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Whenever anyone decides to work on pottery or ceramics, they usually don't have a lot of money to invest or don't want to spend a lot of money.
Some of us are pretty good at make shifting tools, tables, chairs and shelves.
Sometimes this works and sometimes it makes it harder or almost impossible to work.
There is nothing worse than being uncomfortable or not having the right tools to do a job right.
A lot of times it will even cause one to decide not to do pottery or ceramics.
Below are five very important tips that I wish I would have had, or known, when I started out in ceramics.

STOOL

Work Stool for pottery
When I first started working with ceramics I was using a small picnic table.
It seemed like I was always trying to scoot myself into a good position, it was also very awkward always having to step over the bench seat and besides that board seat got really hard after sitting there for a while.
I even tried putting a cushion on there to sit on, but when scooting around, more times as not the cushion would fall off the board!!
Also, I was either too close, too far, too low or too high.
My advice is to get a good padded, adjustable stool with a back and foot rest, which will be worth it's weight in gold.

BANDING WHEEL

Banding Wheel
Make sure you have a banding wheel.
I tried turning my piece by hand when building, glazing and decorating and found that the outcome had much to be desired.
Glazing goes much faster, decorating is easier, and pieces are easier to hand build when they are on a banding wheel.
I also noticed the difference when I went to the raised style banding wheel.
Getting the pottery off the table and more at eye level really helps.
The more expensive and heavier banding wheels do work much better than the cheaper laminate ones, because their weight helps keep them spinning while you glaze or decorate your piece.
For hand building though, I like the large diameter laminate style.

TEST TILES

Glaze Samples
Make test tiles.
What I realized when I started making test tiles was that you could keep them around forever because they didn't take up much space.
They usually are a bisque fired clay tile about 3" X 4" X 1/2", but as shown above they can be any shape and you just apply your glaze on and fire them.
After they are fired make sure and number them and enter the number and info for that tile in your notebook.>
Test tiles can be squeezed into almost any kiln load.
They are so fast to make that you will begin to experiment much more.
What if I layer this glaze over that?
What would this look like really thick?
What would this look like on red clay?
Does this glaze look good on a textured piece?
Does this glaze look better at Cone 5 or Cone 6?
These are all questions your start asking yourself and actually finding out the answers to when you use test tiles.

NOTES

Pottery Book

Keep a notebook!
No matter how much you think you will remember, such as how thick you put on a glaze, what your firing temp and time was or even what glaze you used to begin with, believe me, you will forget!!
Scraps of paper get misplaced, thrown out or lost.
So use a spiral notebook or a three ring binder.
Write down everything you do, as you do it.
I would number my pieces and write down all the details of that particular piece, but what I have learned over time is that I never write enough detail.
I always look back and there are things I wonder about, and things I wish I had written down.
I am getting better tho!!!
I am writing down more and more details, even the littlest things, while I am making and glazing a piece.
I am trying not to let a piece leave my studio until I have recorded the results.
Now instead of having a bunch of numbered pieces sitting around, I am taking a photo of the piece with a digital camera, god bless this invention!
Believe me, these notes and pictures I am writing down and taking are paying off by saving me lots of time and headaches, besides giving me the ability to produce a certain look over and over.

WITNESS CONES

Witness Cones before a firing

During a firing viewed thru a peek hole


Witness Cones after a firing


I can't tell you how important it is to use witness cones, even if you have an electronic controller, in regular language that means a computer controlled kiln .
If your glazes are not real picky about temperature, you can probably get away with not using witness cones in every firing.
But, if a glaze comes out weird and you have no witness cone in the kiln, it is almost impossible to know for sure whether it was fired to hot or too cool.
There has been so many times where I am glad I have used a witness cone.
In the past I just put self-supporting cones inside the kiln so I could tell after the fact, what happened.
Did the kiln get to the right temperature?
Was this shelf a little cool or too hot?
But now I am actually placing the cones so I can see them through the peep hole with my kiln glasses.
It is surprising how often my controller stops either a little cool or a little hot, depending on the firing program I use and how the kiln is loaded.
By watching it, I can stop the kiln early or let it run longer, as needed.
It really is worth it to do this at least at few times with your kiln.
Then you can decide if it is worth it for you to continue.

These few hints will hopefully help you while working with ceramics and pottery.
Whenever working with clay, any precautions that you can take will save you time and will produce the exact outcome you want for that piece.

GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN!!!!!

The time to look down on your neighbor is when you stoop over him to give him a lift.



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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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