listened to the audiobook Start with Why by Simon Sinek. One of the things I took away from it was that you have to figure out what you actually want. For example, you may want to get your work into galleries. But why? Do you want to get your work in front of others? Do you want validation that your work is good? Do you want to sell more work? Once you figure out what you really want, can you actually get it by doing something else that fits your situation better? Something to think about as you listen to all the advice out there.

So now, I’ll do just the opposite and tell you some things you HAVE to do! Okay, not really. But I’m going to try to think through what I would tell myself as I was just starting to make pottery and why.

I think the first thing I would tell myself is: Improve your skills. There isn’t really a downside to improving your skills, just investing the time to do it. And the upside can be enormous. The most obvious thing is making better work. More comfortable handles, pots that aren’t so heavy and clunky, better function, better surfaces… improving your skills will just allow you to make better things. But the thing that would benefit ME most is the efficiency. The more skilled I have become, the more efficient I can make things. I can make a bowl in half the time it took me as a beginner. If I start adding up all the pots I’ve made, being more efficient sooner in my journey could have saved a lot of time.

Another benefit of improving my skills to an adequate level is that it is a lot easier to explore different ideas, forms and styles. I could focus more on my own style sooner if I had the skills to do everything I wanted. So, what would this look like? For me, as a wheel thrower, I would just make a lot more pots on the wheel. Instead of throwing a bunch of random forms I would have thrown 20 of the same form and recycled 19 after really studying why I liked one the best. I could have also done exercises just to practice a certain skill. How tall of a cylinder can I make from a certain amount of clay? How thin can I make the walls before it collapses? I think if I would have focused a little more on this kind of stuff right away I would have had more confidence in my work and been able to explore more things sooner. But of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t have any regrets. And one of the great things about working with clay, even as a beginner, is the chance to explore and try new things, and just have a good time.

Another thing I would tell myself is to start a business as soon as I started selling my pots. This would have helped me keep track of my expenses and income a lot better and probably could have had some tax benefits. Plus it was a lot easier than I thought to start a business. Basically, I had to fill out a few forms, pay a couple small fees and then I opened a business account at the local credit union.

One more thing that I would consider telling myself is to start an email list or work on my online presence right from the beginning. Now, I’m mostly including this just because I hear a lot of other people say this. And there isn’t really a downside to doing it other than investing the time. More followers means a bigger audience and a bigger audience usually means better odds to make sales. But I’m still not sure that I would have followed this advice myself. I sell most of my work at local shows. Plus I’m a little more private when it comes to social media. So I’m still finding my own path when it comes to this area.

So what about you? Do you have anything you would tell yourself when you were a beginner? You can leave a message at expertclay.com/mtp. You can also check out the Expert Clay Blog where you will find the latest series of articles about Making the Most of Your Time in the Pottery Studio. As I’m recording this, I also have the next article almost finished so be on the lookout for that.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. Our next episode is another good one: How to Price Your Work. Until then, stay muddy.

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