Pottery At Home vs. In A Studio

26.10.21 3 min read

When thinking of ceramics, many people picture a potter hunched over the wheel in their studio, throwing pots before firing them in a kiln.
At first glance, you might think that this is a difficult process to recreate at home, requiring tonnes of clay, a big studio and thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment. In fact, the clay at home box gets you closer to the experience than you might realise. 
While many potters use a wheel, plenty create incredible work without. Indeed, people were making pots for thousands of years before the pottery wheel was invented. The handbuilding techniques that you will learn with Beyond the Box allow us to make complex forms that would otherwise take years of practice to achieve on the wheel, or would not be possible at all with the limitations of symmetry.
The kiln might seem more essential, but noah’s air-dry clay is carefully designed to harden with nothing more than the air around us. The clay I use every day must be fired in a kiln to 1250c which forces the water from between the molecules of the clay to leave a solid object. Air-dry clay, on the other hand, is able to reach its finished state through evaporation alone, allowing you to make and complete work without ever leaving home.
In fact, the clay included in the kit is so similar to the ones I use daily that it can be fired in the very same kiln (although it doesn’t need to be!), and the tools included in the kit will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a studio. We will follow all of the same steps that I follow every day—creating the piece, letting it dry, fettling it and finishing it—as well as many of the same handbuilding techniques, such as pinching, coiling and slab building.
Instead of glaze, a complicated mixture of metals, silica (sand) and flux, we can use acrylic paints and varnish to give a similar glossy finish. This is not only much more forgiving for a beginner, but actually gives far more flexibility than glaze: noah’s acrylic paints give a wide range of colours as well as fine brushes and paint pens for detail vs. the arduous task of dipping and layering glazes.
All of this means that the Starter Kit is effectively a studio in a box. It provides a fantastic introduction to how to work with clay: which processes are best for which items, how to use the tools correctly and how to finish the work (in this case, painting rather than glazing). If it becomes a passion, like it did for me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many of the skills and processes seamlessly transfer. 
The only thing to note: although the finished items will look surprisingly similar, remember that there is a difference between air-dry and fired clay in functionality. Conventional clay is vitrified which means it’s composition is similar to glass and is fully waterproof. While the paint and varnish adds a layer of resistance, the clay in your Starter Kit will still absorb water and shouldn’t be used for anything that holds liquid or food. That said, you can still make functional and decorative items such as dishes, incense burners and more for use in the home.
So, let’s get started! Open up your box, take the first steps on your creative journey, and see where the clay takes you!