Trying my hand at pottery at West Dean College

West Dean College Chichester

West Dean gardens

I love ceramics and always enjoy having a go at new crafts, so when my friend Amy suggested we try our hand at pottery, I agreed straight away. We decided to make a weekend of it and signed up for the throwing pots taster day at the beautiful West Dean College near Chichester. After a sneak peek of the house itself (former home of surrealist art collector Edward James) we headed to the pottery studio.

pottery studio at West Dean college

head sculpted from clay

pottery studio details

glaze sticks

art pencils in craft shop

There’s always something so lovely about craft studios and now I’m getting used to my camera, I couldn’t stop taking photos of all the little details around the place. To begin with we were shown ram’s head kneading, which gets rid of any air pockets in the clay and can lead to wobbly pots. Once we were ready our tutor Alison Sandeman demonstrated our first task: a simple cylinder.

Alison Sandeman pottery demonstration

how to throw a clay pot

cylinder thrown pot

Simple as that!

There were eight of us in the class and pottery was new to nearly everyone, but after seeing how effortless Alison made it look we were all confident about our chances as we started the wheels.

learning to throw pots on a potters wheel

cylinder pot on wheel

It soon became obvious that it’s most definitely not as simple as that! Thankfully, Alison was really encouraging and always on hand to share her 25 years of experience. Even though I was far from a natural, I fell in love with the challenge and it was hard to tear myself away from the wheel at lunchtime. The little bowl above right was my first attempt… unfortunately it kind of went downhill from there. Here’s a couple that didn’t make it!

failed thrown pot

failed thrown pot on wheel

By the end of the day we all had five or six pots of varying size and shape to show for our efforts. They’ll be glazed for us in the next few weeks and hopefully some will survive so I can show you the finished articles.

beginners thrown pots
beginners thrown pots{all Decorator’s Notebook}
I definitely want to go look into doing a longer course and have to admit I’ve been searching for secondhand potters’ wheels on fleabay. I’m hooked!
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  1. says

    What lovely pots & it looks like a worthwhile thing to keep up. I did pottery years ago & looking at your pictures brings back happy memories … I might just take it up again!


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