Updated: Mar 20
My husband got me a beginners's wheel pottery package from Urth & Phire for my birthday last year, finally helping me start on pottery since it has been on my to-do list for a while.
I got a sneak preview of what it was like to work on a pottery wheel back in 2017, when I got to try making a little cup in Bhutan when I was travelling there, and meant to try it out properly in Singapore.
The course is based on wheel throwing (making stuff from clay on a spinning wheel). There are other techniques like handbuilding etc., but those are not covered in this course. Here are a few highlights from the 8 lessons I had:
My workstation after my very first session:
In the first lesson, we learnt how to make basic cylinders (bottom right are bowls - made a few lessons earlier). These are what pieces look like before they are trimmed, so the base looks chunky/ messy:
Here's the difference from trimming - the base is cleaned up, with a foot added for the cups to stand on as well. These are the same three pieces after trimming (done on a separate session, after the pieces are a bit drier and harder):
Throwing isn't always successful, especially when I had long breaks between classes (and forgot what I did the previous lesson oops). Some original pieces failed, and here's me looking sheepish about what I accidentally made (I think it was originally supposed to be a bowl...):
Thanks to the guidance and encouragement of the instructors
P, I somehow managed to clean it up and make it artistic :D:
As part of the course, we also learnt about glazing - there is underglaze, where you can paint designs (like normal painting), before it gets fully fired. Here's what it looks like - pretty much like painting on the pieces. I also got to try carving designs on the surface:
My bowls, themed day and night, with different coloured insides:
Here is what they look like after firing (and a coat of transparent glaze) - on the right of collage below:
There is also overglaze, which is what people (me at least) usually think of in pottery, where you coat the pieces in some glaze, which turns out in a different colour after it gets fired. Here's what the coating looks like before firing - I assure you they are intended to be a different colour from what they appear here:
Here's a collage of 1) the original plan, 2) what it looks like after coating the glaze, 3) what it looks like after firing. The pieces are in "halves" because I wanted to have a mix of a single glaze coating (bottom of each cup) and the layered glaze (top of each cup) and see what they look like:
I love how they turned out! All imperfect and unique <3:
They sit on a corner on top of a cabinet in my kitchen now, save for the accidental "floral" pot which I used as a pot for a stephania erecta plant (which usually sits in my living room for more sunlight):
Details of the workshop
Duration: 8 x 2 hour sessions (I took a little bit longer for some sessions - the instructors were super kind to allow me to stay on longer to complete what I was working on)
Price: $400 for 8 sessions, booked on Urth & Phire, inclusive of use of all materials, and up to 8 glazed pieces to bring home at the end (I only managed 7 by the end of the beginner's sessions, but I continued with some studio sessions and they allowed me to "use" this additional complementary glazing for another piece
Level of "fun": 4/5
It is really awesome to be able to create a beautiful final product from a lump of clay! The various steps have different techniques - from throwing on the wheel, to trimming the base, and carving + glazing. The first two require more technique and skills, while carving and glazing uses more of creativity and design.
The variety of types of work involved in the whole process made it really fun. I know some people prefer certain steps over others, and I think that is the beauty of the overall pottery process - having different types of steps to work on, to cater to what you feel like doing.
Highly recommend this workshop which gives you a set of lovely output / pieces to bring home at the end of it as well!
Level of difficulty: 3.5/5
I think it isn't difficult to create something imperfectly (and I actually do love imperfect pieces because of their character). The instructors are also always super encouraging, and help to suggest and make adjustments to make even accidents work.
But I won't lie - creating something to look the way you intend it to requires proper technique and skills. Building up proper skills takes effort and consistency, which I unfortunately didn't manage to dedicate enough time for (having long gaps between lessons didn't help!).
I have to admit I don't have a strong foundation, and when I continued with studio sessions, I struggled with making pieces the way I want to (ending up with accidentally artistic and beautiful imperfect pieces - but unintended). But I do enjoy the process of creation, and am going back to the basics to make sure I understand what I am not doing right, and I find myself enjoying this process of "re-learning" :)