Be Wary of Toy Potter's Wheels

Q: My ten year old daughter loves art and has recently expressed an interest in clay. We bought a pottery wheel from Michael's arts and crafts store but it was less than what we imagined.

For starters...every time you put even a small amount of clay on it and try to start working, the wheel stops turning. I've looked online and come across many other "kids" pottery wheels, but I'm afraid of getting stuck with another piece of junk that won't even work the way it's supposed to.

There aren't many customer reviews to go by on these products and we don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on one either. I was wondering if you, as an experience potter, would have any suggestions?

A: I'm so sorry! Those plastic pottery wheel toys are the worst thing I think we could ever do to our kids (or ourselves) when it comes to a great experience with clay! Even the ones that can be plugged in simply do not have the
horsepower and torque needed to throw clay.

Ergo, frustration ensues. Bad experiences are had by everyone. *shudder*

If you want to get a wheel that can really be used (as more than a glorified banding wheel), I'd try looking for a used one. See How to Find Pottery Wheels for more information.

Having said this, however, I would like to encourage anyone new to clay and without a wheel to explore off-the-wheel pottery making techniques. Lovely stuff can be
made using the pinch, coil, and slab techniques...all without a wheel.

Check out my section on Hand Building Techniques, beginning with Basic Hand Building with Clay.

Now, an added word of caution.... unless you have kiln space available for
firing, you need to use either an air-dry or oven-cured clay. Otherwise, the greenware is so brittle that it will end up breaking really quickly.

(However, you can often rent kiln space from potters, paint-your-pottery places, or art supply stores or community centers that have pottery classes. It is definitely worth asking around!)