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Forming Art From Clay: Craft Pottery Wheels

If you have a passion for pottery, you may be inspired to grab some clay and try your hand at throwing with a wheel. Artisans the world over agree that turning a damp lump of raw material into a beautiful, functional piece of ceramic pottery by hand is a uniquely satisfying experience. However, choosing a pottery wheel can be overwhelming, so deciding what options are important to you up front can make the selection process easier and more enjoyable.

How Does a Kick Wheel Differ from an Electric Model?

Quiet yet extremely rugged, a kick wheel harkens back to a simpler time when electricity was not readily available. From a built-in seat on a sturdy frame, the artist powers the wheel and controls its speed by foot. Kick wheels are often the choice of potters who prefer a traditional approach to throwing clay pottery pieces. Its benefit is that wherever there is room to install it, it will work no matter what. By contrast, an electric pottery wheel offers comfort, convenience, and ease. Potters can add seating in a wide range of styles. Motorized pottery wheels may be the choice of a potter who throws for an extended period of time or produces a large quantity of ceramic clay art pieces.

What Other Attributes Should You Consider When Buying?

  • Power: While a kick wheel is operated by physical energy, an electric pottery wheel depends on torque. Throwing large, complex art pieces requires ample horsepower, so you will want to ensure that the motorized wheel that you buy will be powerful enough to suit the needs of the artist as their skills expand. Some kick wheels can also be powered by horsepower on occasions when traditional foot power might need a boost.
  • Portability: While practically all wheels will likely be too big to fit under a Christmas tree, they are available in configurations designed to suit a variety of working styles. Sturdier, heavier wheels with attached legs that incorporate work surfaces, splash pans, and seats into their designs are generally best kept in one place. Wheels that feature removable legs for easier storage and tabletop use are easier to transport. Dedicated tabletop models will please minimalists, and wheel kits designed especially for small fry can easily be packed away in a box and carried from room to room.
  • Features: Pottery wheels include a variety of features that differ from machine to machine. Some foot pedals are more responsive than others. Some splash pans are removable for easier cleaning and recycling of excess clay, while some are built-in. Whether you are purchasing a pottery wheel for the home, art studio, or classroom crafting of pottery pieces, determining your "must-have" features in advance will better ensure that the wheel you give to the artist is the right one for them.

How Long Will a Pottery Wheel Last?

Most potters wheels are designed to last a long time, so even recreational potters may want to invest in one that will serve them well into the future. With proper maintenance, a motorized pottery wheel may have a life expectancy of about 10 years, while a foot-powered model can last a lifetime.

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