What Does a Potter Do? (With Salary and Primary Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 March 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A potter is an artist who sculpts functional and decorative products. A potter uses an array of sculpting techniques and tools to form clay objects, such as plates, bowls, jugs and teapots. Understanding the typical responsibilities of a potter can help you identify the skills you may require gaining employment in this industry. In this article, we discuss the answer to the question 'What does a potter do?', explore how to become one, share some of their skills, review their average salary and answer some FAQS.

What does a potter do?

Defining a potter is the first step to understanding the question, 'What does a potter do?' A potter is an expert at moulding clay into functional and ornamental objects. They use several tools, such as pottery wheels, callipers, scrapers and fettling knives. Potters may also decorate the exterior of their creations and coat them with a ceramic glaze. Several pottery styles can involve varying methods of decorating and sculpting. Many processes of pottery often share four primary phases:

Preparing

A potter may create their objects with a variety of clays, such as earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. These clays often require preparation before a potter can mould them. To prepare the clay body, a potter applies water to the clay to achieve a soft consistency. This can allow the potter to sculpt the clay with ease. The potter then rolls the clay to remove air bubbles that might disturb the texture of the surface.

Sculpting

Once the clay is ready for sculpting, the potter applies the clay body to a pottery wheel. A pottery wheel is a device that spins the clay object. This can allow for a combination of tool and hand-building pottery. Functional pottery usually involves a potter's wheel because it can help a potter form a hollow object. Potters who don't utilise a potter's wheel often create ornamental pottery with slab presses. These presses can imprint complex designs onto flat pieces of clay.

Glazing

Once a potter has created their piece, they may then glaze it. Functional pottery usually receives a glaze to protect the clay from moisture. A potter may also glaze pottery to improve its aesthetics.

Firing

One of the most important parts of creating pottery is the firing stage. Once a clay item receives its glazing and sculpting, a potter places it in a furnace. Furnaces typically provide a more stable temperature, which allows the clay to solidify. The purpose of firing is to improve the strength of the clay object.

How to become a potter

There are no formal education requirements for becoming a potter, but there are several workshops and courses you might consider. Many potters have their own business with individual clients. Potters can also obtain employment with a pottery studio or manufacturing company. Below are several steps that can help you become a potter:

1. Complete an internship

Pottery crafting businesses may employ interns and trainees. As a trainee, you can experience the daily activities and responsibilities of a potter. An internship usually lasts for six months. You may receive training on how to prepare, sculpt, glaze and fire clay pottery. Some internship providers may offer you a job position once your training is complete.

Related: 11 Benefits of an Internship (With FAQs about Internships)

2. Complete pottery workshops

There are usually several businesses that provide pottery training classes to groups and individuals. Pottery workshops can be an excellent way to gain practical skills. The duration of the workshop usually depends on the training provider. Some workshops are ongoing and you may attend them as frequently as you want.

3. Acquire pottery equipment

Once you have the skills to create pottery, you can obtain some pottery equipment, such as a pottery wheel, furnace and sculpting tools. To create functional and quality pottery, you may require a substantial workspace. Depending on the size of the pottery you create, you may require an outdoor art studio or an industrial work area.

4. Advertise your artwork

Once you have the equipment and skills to create pottery, it may be a good idea to advertise your artwork. By advertising, you can allow a wider audience to view your products and potentially make a purchase. There are several cost-effective ways you can advertise. A popular method of advertising artwork is through social media platforms. Once you have many clients and a steady inflow of customers, you may earn a profit as a freelancer.

5. Apply for a pottery job

If you're hoping to get employment with an art studio or manufacturing company, then you may require a portfolio. When you apply for a pottery job, you can present your portfolio to the hiring manager. The portfolio can include examples of your pottery that highlight your creative skills. You may apply for a pottery job using the Indeed Job Board.

Skills in pottery

Below are several skills that may assist a potter in fulfilling their daily responsibilities:

Attention to detail

Attention to detail can help a potter identify any weaknesses in their creations. It can also help them design complex patterns on their pottery. You can improve your attention to detail by conducting activities that require your focus and attention. This can help you train your mind to maintain concentration and focus.

Related: How to Improve Your Attention To Detail in 4 Steps

Creativity

Creativity can help a potter create innovative and aesthetic pottery. Potters with a creative mindset may also create pottery objects with unique functional designs and engaging patterns. You can improve your creativity by completing artistic workshops that encourage you to think creatively. These workshops can provide you with mental tools to help you broaden your imagination.

Related: How to Show Creativity at Work (With Tips and Skills)

Patience

Creating pottery can be a relatively time-consuming process. Sculpting can require several hours of intense focus and delicate hand movements. A patient potter can apply precise alterations and tweaks to their design to ensure its quality. To improve your patience, you can try meditating and reviewing past situations. This may help you identify areas of your life that may require more patience.

Hand-eye coordination

When creating a piece of pottery, a potter may utilise their hand-eye coordination to imprint precise patterns and designs. Hand-eye coordination can also help a potter use the pottery wheel to form hollow clay pieces. You can improve your hand-eye coordination by conducting physical activities that train your reflexes.

The average salary of a potter

The national average salary of a potter is $58,958 per year. Your annual income as a potter can vary depending on the quantity and quality of your pottery. To become a freelance potter and gain full-time hours, you may require a substantial client base and reputation within the art community. Where you live can also affect your annual income. Some communities may value artistic creations more than others and be willing to spend more.

Frequently asked questions about potters

Below, you can find some of the most frequently asked questions about a career in pottery:

Is pottery a rewarding job?

Some people may consider pottery a rewarding activity. You may find the process of pottery to be relaxing and satisfying. If you enjoy expressing your creativity and creating sustainable products, then pottery can provide you with ample job satisfaction.

Is it hard to become a potter?

To become a successful potter, you usually require extensive knowledge of pottery processes and techniques. How difficult you find the learning process can depend on your personality, interests and skills. If you're creative, patient and enjoy creating art with your hands, then you may find pottery to be an easy and enjoyable activity.

Do potters specialise in a style of pottery?

Potters may create pottery using a variety of styles. The style they use can depend on who they're making the pottery for. Some potters may specialise in a specific style of pottery, such as porcelain or earthenware.

Below, you can find a few details on three common styles of pottery:

  • Earthenware: A potter fires earthenware pottery at low temperatures in an open-pit flame or bonfire. People often use earthenware pottery as ornamental pieces, as its porous texture absorbs liquids.

  • Stoneware: A potter creates stoneware pottery by firing clay in a kiln at high heat. Stoneware pottery is usually very sturdy and can last for decades.

  • Porcelain: Porcelain is usually one of the most popular styles of pottery for aesthetic and ornamental pieces. When creating porcelain pottery, a potter exposes the clay to extreme heat and applies a glaze to the object.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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