I never know if it’s simply the miniature spaces I frequent, or a worldwide phenomenon, but I’ve been seeing miniature pottery pop up everywhere. Maybe not as popular as miniature cooking, but a close second. And I might just like watching miniature pottery throwing videos more than mini cooking videos. But that’s just me.
In any case, I never see any info on how you can do this yourself, and I love writing these types of posts, so here I am to fill in that gap.
This post is by no means a full how to, but more of an introduction to get you started on your way to experimentation.
If you ever see these mini throwing videos on Instagram, the most popular throwing wheel is this Mini Makr Wheel. Created to fill the mini wheel void, it runs at $200+, from the price listing I previously saw. None are currently listed for sale, but can be ordered through e-mail. See their website here for more info.
Mini thrown pottery however, started with full size pottery wheels. In modern times, electric wheels, previously kick wheels. In this the potter uses a larger chunk of clay, centers it, then forms the tiny vase on top of that clay, and cuts it off. These wheels run anywhere from $200-2000. If you decide to go this route, I recommend working with a pro or using a professional website to source, as there are some with much weaker motors etc. Start perusing here if you’d like. While I have thrown on wheels quite often, they’ve been ones owned by my high school and college, and not sourced by myself directly, so I can’t necessarily give advice.
The cheapest option is to get a wheel meant for children’s crafting or those marketed in big box stores to beginners. These of course are much lesser quality, but it all depends on your end goal. Cra-Z Art has one for $16.32, Faber-Castell $46.49, and Mindware $84.85. All three of these come with tools and air dry clay.
Make by Hand
Miniaturists have been making tiny plates and pots by hand for a long time. This may not be as instagrammable, but it definitely involves less prep and money. This is typically done with polymer clay, but could easity be done with air dry clay as well, or if you prefer, with clay that needs to be fired in a kiln. More info on that below.
For the beginner, or someone without traditional pottery supplies, I recommend air dry clay for throwing, and either air dry or polymer clay for making by hand (polymer clay cannot be properly thrown on a potter’s wheel). These items are readily available in craft stores, and even many big box stores. Do note though, that while Daiso and Crayola Model Magic are popular air dry clays, they’re too light and puffy and will not work for this process. Instead try standard Crayola Air Dry Clay which is made from natural earth clay and can be used with traditional modeling techniques, like smoothing with water.
As for polymer clay, Sculpey or Fimo are just fine. That said, the professional lines in these brands will be better for mini pottery as they’re less sticky and thus form more precisely and with less fingerprints. These lines include Super Sculpey, Premo Sculpey and Fimo Professional.
Alternatively you can use traditional, professional clay. This requires firing in a kiln. If you already have a kiln, great, you probably know all the info in the post already. If not, know that traditional kilns are large and expensive, and I don’t recommend constructing your own outside, unless you are well versed on the subject. More info on kilns below.
If you plan to go the kiln route, there are more compact kilns for home use that would be plenty big enough for mini pottery firing. Peruse those here.
You can fire traditional clay in a kitchen oven, or with a kitchen torch as you may have seen in some videos. However, the items fired this way will not have been fired at a high enough temperature and therefore will be more brittle than if they had been fired in a kiln. If you choose to use a kitchen oven, here’s a how to process.
Polymer clay requires a kitchen oven or toaster oven. While the toaster oven takes less energy and is more compact, it can more easily burn your pieces as the temperature gauge isn’t always precise. Test bake some pieces to learn your oven before putting your best work in.
If you created a polymer clay piece, after baking you can paint with acrylic paint (or tempura, but it won’t show up as well) or coat in chalk pastel or mica powder. After either of these techniques, coat with a gloss or varnish to protect the finish. Metallic paints and powders can be used creatively in combination with other acrylic colors to create glaze-like effects.
If you made your piece with air dry clay, once dry, you can paint the piece with acrylic or tempura paint (you can also mix these with the clay before you create something with it), or coat in chalk pastel or mica powder. As with polymer clay, after either of these techniques, coat with a gloss or varnish to protect the finish.
And finally, if you chose to work with standard ceramic stoneware clay or porcelain clay, you can use a variety of ceramic glazes. Apply after the clay is dry, but before you fire in the kiln. Follow the specific instructions on the selected glaze bottle. There are glazes that do not require kiln firing, but do need to be heat set. These are called Oven Bake Pottery Glazes or Glass and Ceramic Paint, and will work for your kitchen oven fired pieces. Follow the instructions on the paint container.
A note, – air dry clay can be baked, but at lower temperatures than oven bake glaze requires. If you figure out a work around, do let me know.
And that’s the end of my spiel. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts and questions below!