Every Day can be a Clay Day in a Garden Pottery Studio!
Apparently, pottery is the new yoga. More and more people are taking up the craft as a leisure pursuit. And these days, when we talk pottery it conjures up less the old image of wonky coil jar in charity shop, and more hand-thrown bisqueware bowl on the pages of World of Interiors.
But it’s the mental health benefits of throwing, slip casting and slab construction that have really been making the headlines recently. There’s something very current about a hobby that takes us away from our tech and the relentless pace of modern living, to a place of calm, connection and focus.
Pottery is a chance to slow down, re-engage with the self and spend time on something beautiful in its simplicity. And where better to recharge your creativity and wellbeing than in the sanctuary of your own garden?
In 20 years of business, we have lost count of the number of pottery studios we have designed & built for both the hobbyist and the professional potter. They’ve told us of their reluctance at having to book into the local arts centre each time they fancy doing some coiling or moulding. With our guidance, they’ve fulfilled their dream of installing a pottery studio in their garden.
With a wide range of different garden buildings to choose from, there’s something to suit all needs and tastes, from the hobbyist who’s in it for the fun and therapeutic effects, to the professional artist, working on a bigger scale, who wants to exhibit and sell their work.
With your own studio a few strides from the back door, every day can be a clay day! Here are some things to think about to help you get your wheel spinning.
Before you start planning the size and location of your studio, think about the kit you’ll need.
You’re almost certainly going to want a wheel, and it’s important to get the right one for you. Will you go for a basic kickwheel? Or a more sophisticated, power-sourced wheel, which could come with splash pan and attached work tables?
Our customer, Simon Walker, who bought a dedicated building for his pottery hobby says: “If you go to a class, buy the wheel you’ve been using.” He didn’t, and found it took time to adjust to the different height and rotation speed. Here are some useful tips on how to choose the right wheel.
Also be sure to think about the storage space and work areas you’ll need. And, of course, your kiln. Again, you need to find the one that’s right for you. The kiln’s capacity will depend on the type of ware you typically produce, item size and how many pieces you need to fire at any one time. Bear in mind, if you’re offering classes in your studio, you’ll need space enough for all your students to fire their work. Check out this article for some hints on finding the right kiln.
Getting clear on kit will help you work out in advance how much space you need to make your pottery studio work best for you. You don’t want claustrophobia to spoil your feelings of calm and well-being.
The size, weight and quantity of equipment you want to bring into your studio will influence the strength of flooring you require. The safest course is to look for heavy-duty tongue & groove timber flooring with substantial floor joists (all our buildings come with this as standard) to cope with the weight of heavy-duty items like kilns and wheels. Laminate flooring is available for easy-wipe cleaning.
Think ahead to how your hobby is likely to look in a couple of years time. Chances are you’ll have grown in ambition, and you’ll have accumulated lots of tools and accessories. You’ll also have produced hundreds of fabulous pieces.
“When I started, I had just the kiln and the wheel,” says Simon. “All my additional stuff was in boxes on the floor which made working really difficult. A year later I installed cheap kitchen units and my life changed.” The units are great for tidying away, and also play a vital role in controlling the drying process".
Simon also installed shelves - great for display of finished work, and for glazes and tools. And he put in a long workbench for rolling and working the clay, which also allows him to have clean and dirty areas for different processes.
Think too about where your hobby may go. Will you turn it into a business, and need to increase the scale of production by bringing in another wheel or a bigger kiln? Will you be running classes in your studio? It will be cheaper in the long run than hiring teaching space to run your lessons. And you can lay out your studio exactly to your own requirements.
Might you use the space as a gallery or shop? If so, you may wish to keep the working part of the business separate from the customer-facing part by dividing your building in two; or maybe you want your customers to see the creative end of the business.
All these contingencies have an impact on the internal space you’ll need for your pottery studio. Don’t limit your potential for growth by starting too small.
Glazing (as in windows, not pots)
The very essence of the art studio is natural light. It’s a valued commodity that shapes and inspires artists’ work. Most customers ask us for a light and airy space, with windows above and to the side.
Garden buildings allow you plenty of opportunity for plenty of glass. Be mindful that the more windows you have, the greater the chance you’ll be working in direct sunlight, you may want to consider blinds to reduce the heat, or we can install air conditioning units if necessary.
We highly recommend windows that open, so you can let in some air when the heat rises. And think about installing a window that’s the right width to fit a workbench under, so you get a nice view of the garden.
You may want to consider more discreet high-level windows. They’ll give you the ventilation you need, and privacy from neighbours if required. Or if you prefer, like many of our customers, the modern look of glazing across the entire front face, you could opt for large opening doors. They’ll bring the garden into your space, give you loads of light, and a blast of fresh air whenever you feel like it.
Remember too that the decomposition of clay and glaze during firing is likely to give off some unpleasant and potentially dangerous fumes. And you’ll more than likely have some heat to cope with, depending on the firing process you use. Good ventilation to the outside is hugely important.
Keeping the temperature in your studio evenly regulated is essential for your comfort and well-being. It’s well worth looking into having the building insulated. High performance insulation and double glazing will ensure your studio is warm in winter and cool in summer. Look out for breathable timber, which will take on any moisture and avoid condensation and damp.
Water and power
Pottery can be a water-intensive activity. Getting water supplied to your studio is reasonably straightforward as long as you’re close to mains access. Otherwise, it’s a question of bringing buckets of water out from the house.
“I didn’t have water supplied to my studio,” says Simon. “I do dream of having a sink, but my budget didn't stretch to this and to be honest, it’s easy enough to carry water back and forth." Simon recalls the days before he had the studio, when he worked in the house. Now that he’s outside he uses the drain system in the street to get rid of any waste water. “After years of washing clay down a domestic sink you’ll develop blockages, so if you’re lucky enough to have a sink in your new build, take advice from your plumber on the best way to dispose of your waste water.”
It makes more sense if you do want a water supply to the studio to be close to the house to keep costs to a minimum when burying pipework and connecting services. You’ll need a qualified plumber for this (we can supply an electrician for the electrics). For kilns, it’s very important to talk to our electrician about what is required to safely install your specific kiln type.
With so many options to choose from, you may feel spoilt for choice. Do come and talk to us about what other customers have done, as this is such a good way of shaping your own ideas. For more inspiration, why not take a look at our customer galleries. If you see something you like, we can custom design it to your needs, or we can start from scratch (if you have your own design in mind).
Here’s a case study of a customer who runs a very successful fine art & pottery school from a Garden Affairs custom made Log Cabin. And another about Lizzie a very happy hobbyist here . Both stories show how with planning and professional help, you can create the perfect place to potter in peace.
If you’re going to build your studio within 2 metres of your boundary, you’ll need to keep the overall height under 2.5 metres high. There are several options available from all our ranges.
If you prefer a more traditional look with a ridge roof, you may require planning permission. It’s a very simple process and only takes a few weeks. We can help you with your on-line application. Get the design right from the start and you’ll enjoy your building for years to come.
Construction and cost
So you’ve done all the ground work for your haven of creativity, reflection and craft. Now it’s time to work out how much it will all cost.
We’re here to help suggest the best options to suit your budget and recommend how to get the most for your money. All our cabins are manufactured from first class, slow-grown timber, which provides a much more stable build. The timber is kiln dried, so no warping, and the quality of our double-glazed doors and windows is second to none.
Installation It’s quicker and sometimes cheaper to have your building installed by our experts. If you have time on your hands, and fancy a challenge, we can supply most of our buildings as a DIY kit.
Groundworks We can either carry this out for you or advise your own contractors.
Electrics You’ll require an expert to ensure lighting, heating, and especially the kiln are all wired in safely. Read more about our electrical services here.
Plumbing This is a specialist area and requires a local expert.
Wood treatment & paint finishes Many of our buildings are available with factory paint & stain finishes, or you can choose to do this yourself to keep your costs down. It’s important to create the look you want. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in here creating your masterpieces!
We’d love to welcome you to our display centre for expert advice and to see the types of buildings we offer. You can actually stand inside and get a real idea of how they might suit you, your equipment and the layout you’ve got in mind. There’s nothing like doing this to bring your studio vision closer to reality. Or give us a call on 01225 774566 with your ideas.
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