Mophorn Pottery Wheel

Want to Start Making Your Own Pottery? These Are the Essential Tools and Materials You'll Need

Shaping and sculpting clay into one-of-a-kind works of art is done with certain tools and machinery.
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Pottery has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Archeologists have recovered pottery made in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, so it stands to reason that the archeologists of the future will one day examine our work, too. The longevity of this craft makes it one that can be passed down for generations as well as provide beautiful artwork for your home today. And it's not that difficult to pick up the hobby. "You actually need very few tools to get started. Your own hands can mold, shape, and smooth the clay easily. But to get a really sleek look it helps to have some simple, everyday tools on hand," explains Francesca Stone, author of Easy Homemade Pottery: Make Your Own Stylish Decor Using Polymer and Air-Dry Clay ($15.99, amazon.com). "Cookie cutters, craft knives, and rollers are a great start. You can buy very inexpensive tool sets which include basic cutting and smoothing tools that can come in handy, too."

For all potters, an essential set of tools will include the basics like a needle tool, metal or wood potter's rib, a wire cutting tool, and a couple of trimming loops and a sponge. These are the basics that a beginner in pottery will find helpful, whether you are hand building, sculpting, or wheel throwing. You can also use sandpaper and polishing tools to smooth out your clay creations. Low-grit sandpaper is best for air-dry clay pieces while wet and dry paper and a buffing pad on a rotary tool is best for finishing polymer clay works. But if you want to start building a professional workspace, there are several tools you can purchase today. Ahead, we explain them all.

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ARTEZA Essential Clay Tools Set
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Sculpting Tool Set

"A simple kit like this has everything you need to get started with creating clay pieces without including an overwhelming amount of options," says Stone. "These tools will help you shape, smooth and sculpt a wide variety of pieces without breaking the bank!"

Shop Now: ARTEZA Essential Clay Tools Set, $8.98, amazon.com.

AMACO Mexican Self-Hardening Clay
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Self-Hardening Clay

Mold and sculpt with this air-dry clay then add color with paints on your finished product. Best of all: You don't need a kiln when you work with air-dry clay.

Shop Now: AMACO Mexican Self-Hardening Clay, $20.91 for five pounds, amazon.com.

Mophorn Pottery Wheel
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Pottery Wheel

For throwing pottery, a wheel is a must. This pottery wheel offers a compact structure that's ideal for storage if you don't have a dedicated craft room or have a small space. It's electric and portable and can even be used for classroom demonstrations.

Shop Now: Mophorn Pottery Wheel, $209.99, amazon.com.

Kemper Clay Cutters
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Clay Cutters

These tools—in their variety of shapes and sizes—are used to carve shapes into slabs of clay.

Shop Now: Kemper Clay Cutters, $39.86 for 20, amazon.com.

PandaHall Platinum Bent-Leg Stainless Steel Caliper Measuring Tools
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Caliper

A tool like this takes accurate inside and outside lid-to-pot measurements for the perfect fit. It also helps to match the base of a cup to the depressed center of a saucer plate. All types come in different sizes, but metal calipers are durable and rustproof.

Shop Now: PandaHall Platinum Bent-Leg Stainless Steel Caliper Measuring Tools, $15.99 for four, amazon.com.

Art Advantage ART-6950-8 Wire Clay Cutter
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Wire Clay Cutter

For slicing and cutting lumps of clay as well as cutting pots off the wheel, this traditional tool is bound by stainless steel wire that's firmly fastened to hardwood toggle handles.

Shop Now: Art Advantage ART-6950-8 Wire Clay Cutter, $2.98, amazon.com.

JK Adams Tapered French Rolling Pin
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Rolling Pin

What's good for the kitchen is good for the studio: Try a rolling pin, which is used to roll out slabs of clay to an even thickness.

Shop Now: JK Adams Tapered French Rolling Pin, $24, food52.com.

pottery glaze jars on shelf
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Glazes and Stains

Stains are the best way to add color to your ceramics, either used by themselves as an underglaze color or incorporated into the last coat of finish. Choose a palette that's perfect for your project by mixing and matching pigmented powders.

Shop Now: Bailey Pottery Glazes and Stains, from $1.50 per color, baileypottery.com.

Royal & Langnickel Ceramic Glaze Brushes Set
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Glazing Brushes

Whether you are applying stains, washes, glazes, or wax, you'll need a brush that leaves on a smooth finish.  This set of 16 brushes in four sizes includes a complementary rack for drying and storage.

Shop Now: Royal & Langnickel Ceramic Glaze Brushes Set, $18.39, dickblick.com.

Royal & Langnickel Natural & Synthetic Sponge Pack
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Sponges

Sponges—both natural and synthetic—are multipurpose in the making of pottery: They are used to clean up your workspace and smooth the surface of your clay pieces.

Shop Now: Royal & Langnickel Natural & Synthetic Sponge Pack, $6.99 for four, michaels.com.