A friend of my husband texted recently that he was looking for a pottery wheel for his wife. He wondered if I had any good sources or advice.
Seriously, that’s not an easy question to answer without a lot more information. Like most tools, there’s a huge variation in cost, quality and capability. Since we were already out and about, we stopped at his shop (he’s a cabinetmaker) to learn more.
He was on the road, but his son was in the shop, which in this case actually got us closer to the story. He’d gotten his kids a toy pottery wheel, which mom played with while she visited the grandkids. Pottery would be a new hobby for her.
I am all for new hobbies. Most people, in my opinion, should go for a few more hobbies in their life. But I don’t believe that buying a pottery wheel is necessarily a good idea when it comes to starting to craft in clay.
In general, I don’t believe in investing a lot of money into tools for any new hobby. When just starting out, invest in education first. Take a class or a workshop. Learn using someone else’s tools. If you fall in love with the process, start investing in your own tool set.
In my case, I knew that I wanted to be a potter since I was a kid. I occasionally dabbled, but had neither the time nor the resources to get seriously into it. As I was approaching the gentle age of sixty, driving past the pottery studio on my way back from visiting a client, I decided I’d waited long enough. I gave myself a pottery class for my birthday.
That was nearly ten years ago. For the next seven years, I took four or five of the two-month-long sessions that he offered (he offered five sessions per year). I’d still be doing that but he was forced to close the business when the landlord sold the building.
So I went looking for other classes. And I began researching pottery wheels. (My former teacher still does my firing and I use his glazes.)
There is a world of advice available for what to look for in a pottery wheel. The advice I ended up following was from one of the dealers I was researching: for a first wheel, it’s often best to get what you learned on. Which is ultimately what I did. I bought a Shimpo Whisper. I absolutely love it.