Hello! Mayhap, you’re reading this while enjoying your favourite cuppa. Sounds relaxing!
You know what else is relaxing? Working with clay!
It’s true! One may go so far as to say that the spinning of the potter’s wheel, the feel of earthen materials taking shape beneath your hands; even the warmth of the kiln is, in fact, quite therapeutic.
Not that anyone is implying that you need any type of therapy, but consider for a moment how stressful life can be in today’s hurrying, pulsing driving times... especially in our super-busy city!
Let’s forget about that line of discussion and talk about your cuppa or, more specifically, your cup.
Humans being creatures of habit, it is quite possible that you too have your favourite mug to drink out of and, should it be unavailable for any reason, your morning brew won’t taste quite right.
That doesn’t exactly argue for the idea of taking pottery classes to make ‘favourite mugs’ for everyone you know – if we’re all creatures of habit, it would logically follow that anyone you made a mug for would not give up their favoured one so quickly... right?
Fortunately, pottery classes are not limited to the creation of mugs.
You might turn vases, bowls, plates, accent pieces made of refined raku clay; you could try your hand at ceramic sculpture or the curious art of handbuilding – making pottery the way our ancestors did, without a pottery wheel.
Whether coiling, pinching or wheel throwing – using a pottery wheel, nobody has ever found a ceramics class disturbing; in fact, what they might have planned as a fun weekend activity has blossomed into a full-on hobby.
Whether you’re looking for adult classes for you and your partner or kids’ classes to give your restless little one(s) a creative outlet, Birmingham has a long list of classes and clay artists keen to share their skills with you.
We even found some parent and child classes you might be interested in!
Let us not tarry in making our report; surely you’ll want to get into the ceramic arts as quickly as possible.
The Midlands Art Centre
Obviously, our search for pottery lessons had to start at Midlands – and what a course list they have!
If this is to be your first experience with clay art, ideally, you would start with a wheel throwing class.
Before your imagination runs away with images of mighty people throwing tractor wheels around (or chariot wheels, if your mind’s eye reaches that far back into antiquity), we should tell you that such a class entails getting familiar with pottery wheels.
Throwing a pot means using a potter’s wheel to make something. The opposite of wheel throwing is handbuilding.
If indeed, your pottery aspirations harken back to the earliest uses of pottery, you may find your niche is handmade pottery.
In this article’s introduction, we mentioned coiling and pinching; you may also use a slab roller to flatten out a sheet – a slab of clay from which you could sculpt... anything you’d like!
The world’s oldest ceramic figurine, estimated to have been made around 30,000 years ago, was made from such a slab. However, more pertinent to Birmingham is her Chinese twin city, Xi'an - where the Terracotta Warriors were discovered.
They too were worked from slabs of clay and later moulded into an army of soldiers, each with a distinctly different appearance.
You might think we’re getting far ahead of ourselves in mentioning all of the ways you might work with clay but, really, we’re not: all of these courses and more are on offer at The MAC; you only need to choose where to start.
Oh, and you might want to bring an apron, just in case... clay work can be messy.
The only downside we could find to the pottery course offerings at the Mac is that there are hardly any classes for children; most are open only to people over the age of 18.
Plenty of pottery classes in London are open to young children but they are mostly at independent studios.
Let’s go find some of them in Birmingham!
Sundragon Community Pottery
The name itself should give a clue that children are welcome here – aren’t they a part of the community?
Before going over Sundragon’s courses let us talk about their genesis and why they are so determined to welcome everyone today and in the future.
You might know that Birmingham is nicknamed ‘The Workshop of the World’ for a reason. Not too far from us, in Stoke on Trent, pottery was an industrial-scale business.
Of course, that was during the Industrial Revolution and throughout the Victorian Era, when companies such as Royal Doulton and Spode supplied the finest estates with top of the line bone china and porcelain products.
Obviously, those companies still exist and turn out exquisite pieces but fine china no longer has the place it did in society, does it?
As it happens with social trends, people turned away – both from the keen anticipation of a new chinaware collection and of pottery in general.
There is a school of thought that said artisan pottery could not compete with the great names...
Through this general turn-away, many community studios lost their funding and many dedicated ceramic artists had nowhere to practise their craft... until they got together and pledged to make pottery-making accessible to all.
They would do that both through fundraising and offering courses in pottery.
Now in their sixth year, Sundragon Pottery remains open to anyone, whether they are only possessed of a mild curiosity for ceramic sculpture or they are full-on pros; indeed there are classes for anyone along that spectrum.
Take their Parent and Child classes on Thursdays, from 1 to 3 in the afternoon, with the last 30 minutes dedicated to cleaning up – we have to teach youngsters good habits!
This is a 6-week course designed to get you and your little one familiar with working clay. Rather than sitting at a pottery wheel, you will work with slabs of clay, cutting and coiling it... whatever you need to make the piece you envision.
Naturally, you will have guidance; each week you/your child will learn a new technique or skill that you can use to make your ceramic creation even better.
Here are some other classes offered at Sundragon Pottery (that don’t involve children):
- Throwing Large Vessels: a masterclass for the experienced potter
- Sunday Morning Pottery: for beginners and improvers – those that already have some skill at pottery but want to learn more
- Wednesday Evening Wheelwork: also for beginners and improvers
- One to One Wheel Work: as the name implies, your instructor will focus exclusively on your wheel skills
- Pottery for Beginners and Improvers: class meets on Tuesdays, in the evening
Now that you’re nearly mad for pottery, no need to scour the Internet for pottery classes near me; we’ve listed Sundragon and other studios we thought you’d like at the end of this article.
Tribe Pottery Studio
Let’s assume the kids are now in bed and it is time for you to have a bit of fun. Would you find it odd that we would suggest a pottery event at Tribe?
Tribe offers many pottery taster courses; essentially they consist of a two-hour session of working with clay. You and five of your mates may work the clay by hand or choose the potter’s wheel.
On the other hand, if you’d rather not indulge your quest for clay with any besties, you might try their wheel-throwing taster; two blissful hours of nothing between you and your clay but the wheel.
Naturally, you get to keep what you make... but you will have to return in about 6-8 weeks to pick it up. Two hours is not nearly enough for finishing and glazing a piece; it won’t even be ready to hit the kilns in that short time!
They also offer couples’ classes; still within the 2-hour format but this time, with your significant other at your side.
When we were looking at pottery classes in Leeds, we couldn’t find anything similar to them.
The Midlands Potter’s Association
With our region’s history as the world’s workshop and pottery featuring so prominently, it stands to reason that the Midlands would have an association of potters to promote their craft.
This non-profit group wants nothing more than to provide a way for artists and artisans to share ideas, building techniques and experiences of working with clay.
They spotlight artists and showcase their work – your work, should you join them, coordinate demonstrations and sponsor exhibitions, and, yes, they even hold meetings.
These are not musty meetings where old business and new business would be discussed; instead, these avid potters get together to show off new pieces they might have just finished, swap tips and tricks and, once per year, to pit fire.
If you wanted to join them for that momentous event, you should do so quickly; it’s due to take place soon!
Just as our northern neighbours have their Scottish Pottery Association that lists pottery classes in Glasgow or Edinburgh, Midlands Potters have a full page of every ceramic studio in the region that offers pottery classes.
Their more thorough listings certainly complement the studios we’ve seen, even better than when we were looking for pottery classes in Manchester...
Contact information for Midlands-area pottery lessons
|Name||Physical Address||Phone Number||Web Address|
|Sundragon Pottery in the Old Printworks||506 Moseley Road|
|0759 040 2633||https://sundragonpottery.co.uk|
|Tribe Pottery|| The Lakeside Centre, Entrance A|
180 Lifford Lane, Kings Norton, Birmingham, B30 3NU
|0797 697 2628||www.tribepottery.com/book|
|Honeybourne Pottery Studio||3 High St, Honeybourne, Evesham WR11 7PQ||0793 140 4761||www.honeybournepottery.co.uk|
|Midlands Art Centre||Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH||0121 446 3232||https://macbirmingham.co.uk|
|Midlands Potters' Association||Multiple addresses in and around the Midlands||Multiple phone numbers||www.midlandspotters.co.uk|