Clay and ceramics are fun and amazing to work with, as you can shape it into almost anything you can imagine. For some pottery inspiration, we have gathered a few easy ceramic ideas you that are great for beginners.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ceramic Ideas: Different Methods Used
- 2 Pottery Ideas for Beginners
- 2.1 Easy Ceramic Projects
- 2.2 More Challenging Pottery Ideas
- 2.3 More Experienced Pottery Ideas
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Ceramic Ideas: Different Methods Used
There are various methods when it comes to making pottery; some require only your hands and maybe a few tools, while others require more equipment. The best beginner pottery ideas are done by hand building, which is done with very few tools and equipment.
This was the most popular method before the pottery wheel was invented. To create ceramic projects by hand building, there are a few techniques involved. These include your slab construction, coiling, and pinching methods.
|Rolling the clay out evenly and then building your clay shape from there or placing over molds
|Rolling the clay into sausage shapes and coiling these into shapes
|Shaping a lump of clay by using your fingers to pinch it into shape
The other two methods of making pottery are wheel throwing and slip casting. You will need a pottery wheel for wheel throwing, where you slap the clay onto the wheel that turns and then shapes the clay with your hands. Slip casting uses molds and clay slip, which is a type of liquified clay that you can pour into the molds.
Once your clay piece has been shaped, it is known as greenware and needs to dry thoroughly before being fired in a kiln. What comes out is known as bisque, which makes the clay a little more durable but still porous. The glaze, which can come in different colors can then be used, and the clay is then fired in the kiln again and comes out looking shiny and non-porous.
You can also use or paint with underglaze before adding a clear glaze.
There are also various other tools and equipment you will need when completing ceramic projects. You do have air-dry clay options available, but if you are working with ceramics, you will need a kiln to fire the clay. You might be able to rent a kiln at a local clay studio, or you can invest in your own kiln. The electric kiln is popular and there are different types from ones you can fit on a tabletop to microwavable kilns.
Pottery Ideas for Beginners
You do not have to have a wheel to begin with a ceramic project. There are plenty of ceramic ideas that are easy to do and only require a few tools. Once you feel like you can go further, you can try something more challenging, like using a pottery wheel.
Easy Ceramic Projects
When you are only beginning to work with ceramics, you need something that is simple. All you need are your hands and maybe a few tools like clay cutters, sponges, and other tools to help shape the clay.
Below are some easy hand-built pottery ideas, you can try at home.
The pinch method is easy and is one of the hand-built pottery ideas. The method is quite simple to do by taking some clay and using your fingers to pinch the clay into shape. This is the perfect beginner ceramic project, and anybody can give it a try. You can make small pinch pots for larger bowls. Smaller bowls can be used as a ring holder or as a small succulent plant holder, while larger bowls can be used for decorative or functional purposes.
Animal-Themed Pottery Ideas
Animal figures can be fun to make and can be as easy as you want, or you can make them more challenging. Some ideas are simply a piece of clay that you can add details to, more details can also be added after the clay has been fired by using paint. For example, easy ceramic bird shapes.
You can also go for something more functional like animal planters for herbs. The basic idea is, to begin with, your bowl shape and then add four legs to the bowl, and if you want, you can add a neck and head as well. The legs can also be left out of this idea.
Otherwise, simply draw a face onto the bowl section.
How about an upside-down animal figure, with the bowl and four feet or paws, and a head peeking over the bowl. A really easy idea is to make the bowl and after it has been fired, you can paint a face on the inside, bottom section of the bowl. You could also make an octopus bowl, which is your basic bowl shape, with eight legs attached to the bottom.
Instead of animals, try making a human face pot. Begin by making a regular pot or vase shape, and then add extra clay for the lips, eyebrows, and nose, and poke holes for the eyes. When placing the plant or bush into the pot, it will look like the hair for the face or head.
This would involve using the slab construction method and textured roller stamps, mats, and other types of clay stamps. These can be used to personalize an item, which could be a plate, bowl, or mug. Many of these stamp tools are made from fired clay, wood, or more commonly today, nonstick rubber.
This is another easy way to make bowls and planters if you want to try another technique besides pinching. When using this method, it is easier to coil a narrower pot than a wider one, which can become off-center.
However, you can try making wider options once you have more experience.
Another idea is to coil smaller sections and then place these together to form the bowl shape. The coil method can also be used to create plates and other ceramic ideas.
- Cups or mugs
- Fruit bowl
- Creative wall hangings
- Pencil holder
Garden-Based Ceramic Ideas
If you love gardening, then making something for the garden will be something you want to do. There are many creative ideas from garden gnomes to simple mushroom shapes, ceramic wind chimes, bird feeders, flower pots, or any decorative ceramic shapes.
Handmade Ceramic Spoons
When hand-building an item like a spoon, it will more than likely have an uneven appearance, unlike with a mold. However, this could make a unique piece that has more character. There are smaller spoons and larger spoons you can use as spoon holders.
Ceramic spoons can also be functional; however, they can also simply be a beautiful decorative piece that will look nice in the kitchen.
Simple Ceramic Painting Ideas
Instead of doing the whole process of creating a ceramic item and then having to fire it in a kiln yourself, there are places you can go to that provide all the tools and equipment you need. In many cases, the clay has already been fired and is in bisque form.
All you have to do is choose your ceramic item, for example, a plate or mug, and then you can paint it. The place where you are, will then do the last bit of glazing or firing for you. This is a popular idea for groups and parties. Below are some pottery painting ideas you can think of doing.
- Simple lines: Create a design that includes straight lines, which could all be in the same direction, or maybe some could be horizontal, while others perpendicular, or why not some zig-zag lines or swirls?
- Go free-hand : If you are good at drawing, you can paint anything from landscapes to animals or flowers .
- Personalized items: If you are making a gift, why not include the person’s name or initials?
- Templates: The templates could be in any shape or design, which makes it easier for you to create a more uniform design.
- Dots: A really easy and quick idea is to paint dots, which can be big, small, black, or in color.
If you are going to make tags with ceramics, it is maybe a good idea to do them in bulk. For example, for an event, baby showers, or as gifts for Christmas.
There are clay alphabet stamps you can get to write out words or names on the clay.
Making Ceramic Jewelry
Many ceramic projects involve jewelry making. The easiest item to make is a ceramic pendant, and you can be as creative as you want to be. You can make them in a variety of sizes as well as shapes, paint them, or use clay stamps. Add some silver or gold chains or simply use a leather cord. Besides pendants, you can make earrings, bracelets, and ceramic beads. To hold all your rings, you could make a ceramic ring holder.
More Challenging Pottery Ideas
There are many ceramic projects, all with varying difficulty levels. The various techniques also require a bit of practice before you can get them right. So, once you have done this, you can move on to more challenging projects.
Ceramic has so many possibilities, and below we have some more complex ceramic projects that you can try.
Cups and Mugs
You can make cups and mugs using the slab construction method. Create an even slab of clay and then cut out shapes to put together. These shapes are usually square, which finally form your mug. Of course, you can also make mugs using a wheel and there are slip casting options as well. Whatever method you choose, there are many imaginative ways you can use to create unique items. You can paint the mug or create something more three-dimensional, or even create a unique handle that attaches to the mug. You do not have to stick to a round or square mug, how about a heart-shaped mug?
Ceramic Tea Light Holders
There are many beautiful designs for candle or tea light holders. These are popular and quite straightforward to make. All you need to do is create a hollow or bowl shape that has some holes or designs to let the light through. Make sure to make the opening large enough so that you can place the candle or tea light inside. You could also create an old-fashioned candle holder for those tall and thin candles, which have a small handle on the side.
The candle is placed inside the small bowl or cup shape and can then be carried around.
This is the perfect way to use the slab method. You can then easily paint the plate, just remember everything has to be food-safe if the surfaces come into contact with food. An easy way to decorate the plates is to use stamps. Make a leaf plate by looking for a fair size leaf in the garden and using it as a template to cut the shape. Also, if you can press firmly enough, you can bring out more details, such as the leaf veins. You can use the plate as a soap or key holder.
Weaving Ceramic Baskets
For some unique pottery inspiration, here is an idea you might not have come up with. How about combining some weaving techniques with clay ceramics? This is an easy method using a specific size bowl to create the shape. Then make strips of clay that are long enough to cover the bowl on the outside.
A simple plain weave design can then be created with strips of clay.
Carving is a little more challenging than most ideas, as you need a few more tools to do the job. However, by using different clay tools, you can create unique patterns and textures. The carving is done before the item is fired for the first time. You can create any design from straight or curved lines to animals, leaves, and anything you can think of.
Ceramic Wine Stoppers
These can make wonderful gifts and are easy to make depending on the design you have chosen. The clay can easily be shaped by hand. These can then be attached to a piece of cork, which then goes into the wine bottle.
More Experienced Pottery Ideas
Once you have reached a certain level, you can begin experimenting with all the pottery techniques. You can also include using a pottery wheel, which can help to quicken the process and allows you to produce other forms of pottery.
Combining Glass With Pottery
This is a more advanced technique, but it can produce some amazing results. You will need to have a fair understanding of how to work with clay and knowledge of how the glass will fuse to the clay. So, you should know how to use a kiln. The basic steps are to create a pottery shape first and then fire it. Once the clay is dry, you can then add the glass, and everything is then placed back into the kiln. You will need to know how long and at what temperatures to use for this ceramic project.
Any pottery item you make, can then only be used for decorative purposes.
The Art of Kintsugi
This is an old Japanese technique that was used to repair broken pottery. Instead of simply gluing the pieces together, they used melted, powdered silver and gold, which produces a beautiful look once the item is repaired. If you want to give this a try, there are Kintsugi kits available on Amazon. Also read our jomon pottery article.
Textured Ceramic Vases
There are a few ways you can add texture to a ceramic piece, from adding textured paint, joint compound, or even baking soda. This can make the ceramic look like it has aged or gives it a rough texture. You can also add on clay pieces to create an almost built-up image, and the clay stands out from the surface.
This could be anything from flowers, leaves, or simply some smaller coiled clay pieces.
Clay Pottery Boxes
Using the slab construction method, you can make some clay pottery boxes. You can make open boxes or make a lid to go with the box. The method is fairly simple and takes a few cut-out pieces that you need to put together.
These colanders can be larger or smaller bowl shapes, or you can also create a flat-type colander. The smaller and flat colanders can easily be done as one of the hand-built pottery ideas.
The larger ones can be done more easily on a pottery wheel.
Wheel Throwing Ceramic Ideas
If you are serious about making pottery or ceramic items, then you might want to invest in a pottery wheel. This makes creating various items a bit faster and easier than by hand. You can make better-looking mugs, plates, vases, and round containers of all sorts. Below are a few more ideas.
- Candle holders
- Match stick holders
- Make bigger plates
- Large jugs and mugs
- Cake stands
- Wine chillers
- Egg cups
- Butter dishes
We hope that these ceramic ideas have sparked a little pottery inspiration and that you are excited about starting your own ceramic project. You can begin with something easy, and there may even be places where you can have the clay firing done for you until you feel the need to purchase your own equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pottery and Ceramics the Same?
Some would say that these terms are the same. Both are made of clay, kiln-fired, and can be decorated as well as glazed. However, the term pottery is mostly seen as containers or vases, while ceramics can be art and used in many other ways.
Can an Oven Be Used for Pottery?
A kiln is the best and easiest method for firing the clay, as you need the proper temperatures to heat the clay. A home oven does not get hot enough to create the heat needed, and if done this way, the clay can eventually crack.
Are All Ceramics the Same?
There are various kinds of clays available including stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware. The one you choose will depend on the type of project. The different clay contains various combinations of silica and other minerals, and some are better suited for certain projects than others.
In 2005, Charlene completed her Wellness Diplomas in Therapeutic Aromatherapy and Reflexology from the International School of Reflexology and Meridian Therapy. She worked for a company offering corporate wellness programs for a couple of years, before opening up her own therapy practice. It was in 2015 that a friend, who was a digital marketer, asked her to join her company as a content creator, and this is where she found her excitement for writing.
Since joining the content writing world, she has gained a lot of experience over the years writing on a diverse selection of topics, from beauty, health, wellness, travel, and more. Due to various circumstances, she had to close her therapy practice and is now a full-time freelance writer. Being a creative person, she could not pass up the opportunity to contribute to the Art in Context team, where is was in her element, writing about a variety of art and craft topics. Contributing articles for over three years now, her knowledge in this area has grown, and she has gotten to explore her creativity and improve her research and writing skills.
Charlene Lewis has been working for artincontext.org since the relaunch in 2020. She is an experienced writer and mainly focuses on the topics of color theory, painting and drawing.
Cite this Article
Charlene, Lewis, “Ceramic Ideas – Inspirational Ideas for Handmade Ceramic Projects.” Art in Context. June 15, 2022. URL: https://artincontext.org/ceramic-ideas/
Lewis, C. (2022, 15 June). Ceramic Ideas – Inspirational Ideas for Handmade Ceramic Projects. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/ceramic-ideas/