Setting up a Ceramics Studio

Setting up a Ceramics Studio

I hope you enjoyed my first blog post about me and how I ended up making ceramics full time. Now, I’m going to base these posts more on my business. My next two blog posts are going to be discussing the costs that go into making ceramics. This may be useful for those who are looking to set up a pottery workshop/studio, are starting to sell their work or just those who love to be a bit nosey (this would definitely be me if I wasn’t the one writing this!).

My first ‘money post’ is titled; What you need to set up a pottery studio. Spoiler; you do need a bit of money but there is definitely second hand equipment out there! I’m going to base my advice off what I have and what suits my business ie. making work to sell and making everyday. If you are enjoying ceramics as a hobby then second hand equipment and a smaller kiln etc will be more suited. Below are the basics I recommend: 

    1. A pottery wheel. If you are a keen potter then a wheel is a must. The only way to get better is to practice. I have a RK-55 Shimpo wheel which is powerful enough to center 12kg of clay (far too much for me!). This wheel was £950 new. Second hand, electric wheels tend to go from £150-£600 but will often be older and bulkier. I chose this wheel as it was the best, cheapest one… if that makes sense and most importantly, I can lift it. I moved studios a lot in the first year and my old wheels were very heavy. 
    2. A kiln. Now this isn’t completely necessary! If you can find a local ceramicist who will allow you to rent kiln space and you do not need to fire very often, then do that to start with. However, for long term ease, it is probably better to buy your own kiln. I have a Skutt KM1027 kiln which is 196 litres. This means it can fit about 100 of my mugs in one firing. This kiln (new) is £4200 and further costs will be every 1-2 years (100-200 firings)  of replacing the thermocouple and kiln elements, which together will cost £400. This is a big expense but it is so nice having your own kiln. Second hand kilns at this size are likely to be a minimum of £1000 and the cheaper they are either the older they are and the more fixing they’ll need (kiln elements, brick work etc). Smaller kilns you can find for about £500-£1000 second hand but again will be older. 
  • Shelving. Shelving is key if you are working in a small space and it can be hard to find a shelving unit with a lot of shelves. I really like Ikea’s IVAR shelving as you can customise them to what suits your needs. For example: I have them with 8 shelves and to make two sections (16 shelves, 3 legs) it will cost £201. This is a lot for a shelving unit, I completely understand but it means I need less units; taking up less space; meaning I need to rent less studio space; meaning less money spent … there is some sense behind my madness! And again you can get these second hand. 
    1. Plaster batt and bucket. I’m all about saving money  and the environment, and these pieces are key to doing that, as it allows you to reclaim clay. Reclaiming clay is where any pieces that have collapsed or dried too much or gone wrong can be chucked into a bucket of water. Once the clay is watered down into a ‘ smooth slop’, it can be dried out on a plaster batt and wedged to be used again. This will cost a few pounds and will save a lot more money than that. Not only money but it’s better not to be throwing clay away when it can be used again.
    2. Tools. I would start with a basic set of tools. These can be bought as a set for about £5 and will last a while. It is probably worth buying on top of this; a large sponge, a spatula, glazing brushes and some jugs for measuring water. Altogether this will cost about £20. You can slowly add to your range of tools with turning tools, different wires, throwing batts, different brushes etc. But this is a good starting point.
    3. A table/ workbench. This is a good space for any handbuilding, glazing or to continue working on any pieces after throwing. Wooden benches are good for wedging clay but I find they are not as easy to clean. Therefore I use the heavy duty, plastic folding tables which cost £35-50 each. They are also easily moved out of the way if needed.

    I hope that has given an insight into what is needed to set up a pottery studio. If you’ve ever seen my studio, you’ll see I seem to have a lot more stuff than this…I think I need to clear out some rubbish. I am going to follow this blog post with one about pricing my work. All of this initial expense plays into the cost of each item so have a read of the next blog post too for a further understanding of cost. 

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