Image: Getting Started With Clay… | Rochelle Swanson

Getting started in any new art form can be overwhelming, but don’t worry we are here to guide you through the process of choosing your tools, types of clay, and equipment

Image: Step One -Choosing your tools… | SwansonFineArts

Photo: Step 1 Choosing your tools…

If you plan to do polymer clay or ceramics for a long time, it is worth investing in a quality set of tools to help you shape clay. Buying tools in bulk packages sometimes means getting two or more of the same tool, but it is better to have too many tools than to not have a tool you need in a moment of inspiration.

Image: Polymer clay, lowfire slip, and Laguna boxed clay. | SwansonFineArts Studios

Photo: Step 2: Choosing your clay…

The hardest part for any clay artist is choosing the right type of clay for their project. Who knew that clay comes in so many types?

Air Dry: The advantage of air-dry clay is that it can be used with kids/elderly and requires no heat to set the clay.

Oven Bake: Oven baked clay is generally stronger than air-dry and can be done at home with your regular oven. Crafters who are setting up a studio may want a dedicated toaster oven just for clay which are very affordable and can be plugged into any outlet.

Low Fire: Low fire clay fires at the lowest temperature of all kiln-fired clays. It is less strong than high fire or stoneware, but perfect for figurines and wall décor. Low fire cone range is typically 04-06, with 04 being hotter than 05 or 06.

Mid Fire: Mid fire is generally cones 4-6. Be sure that you do not confuse 4 with 04 as low fire is indicated by the leading zero.

High Fire: High fire produces the most solid types of ceramic and is often used in industrial applications such as bathroom fixtures, parts for various machines, and even cutting tips for rotary tools. Anything above Cone 6 is considered high fire. While some artists use high fire for functional ceramics like dinnerware, the high temperatures frequently warp clay in unpredictable ways without pressurized molds.

Stoneware: Stoneware clays are dense/strong and are often used for raku.

Polymer Clay: Polymer clay can be air dry or oven baked and is made from synthetic materials.

Once you choose your clay type, it is easy to find glazes that are compatible and bring your work to life!

Image: SwansonFineArts test fire on our first electric kiln! | Rochelle Swanson

Step 3: Choosing Equipment

While professional artists spend thousands of dollars on specialized kiln setups, expensive throwing wheels, and other equipment you do not have to invest in a kiln to work with air dry or oven bake clay. Likewise, once you have invested in a ceramics kiln you may choose to buy a slab roller or just use a rolling pin for smaller projects. The great thing about your studio is that you can scale it to your budget and interests!

Home Studio:

Small Business:

Group Studio:

These are only a few examples of the differences between hobby/home arts, small business ceramics, and a group ceramics studio. Please feel free to add to these lists or ask your questions in the comments.