Whether a potter enjoys making vases, jewelry or tiles, there are quite a few pottery-making supplies that nearly all potters will use at some point. A new potter can expect to spend thousands of dollars setting up a personal potting studio. The following items are a few of the common tools that most potters find to be crucial additions to their craft.
Without a kiln, pottery is hardly pottery. A kiln bakes or "fires" pottery at very high temperatures to harden the clay and melt the glaze onto the surface of the pottery. Kilns vary greatly in size, and several types are available. Some kilns are intended to fire only very small jewelry pieces. These kilns are only several inches large and are almost always electrically operated. Other kilns are as large as entire rooms and used for industrial ceramic producers. These huge kilns are operated electrically, with fire or with gas. Occasionally, people will fashion an outdoor kiln. These are inexpensive kilns that are placed over a fire and used to create interesting patterning caused by the unharnessed fire.
To make perfectly symmetrical pottery pieces, it is important to use a pottery wheel. Pottery wheels come in two main varieties: electric and kick wheel. Electric pottery wheels are controlled much like a sewing machine. The potter must simply push her foot down on a pedal, and the potting wheel rotates in the direction the potter has specified and at a speed relative to the pressure being applied to the pedal. A kick-style wheel involves a bit more exercise. The potter must kick the circular base of the wheel, which rotates the potting platform at the top.
Choosing the right clay is pivotal to achieving the desired result. Red clays are typically stiffer, making them the best option for new potters since this type of clay is more easily controlled. However, the color variations of glazed and fired pieces are limited when red clay is used. The colors often appear dull and seldom look the way the potter has anticipated. White clays, like porcelain, are often much more supple and offer the potter a challenge in creating pottery. White clays result in the most attractive and bold colors once glazed and fired. For a nice combination of ease of use and bright colors, gray or light brown clay is best.
Glaze is what gives the pottery its color. Glaze is applied to a finished piece after it has undergone one firing--bisque firing--in the kiln. Some potter's prefer to paint the glaze onto the pottery, while others use a dipping method in which they immerse the entire pottery piece in the glaze for an even coat. After the final layer of glaze is applied, the pottery undergoes a glaze firing. This is the final kiln firing.
Aside from these most basic pottery making supplies, there are also several other items used daily by most potters. Potters often use carving tools, wax, sponges, knives and wire clay cutters when throwing pottery. For tile-making or free-form pottery, potters also use rolling pins or slab makers, in which a large slab of clay is rolled through a series of large rollers using a crank method. Other potters use hump and slump molds to create uniform ceramic pieces. Some potters also use texturing plates and pottery decals to decorate the pottery.