What You Need to Start Your Own Ceramics Studio
First thing: Space
The good thing about ceramics studios is that if you share a few things, like kilns and sinks, you don't need a lot of space. The cheapest thing (what I do) is to find a space with other potters there already and rent from them. This allows us to share kilns, electricity, water, and other needs.
In the city, converted factory buildings and warehouses make great pottery studios. In run-down areas, the rent is very affordable. If you're planning to teach classes, especially to children, you'll probably need to invest in a nicer building in a safer area. The building where I work now would not meet those criteria.
Second thing: The basics
What kind of electrical hookup does your kiln require? If you haven't bought a kiln yet, make sure you match up your electrical needs to the hookups in your building.
What about accessibility? Is there an elevator? A ramp? Will you be able to get 500 lbs. of clay up or down those stairs? Is there a good place to dump your dirty water? Enough electrical outlets for your shopvac, lights, kiln, wheel? Is there a good sink in a convenient location?
How about the floor? Will it be able to withstand the wear and tear of being mopped?
Things you'll need to buy, make or find:
- Your clay, glazes, and tools
- plastic for covering pots
- enough shelving to put away tools and materials, as well as to place the pots
- plaster board for reclaiming clay
- plenty of table space
- pottery wheel or wheels
- wareboards or bats
- buckets of all sizes (get these for free by asking restaurants for their extras - they may smell like pickles but it beats paying out the nose at the Home Depot)
- mop, squeegee or shopvac for cleanup
- kiln and kiln accessories (heat-resistant gloves, kiln shelves and furniture, pyrometric cones, kiln wash, kiln wadding)
- a good strong sink
Other Cheap Pottery Tips:
- A good way to save on wareboards is to make them yourself by cutting up masonite boards.
- Plaster boards can be made the DIY way out of USG #1 Pottery Plaster (DO NOT use Plaster of Paris.) and window screening.
- Milk crates are great for a lot of things, including shelving, storage and transport.
- Cut-up credit cards make great pottery tools. Just be sure to obscure the name and number on the card!
How much does it cost to start a pottery studio?
It depends on the area, as well as what's available. Tools and materials are always expensive to begin with. Starting a studio where every tool and piece of equipment is bought directly from the supply store would run you in the tens of thousands.
The more you take care of the things you have, as well as the more items you can find for free or make yourself, your costs will go down. My initial investment in my studio was under a thousand dollars.