How to Teach Yourself Pottery Making- Self-Taught vs Self-Directed
What an amazing pottery journey this has been!
January 1, 2011 is the date I consider to be the beginning of my “Hobby Potter” life. It’s when I got serious about clay and began creating YouTube videos to “direct myself” (learn) pottery making and ceramics. 2018 marks 7 YEARS ! Along the way I’ve made some beautiful friendships, learned a lot (with still more to be learned) and have tremendously enjoyed this clay journey!
Self-Taught vs Self-Directed: Before sharing the process I use to grow in my pottery practice, I feel the need to clarify some terminology. “Self Taught” means you had no help what-so-ever from others, and learned techniques completely on your own. “Self-Directed” means you charted your own course of learning and used resources from professionals to learn the craft. Since I’ve never officially taken a pottery class and I learned primarily through YouTube videos, books and suggestions/critiques from fellow potters who I see as mentors, I’m a Self-Directed potter!
From time to time I get asked this question?
“”How did you teach yourself to make pottery?” or “How do you know what you want to make?” Here is the formula I use and still follow that helps me learn and improve my skills:
- Choose Projects To Help You Learn a Specific Technique or Skill (such as throwing a cup, handbuilding a pitcher, texturing, mixing glazes…etc.). Books are great, but it’s also crucial to see live demonstrations. There are some amazing teachers out there and even actual online pottery classes (ClayShare with Jessica Putnam-Phillips) that can guide you. Being in community with other potters and getting live critiques will also help you improve more quickly.
- Set a Goal with Actionable Steps: I chose projects to accomplish a task: (365 Days of Clay Cups, or 30 Bowls, 30 Days, 30 Techniques or 1lb of Clay 25 Ways). This helped me to compartmentalize my learning experiences and not feel like I was all over the place. (Example, I wanted to learn to throw on the pottery wheel with small cracks of time. So I decided to throw one cup a day for an entire year. It gave me a goal and also assured enough repetition in order to grow.)
- Figure out a way to keep repetitive practice fun…this is HUGE on my list! It’s got to be fun if it’s going to get done! (I’m no fan of doing the same thing twice, but I do understand that I can only improve with repetitious efforts). How did I get it done? The 365 Day cup project allowed me to throw on the pottery wheel everyday, but I made every cup look different so it didn’t feel repetitious.
- Be accountable to somebody: (pottery group, Facebook friends, the YouTube verse ;). When I had no one around me that worked with clay, I started my Hobby Potter YouTube Channel to create a community where I had none.
- Share What You’ve Learned: My videos are not “instructional” and were never meant to be, but hopefully they are “educational” in the sense that other newbie potters can see another newbie pottery taking chances. If what I’m personally learning is shareable (good or bad) it becomes a reference of realistic application to someone in the learning process.
Without the ability to be in a classroom setting and gleaning from those sitting around you, “real deal” videos can be helpful to beginners who might become discouraged if a project doesn’t turn out “picture perfect”. Some of my biggest disasters go into the kiln and come out as some of my greatest successes. I’ve realized no matter how long I’m into clay, the exciting mystery of a kiln opening is like Christmas, because you never know what can happen!
I would encourage everyone looking to grow in pottery go for it! Figure out what you want to learn, embrace the journey and relax your way through!
2018 is a brand new year of discovery! Let’s get out there and enjoy the earth (as the mud on our hands 😉
You can join our current project Newsletter Group for Hobby Potters!