Experienced potters help beginners mould their expectations

Many newcomers don't realize how demanding pottery is



Pottery might look like it’s easy, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Aspiring potters must come to grips with a slow learning curve, the physical nature of the art and the cost of equipment, material and proper studio space.

Kate Metten, the owner of Kate Metten Ceramics in Vancouver, has been throwing clay since she was seven. She said even advanced potters struggle with the time required to learn the technique.

“The hardest thing is the learning curve, and really just putting in the 5,000 hours so that you understand the material,” said Metten.

Physically demanding

 Throwing clay also demands exertion of the entire body.

“I move over 800 pounds of clay a month,” Metten said. “And I feel that in my hips and shoulders.”

Pottery enthusiast Stephanie Purificacion suggested the physical challenges, including being able to remain in a hunched-over position at the wheel and being able to hold clay on the wheel, of making pottery can be exhausting. Purificacion exercises two to three times per week to strengthen specific muscle groups used when throwing clay.

“Trying to build that arm and those core muscles helped me to do pottery,” Purificacion said. People who are building their career in ceramics find the cost of entry to be a barrier.

Metten spends around $1,500 on clay every three months. The high cost of supplies coupled with renting space for her storefront has motivated Metten to switch back to a private studio model.

“It’s more cost efficient for me to have a lower overhead, lower studio rent, and prioritize the wholesale,” she said.

Starting from scratch

Langara College ceramics student Clinton Draper said finding space and the cost of equipment can hinder novice potters.

“Your start-up costs, I would guess, would be in the $15,000 bare minimum range,” Draper said.

Draper said finding space for a kiln is the biggest challenge people face when they’re starting out.

“They require special electrical hookups,  so it’s not a practical thing for most people to have,” Draper said. “So if that’s the case you’re looking at either transporting the work you make to a place and renting kiln space which is quite expensive.”

Vancouver Ceramics Studio instructor Mika Abele said it is important for artists to have the proper space to create due to health and safety hazards.

“Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to learn pottery,” she said.

“They have a lot of expectations right off the bat, so sometimes I feel like part of my job, like as an instructor, is to actually just lower people’s expectations, and just have them just practice for the experience and not worry too much about the outcome,” Abele said.


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