When you think of pottery, it’s usually only the wheel that comes to mind. But there are so many other fun ways that you can dip your toes into the amazing world of clay!
From simple box structures to art-filled designs, these beginner pottery ideas will easily spark your imagination.
So read on for explanations of the different construction methods used in pottery and some beginner ideas in each method to get you started!
What Are the Different Types of Pottery?
A pottery project can be made using either slab construction, the pinching method, the coiling method, or a pottery wheel.
Slab pottery works by using the slip-and-score technique to attach flat slabs of clay. Pinch pottery is when you use the warmth of your hands to soften the clay and mold it into different shapes.
Coiling works by taking segments from a long rope of clay and coiling it around and on top of itself to build plates, bowls, mugs, and other things. Lastly, pottery wheel construction uses a spinning platform to help you mold the clay.
Beginner Slab Construction Pottery Ideas
1. Christmas Ornaments
One of the biggest challenges to home pottery projects is figuring out how to properly dry your clay. That’s why Christmas ornaments are such a great way to get you started. Especially for families looking to get into the festive spirit!
Not only can you have fun using the cutting tools and acrylic paints to make your ornaments, but you can also start to get a feel for how thick your clay should be so that it doesn’t crack during the firing process.
2. Jewelry Box
Scoring and slipping is a major skill in the pottery world, and jewelry boxes are the best way to introduce yourself to it!
Start by measuring and cutting out all the slabs of clay for the base, sides, and lid of your jewelry dish. It’s best to start with a simple box for your first time. But as you keep practicing, try out some of the more challenging shapes, like stars and flowers!
To glue the pieces together, dig lines into both the areas that you want to stick together with a scoring tool. Then, spread a watery clay mixture called a slip on both sides and slide them together for a few seconds. You’ll need to apply a bit of pressure, but not so much that you change the shape of the clay.
After letting it dry for five to ten minutes, use your finger to clean up the edges. Then start on the next piece until you have a brand new jewelry dish!
3. Butter Dish
A butter dish is another great beginner pottery idea because there are lots of little details you can add to challenge yourself.
It can be a simple box lid over a dish, or you could add handles and grooves that create a better fit for the lid into the base. You could also carve in some designs, or put indents on the lid to hold your butter knife!
Since this is a kitchenware project, you’ll need to do some research into what glazes are food-safe. For oven-fired polymer clays, there are certain epoxy resins that will work. And for kiln-fired pottery clay, most Penguin Pottery glazes are lead-free and food-safe.
Beginner Pinching Pottery Ideas
4. Pinch Pot Mug
To make a pinch pot mug, get a smooth ball of soft clay and use your thumbs to dig a hole into the center of it. Starting from the base of the hole, slowly pinch and pull the sides up and out to form the mug.
This project is all about taking your time and staying patient as you get the sides and base even. Which is part of what makes it such a great idea for pottery beginners!
Once you have a rough shape, you can focus on smoothing out the sides as best you can. Then use the score and slip method to add your handle.
5. Egg Cups
Egg cups are a great beginner pottery idea because they look complicated and impressive but are actually really easy to make!
Just use the same pinching method to create a small bowl-like shape with your clay. Then roll another piece of clay into a small cylinder and flatten out one end to create a sturdy base.
With your now expert slipping and scoring skills, glue the two pieces together to create your egg cup!
Be sure to consider the size of the bowl and the thickness of your stand when making these. Too thin and it could cave under the weight of the bowl.
6. Frog Sponge Holder
When it comes to fun and unique beginner pottery ideas, there’s nothing better than this animal sponge holder!
Using your thumbs and finger slowly hollow out a ball of clay. As the clay thins out, start to add the details of the frog’s eyes and legs. You may need some sculpting tools to get it right.
All of this project’s little challenges are the perfect stepping stones for honing your craft!
Beginner Coiling Pottery Ideas
7. Coil Pot
First in this section of beginner coiling pottery ideas is the coil pot! Like most pottery projects, there are a few different ways to go about making this.
One of the easier methods is to make a coiled, spiral base and then build up the walls by stacking premade rings one on top of the other.
To get that really tight spiral in the middle of the base, a good tip is to cut diagonally across one end of your clay rope. Then start the coil by folding the thin end of the cut into itself. When it’s your desired size, cut another diagonal and use the score and slip method to create a seamless attachment.
Then, use a wooden modeling tool to blend one side of the spiral together. As you slip and score each new ring onto the base, you’ll also want to blend those pieces on the inside so that you’re finished pot is leakproof.
8. Coil Plate
Coil plates are a great beginner pottery idea because you don’t have to worry about structural issues, so it’s easier to let your imagination flow into the designs.
Instead of the basic ring method, spiral and coil your clay into different shapes. Make small circles, snake-like squiggles, and flower petals. As long as they’re the same width, anything is possible!
Once you’ve fit all your clay into the plate shape you’d like, use the modeling tool to blend one side of the plate together. And voila! You have a beautifully decorated art piece for your table.
9. Coil Bowl
Coil bowls are one of the harder beginner pottery ideas on this list. Mainly because the shape has gravity working against you.
The best way for beginners to start this project is by using a forming mold. That way, you won’t have to worry about creating the shape yourself, and you can focus more on the designs.
With the mold, a coil bowl can be made almost exactly like the plate. Just place your clay shapes on the mold and blend the pieces together. When it’s done, use the score and slip method to add a base.
Beginner Pottery Wheel Ideas
The hardest part about making anything with a pottery wheel is getting used to the wheel itself. That’s why bowls, which can be lots of different shapes and sizes are such an awesome pottery idea for beginners.
When using a wheel, it’s important to start on the fastest gear and get your clay completely centered on the platform. After that, you can slow it down and start to play around with the clay. Try and get it as tall as possible, then push it flat again without breaking it. Or try hollowing it out and curving it downward.
When you’re ready, mold the clay into the width you want your bowl to be and start to slowly push out the middle while pulling the sides up and out. Don’t forget to check the thickness of the base every once in a while, you don’t want it thinner than about a quarter of an inch!
At the end, finish it off with a light sweep with a soft sponge to smooth out the sides!
A juicer is a simple, but impressive-looking project, that’s the perfect beginner pottery idea for impressing your friends with your newfound skills!
First, mold your clay into the width you want your juicer to be. Then, hollow the center of your clay all the way down to the wheel. Now start to push down and out to make the base of your juicer. Before collaring and closing the hollow in the middle, always check the thickness of your base.
If it’s about a quarter of an inch thick, finish forming the walls of your juicer like you would a normal bowl and add any finishing touches you’d like!
Ridges along the head of the juicer are always a good touch. You could also add a lip for easy pouring.
Wrapping Up Beginner Pottery Ideas to Spark Your Imagination
After trying these beginner pottery ideas, you’ll have all the skills you need to become a true pottery master!
For more information on what you’ll need to hone your craft, check out our article on the essential pottery tools every potter needs!