My first pottery class

I’ve always been curious about the process of hand crafted pottery.

Branch window shelf showcasing pottery for sale at The Back Porch in Harrison Hot Springs BC

Pottery for sale on branch shelves at The Back Porch in Harrison Hot Springs BC

When I visit  The Back Porch located in Harrison Hot Springs, BC, it’s always so fun to gaze at their rows and rows of beautiful hand crafted pottery creations.

doily pressed pottery bowl at The Back Porch in Harrison Hot Springs BC

And I love the fact that when I purchase some antiques or freshly roasted coffee, I may also be gifted with the chance to watch their pottery creations at work for a few moments!

One visit had them using a doily to imprint a design! So beautiful!

You can read my memorable past visits to The Back Porch HERE

I guess I like the idea of some things not always so perfectly produced. There’s a special touch to something worked with ones hands that hasn’t been produced with a mould.

So when I dove in hard with my big list of dreams, trying something new was high on the list. And so was a pottery class. So I made a local call to learn more about their current pottery classes.

Looks as if the place is pretty popular, because there was a wait list! But that’s ok, I got myself on the list, and reasoned if an opening became, it was meant to be.

But I secretly held out hope I would get that call. I really REALLY have been wanting to try this for a long time, and now that I have physical and emotional room for it, I wanted in.

A couple of weeks later, messenger pinged me. One opening became available two nights from class time, and it was my spot if I still wanted it! YES!

I called the very next AM with my visa number. I was officially enrolled in an 8 week pottery course once a week, located about 5 minutes from my house! Thursday nights were about to get super exciting…

My first pottery class - Rainforest Pottery in Chilliwack, BC

Class is now in session

And then Thursday arrived. I was instructed to wear clothing and shoes that could get covered in clay, and with hand towel intact, I set off on my first ever pottery class.

When I walked into the front studio, shelves were lined with beautiful creations for sale. How inspiring! Could I even come close to any of this magic? I was about to find out…

Through another set of doors, I entered the classroom lined with pottery wheels. The class was already about 1/2 full, so I chose the closest one I approached, then waited for class to begin.

The room was warm so I was glad to have brought along drinking water, later noting to bring even more next round.

The class was quiet. Were they all pros? Was I the only newbie? So I spoke up…

“Anyone else here for the first time?”

Nearly everyone chimed in! Whew! I have found my people. 😀

The demo

First up, we were demonstrated all the steps we would ultimately be covered that evening. This involved preparing the clay, and shaping it on the wheel. There was a LOT to take in. Thankfully we had one-on-one help when it was time to do it as well, because I forgot half the steps!

My first pottery class - Rainforest Pottery in Chilliwack, BC-001

The steps to prepare the clay

We were given a HUGE cube of packaged clay. It was heavy!  I was to be responsible to make sure that clay stays with me, including bringing it home in between classes.

Once class started, we were brought into what I’ll just call the ‘pounding’ room. We learned how to cut the clay with a wire, then weigh it on a small kitchen scale. Our first project would involve 2 lbs of clay. Wow, so precise! 

We then learned to ‘drop’ the clay onto the table, creating a square shape out of it. This helps join and work the clay to prepare it.

Next up came the ‘kneeding’ part. It involves a special technique that activates the clay hardening process. I was surprised to find how much upper body strength this step utilizes!

Then it was time to head back to the wheel along with a small container of water, a tiny shammy to smooth any rough edges when spinning, and a small sponge to clean and dampen the clay as it was worked.

I ‘smacked’ the clay shape into a cone of sorts, then ‘dropped’ it onto the centre of the wheel to create an adhesion. Let the spinning begin…

My first pottery class - Rainforest Pottery in Chilliwack, BC-002

The spinning

First up was ‘raising’ the shape of the clay, as if you were creating a standing paper towel roll. Then you schmush it down again. You do this 3x to prepare the clay before you begin to create. I was really surprised how much physical effort this requires! Lots of upper body and arm / hand strength.

I also had some trouble keeping my clay in the middle of the wheel because I wasn’t applying enough pressure to the piece. I could instantly see the need for 8 weeks…

Once I could see a bowl shape of sorts, things got super exciting… 

However, it didn’t take much to destroy it! A slower wheel spin was crucial, and gentle hand movements. I did neither and was left with a fair bit of damage control.

But once the piece is done, you just KNOW it. I sat there filthy from head to toe, arms dripping with clay up to my elbows, with the biggest smile EVER. My first bowl sat there on that wheel and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

“You will always remember this piece as your first, so hang onto it! As you graduate, you’ll be amazed.” our instructor piped.

I honestly couldn’t imagine shaping anything better than this! Which meant I had a lot to learn yet.

I then slid the cutting wire underneath the piece to release the bowl from the wheel, then very carefully with 4 dry fingers, lifted the bowl and placed it on a wooden square. Initialing my piece on paper, off to the shelf it went.

Bowl 1 complete! Let’s do that again!

Totally stoked, I grabbed my big bag of clay once again and repeated each step. But this time, 3 lbs instead of 2.

I instantly knew 3 lbs would be more challenging. How can 1 more lb of clay be so different?! But it was. There’s just more pressure involved working it up and down before my final shaping even begins.

Whew! I found myself stopping several times over, allowing my formerly unused muscles to catch up.

As I began shaping, something was not going as planned.  My piece suddenly became lumpy and uncentered. Oh no… no no no… my perfectionism was having a hard time choking this one down!

I was ready to schmush the thing into a ball and start over, however I was instructed not to. To just run with it, and let it be whatever it was. It looked like a terrible version of one of those softly quirky Rae Dunn cup shapes. I wanted nothing more than to punch it down and forgetaboutit! But nope, it went on the shelf beside my #1 perfect-to-me bowl. Ugh. Next.

Feeling deflated, I was reminded this was part of the learning process. Ohhhhh kayyyy. Duly noted. But I didn’t have to like it! 🙂

So I deemed myself a non-graduate of 3 lbs and went back down to 2 with the 3rd attempt.

Lo and behold, the cutest little bowl in the land transpired. VERY different from my first. And I like that! The clay even got off centre again. But after instruction on how to correct it, I applied all the strength I had left and got it right!

Leaving on this high note was a Godsend! Moments before I had joked to the class I wanted a refund. But now, lookout world! I’m gonna keep this spinning up until it becomes 2nd nature!

The next class will take us through the steps of cleaning up the piece. I peeked on YouTube to see what that even meant, and it involves tools and such, so this should be fun!


Here’s a little video clip of my experience which also shows what I made…

Trying something brand new was so inspiring to my quiet little world. It took me out of my comfort zone among new folks to experience how much we all have yet to learn. It was like opening a big ‘ol barn door wide open to air out an interior. It was super stimulating!

But there was more to the class than shaping that bowl. It was really about being ok with mistakes in an effort to grow.

By the 3rd piece, I was humble enough to ask for more instruction. But this time, when the instructor recognized I was completely relying on his help yet again, he simply said ‘it was my piece’ and to work it.

I had to stick it out. Correct my mistakes. And when I ultimately heard the words, ‘Nice recovery!, I felt like a million bucks! I was in the learn zone and it was time to just be open to all the steps of the process, even the more challenging ones.

This is so very applicable with anything new. Ultimately filling up a dumpster comes first. It’s the only way to learn.

However, I admit I’m holding out hope I have enough clay left to get a few things right along the way too… 🙂


Have you ever taken, or desired to take a pottery class? What was your experience?

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Categories: Junk Drawer, Pottery

32 thoughts on “My first pottery class

  1. These turned out amazing Donna! I took a pottery course with Hubs years ago but all ours turned out like lead hockey pucks. However, we had a lot of fun and that’s what counts. Luckily we have other DIY talents to fall back on – lol!

  2. Hi Donna…Isnt pottery FUN!!!!! I did it when I lived in Tennessee, SOOO much fun!! You did really good!! Keep it coming!! Just think of ALL the things you can make! Kudos to you!!!

  3. Hi Donna,

    Sounds fun! We have a pottery wheel sitting in the garage ( my hubby used it in the past) but I have not had a chance to try it. Also, the clay and all the tools are sitting there too. Maybe now you are the inspiration to get us moving. The video would not load.

    I just took a class in reverse painting and loved it! Did not think I could do it but was amazed at the outcome. There will be more classes to come.


    • Oh my goodness! If I had that wheel I’d be practicing evenings so I could come to next class pretending to improve by day 2! haha

      I am able to load the video ok, so not sure what’s up! What device / browser are you using? Maybe try a desktop computer… I’ll report it to my video crew if I hear any others are having trouble!

      • I live in a very rural area and would have to travel quite far to get to a pottery class, but I’d love to do one (or more) since I can see how it would benefit someone who’s used to being “in control”. I’ve struggled with being a control freak my whole life, and slowly I’m finding the tools to let go and just “be” when needed. I look forward to seeing your finished pieces!

        I too have had trouble seeing videos in your posts. I always view from a desktop and where you say “see video” all that I see is a ‘.’ It must be a setting on my internet browser, but I have no idea which one.

  4. Good for you! I love learning new things. You are so right about needing to make mistakes, so you can learn from them. Getting me inspired to try pottery!

  5. This is amazing, how incredibly fun! Maybe you can make a giant bowl and use one of your stencils ( hehe ). I am so happy for you, great job!

  6. Your bowls are beautiful, Donna! Wow, they certainly don’t look like your first objects made on a pottery wheel. It sounds like you had a great time and it’s wonderful that you found a new hobby. Have lots of fun in the upcoming sessions!

  7. Very cute! Yes I’ve done pottery and if I wasn’t in Japan at the time I would have had my own kiln and had a business going way back then! Love pottery! I love the slip and the way it feels wet and the drying time and just everything about it. My first experience was shop class in high school many many years ago. WOW 46 years ago to be exact…lol. I loved shop and learned pottery then. Several years after graduating hubby and I were stationed in Japan and I decided to take a class on the base. I couldn’t get enough of it for the longest time. I am pretty versatile with crafting and there was a real need for American cakes while over there so I actually switched to cake decorating and had my own little business going making cakes for all kinds of parties. They had cakes over there but they were nothing like an American cake. No sweetness at all. I also did a lot of hor d’oeuvres for different functions at the military NCO and Officers clubs so I did quite good for myself at such a young age. Anyway, I am curious to know how you feel about pottery making?
    Your bowls came out beautifully!

    • Thanks Shirley! I really enjoyed it, however did find it really challenging to overcome with my perfectionist ways… haha I just had this deep desire wanting everything to turn fantastic from the get go! With no experience of course… 🙂

      I also haven’t done enough of it to really gauge the entire process yet. Just did shaping so far. I know there’s a LOT to come yet.

      I’ll keep sharing where I’m at since there appeared to be a big interest in this subject… should be interesting!

      • I definitely had to laugh at the perfectionist remark. I too am a perfectionist so I clearly understand where you’re coming from. For the last 5 years I’ve lived with chronic pain and my whole life has suffered dearly for it. The funny thing about it though, is that life still goes on. Not as we’d like it to go but it still goes. My house fell to shambles, my personal life drastically suffers, my gardens..well I’m not sure I even have them anymore…the friends who have remained have proven to be the best truest friends ever… and just since January 2018 I started feeling better, the pain was subsiding and I was ready to get back to life again…sadly life doesn’t want me back yet…lol. I’m getting there but the more I do the more the pain comes back. As I’ve been able to do more things in recent months, the perfectionist in me is like it never left. I still want everything perfect…but I now can also see the other side of life where there is no perfectionism which makes me wonder why I try so hard because believe it or not, nothing changes for you or anyone else around you. So I can see, I’m driving myself to be perfect for absolutely no reason. It’s insane! Something you wouldn’t see if you didnt have an illness. I guess what I’m trying to say is that people who are not perfectionists already think that everything around them is already perfect so they can’t understand why we can’t see that.

  8. I took one with my husband long ago (he is deceased now) and he was more interested in reenacting the pottery making scene from the movie GHOST. LOL! Niether of us ended up with anything. But it is a good memory for me!

  9. Well done you!! I am a newbie “potter” too and love it. Yesterday I learned this tip….playing with clay is very drying on the hands …. when you get home, rub 1 teaspoon olive oil & 1 teaspoon sugar into your hands. Massage for a while and rinse. I found it made a world of a difference, hand lotion was not enough!! Keep it up, I am so proud of my wonky platters and plates, but they are one of a kind!!!

    • Wow, this is wonderful advice! I will definitely try your dry-hand remedy! I haven’t run into issues yet but it happens when I work with drywall dust so I can see that transpiring when I do dry work… thank-you!

  10. Very cool Donna. You are so inspirational,,,,, I have not had any strong desire to do pottery, however I can see how it would spark the creative juices.

    Great job

  11. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! Can’t wait to see the finished products. Years ago I did ceramic painting. It was fun but I didn’t enjoy it as much as cake decorating! Never tried pottery.

  12. Yes for you Donna. It’s seriously isn’t easy in the beginning,but your number one is a beaut. It’s almost as if we want to control the wheel and clay, instead of letting the worked clay and wheel do what they now best. Turn and form, turn and form. I’m sure once you get the hang of it, we’ll be seeing some incredibly creative things happening with clay here 😉

  13. That looks so cool! Congrats for you deciding to try! I’ve always been curious about pottery, but I never got the chance to try it myself, I’m always so busy with work and taking care of my daughter. My hope is that in a couple of years I’ll be able to do things like pottery with her.

    • Hi Patricia! What device / browser are you using? I suggest try a different viewing method. The video is right above the words, “Here’s a little video clip of my experience which also shows what I made…”

      It’s a picture with a triangle in the middle of it. Not sure why it isn’t showing up for you…

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