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Potter  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotPotters are artists, craftspeople and utensil manufacturers.

dotThey work with clay to make pots, vases, plates, cups, saucers, teapots and other household utensils that humans have used for tens of thousands of years.

dotBy definition, pottery is an object that has been formed with clay and baked in a kiln at a very hot temperature. This process, called "firing," causes changes in the clay's chemical properties, making it harder and suitable for daily use. A special coating, called a glaze, may also be applied to give the piece a shine or color.

dotSome pottery is made by "throwing" it on a potter's wheel. This means the clay is placed on top of a spinning flat disc. As the wet clay turns, the potter uses their hands to shape it into a vase or another object.

dotSome pottery is created and bought for its artistic qualities. However, most pieces are functional, meaning they are used as well as admired.

dotOnly the most successful potters are able to support themselves solely by selling their work. Many more teach art in schools or at the college level. Many others run their own shops, selling their pottery and the work of other artists and craftspeople.

dotPart of the challenge for potters and other artists is that their income isn't usually steady. A sale of moderate size may have to hold you over for a long time.

dotMany potters are hired as employees in other studios, helping to produce the designs of a better known artist. These years often become apprenticeships for young potters, as they watch and learn from their more experienced employers.

dotMaking pottery takes strong and careful hands and it may be necessary to lift heavy pots and vases. You also can't be afraid of getting dirty. Some clay even stains hands for days after it is washed off.

dotMost potters work in studios. Often, those studios also serve as the artist's home or gallery. Because potters need expensive kiln ovens as well as working space, several potters will often share the same studio space.

dotOriginality is important, so the potter is constantly trying to come up with new ideas and designs.

dotPotters work regular hours as employees, although it's very flexible work. Some potters do their best work after 9 p.m. Others are strictly morning people. It's up to you (or your boss).

At a Glance

Create useful and artistic objects out of clay

  • Many potters work at related jobs to support themselves
  • Potters are constantly trying to come up with new ideas and designs
  • Talent and a fine arts education are required