It must be said that Mancunians lack for little when it comes to entertainment: music, film, outdoor activities...
We in Manchester love our sports; Man UTD and Man City are constant sources of pride. Our record for champion boxers is sterling and our Old Trafford cricket ground is world-famous.
Museums and art galleries, a vibrant nightlife and our unique Madchester vibe make our city one of the most attractive; to wit, ours is the third-most visited UK city after London and Edinburgh.
With all of the noise and hustle, it might be nice to take things down a notch; that could be why there is a renewed interest in pottery in Manchester.
There is something so soothing about working with clay, seeing your artistic vision take shape beneath your hands. Knowing you are working with the most elemental materials: water and earth, and forming it to become an expression of your inner landscape.
Could you see yourself transforming raw clay into earthenware dishes or a clay sculpture for your garden? What about learning the different clays and what they are best suited for?
Maybe you’re unsure of whether making pottery would even be your thing. Perhaps you would like to try it out first, before committing yourself completely to pottery-making.
If that’s the case, you’ll appreciate all of the short pottery classes and taster sessions we found in and around Manchester.
7Spot Pottery Studio
Pottery artists make working a pottery wheel look easy: they sit still, cupping clay in their hands until it miraculously takes shape.
In spite of the seeming ease that ceramic artists demonstrate in plying their craft, there is a certain amount of skill and technique that goes into using a pottery wheel.
That is why, if you have never worked clay on a wheel before, it would be a really good idea to take a wheel throwing course.
Technically, that term encompasses everything from the initial centring of clay on the pottery wheel to the piece being ready for its first firing.
That is the focus of 7Spot’s 6-week class, targeted to beginners. Their intent is not to produce pottery – although, of course, there will be production.
They are more interested in making sure you master the fundamentals of throwing:
- Wedging: preparing the clay to be worked
- Throwing forms: unique pieces, as opposed to ‘throwing off the mound’ or creating a mass production of the same piece
- Trimming: removing excess clay after your piece is formed
- Handle-making: incorporating a handle to your design – a skill in itself!
- Glazing: the final step, rendering your design waterproof
- Glazing can also serve to colour or decorate your work
Classes are held either Mondays or Tuesdays, in the evening, from 6:30 to 9:00; the course costs £165, which covers the cost of materials and studio usage.
They recommend that you bring an apron and towel for cleanup at the end of each class; working with clay can be quite messy!
Pottery classes in London also recommend you bring your own clean-up towelette...
If you’re uncertain about trying your hand at a pottery wheel or if you’re busy on Monday and Tuesday evenings, you might try their handbuilding classes, which is held on Wednesdays.
Handbuilding gets closer to the origins of pottery, to the time before the invention of the wheel.
In these courses, you would learn techniques such as coiling, pinch-forming and press-moulding.
Working from a clay slab, you can learn to sculpt figurines or make cylinder forms, such as those used to make drinking mugs. Naturally, glazing is a part of the process.
The cost for this course is £100 including tools and materials. If this six-week long a course still doesn’t feel quite right, you might try one of the many taster sessions and workshops they have on offer.
Unfortunately, they only offer adult classes; this is a working studio with many artists renting space. If you were looking for kids’ classes or parent and child classes, we have to direct you elsewhere.
Birmingham has some great pottery classes for children!
Seven Limes Pottery
We’re not sure why the number seven is invoked in reference to pottery in Manchester; oddly, two of the most prominent course offerings are at pottery studios with that number in their name.
While the first ‘seven’ studio runs a rather tight ship, this one adds a dash of fun into the mix – not the kind of fun that small children can partake of but fun nevertheless.
First up on their list of courses are tasters. They generally take place on Saturdays, last around two hours (and 30 minutes for cleanup), and allow for hands-on experience with a pottery wheel.
These taster classes cost £50 and you get to keep what you make... after the professional artists glaze it and fire it for you.
If that’s not quite enough time at the potter’s wheel to suit you, you might select their intensive weekend workshop.
During this time, you will learn many more skills such as decorating your vessel, throwing cylinders and bowls and turning the underside of your pieces.
Have you ever wondered how your stoneware plates get that nifty ring on the underside and, more importantly, why there are notches in them?
You can learn all about that and more during this focused clay pottery seminar; a lot of education for £160.
Finally, if you are completely sold on the idea of being a ceramic artist, you may opt for the full six-week beginner’s course for £120.
You will go more in-depth on basic pottery, both at the wheel and handbuilding techniques but the best part of these lessons is that they are a part of a broader curriculum that will get you completely ready to become a ceramic artist in your own right.
Unlike other basic skills courses, Seven Lime charges a small fee for materials but, considering their relatively low class fees, the additional cost does not push them over the top of the price scale.
Still, it’s best to enquire before you find yourself owing more than you had budgeted for...
Join the discussion: should pottery classes near me charge for materials?
Pottery Lessons at the Clay Studio
You may well accuse us of saving the best for last – not quite true, seeing as all of the studios and classes featured so far are quite popular.
Besides, this is not the end of the article; further down is a table listing all of the pottery classes we could find in and around Manchester. That would be a case of saving the best for last!
Still, for the sheer variety of classes on offer, the Clay Studio would be hard to beat!
True, they promote the standard taster sessions and beginners’ classes, but then, they go even further with their generous menu of one-off courses and weekend workshops.
For instance, you might enjoy coiling a jug: making a fully functional pitcher using the ancient technique of coiling clay.
Using an extruder to dispense ropes of clay, you would carefully wind them. First making a base and then the walls, which will later be supported while the clay dries.
If you’d rather work clay manually instead of pumping clay out of the extruder, you may choose to roll it into ropes, to a thickness determined by what you're making - your instructor's input would be helpful in deciding.
Hand-rolling and extruding won’t be quite as messy as wheel-thrown pottery and your design will be sure to get raves!
What about making Christmas ornaments?
With the holiday season right around the corner, you might consider this Saturday course that will introduce you to the slip casting process.
Slip casting calls for liquid clay, called ‘slip’, to be poured in a mould. The mould will seem to drink the slip but don’t worry: that’s supposed to happen. Around 20 minutes later, your ceramic ball will be ready for release from its mould.
And then, you get to trim and decorate it...
Or you could make porcelain decorations to gift to friends and family. Hearts, stars, snowflakes and trees... they come out pure white; you might contemplate drawing and painting on them.
These courses both cost £35 and take place on Saturday morning. Be sure to book with them in advance because these fun sessions fill up rather quickly.
We found similarly engaging pottery classes in Leeds; clearly, they are all the rage!
By far their best Saturday (and Sunday) morning offerings are family classes. They are organised in terms, meaning three to four sessions - you don't sign up for a class but for a term. Each session costs £12 for the adult and £10 for the child – who should be five or older.
This is a great opportunity for the whole family to get creative and learn new skills, and for the young ones to develop haptic skills and dexterity.
Besides getting hands-on with clay, you will also learn glazing techniques and learn about the various clay tools that the artists use. And, yes: you get to take your ceramic art home.
Ceramics can be beautiful, dramatic and funny. Ceramic arts are engaging, relaxing and... also fun.
Whether you want to take these art classes on your own or with a friend, as a series of classes with your family or a single workshop just to see if clay work is for you, there are certainly plenty of opportunities to do so in Manchester.
Are there as many great pottery classes in Glasgow?
Contact information for the pottery studios we've reviewed (and some we didn't):
|Studio name||Physical address||Phone number||Web address|
|7Spot Pottery||Islington Mill |
Salford M3 5HW
|0161 278 6404||https://7spotpottery.co.uk|
Windrush Millennium Centre
|70 Alexandra Road,|
|0752 707 8853||https://7limes.co.uk|
|Clay Studio||61 Old Birley St|
|0161 505 0678||http://claystudio.org.uk|
|Pottery Corner||34 Beech Rd, Manchester M21 9EL||0161 882 0010||www.potsareforpainting.co.uk|
|The Potter's Barn||Roughwood Lane, Sandbach, Cheshire CW11 4XX,||0127 088 4080||www.thepottersbarn.co.uk|