Learn pottery:

Learn how to use a pottery wheel

Pottery wheel throwing explained

Pottery wheel throwing is the process of forming clay into shapes like mugs, bowls, and plates. Though it takes years to master, the basic skills and methods can be picked up in just a few hours, allowing everyone – from total beginners to pottery maestros – to create something wonderful on the wheel.

What is a pottery wheel?

A pottery wheel is a handy machine that potters use to help them shape (or throw) a lump of clay into a uniformly round ceramic ware. It can also be used to trim and finesse excess clay from finished wares that have dried to ‘leather’ hardness.

We have 12 wheels at the Stupots studio which are belt driven Shimpo wheels, controlled by foot pedals – similar to a sewing machine. Ready to have a go? Come along to one of our classes!

How does a pottery wheel work?

Though wheels vary, most pottery wheels have a circular platform or plinth that rotates and is controlled by a foot pedal. The potter uses their hands and a selection of wooden tools to shape the clay by alternating the pressure they apply and the angle they apply it.

Once the pot is finished, it can be cut from the wheel and left to dry, before being further finessed and eventually fired and glazed.

History of the pottery wheel

It is not really known when the potter’s wheel first came into use, but people have suggested dates between about 6,000 BC to about 2,400 BC. Modern thinkers declare it was first developed in Mesopotamia, although Egypt and China have also been claimed as possible places of origin. The discovery of a stone potter’s wheel found at the Mesopotamian city of Ur in modern-day Iraq has been dated to about 3,000 BC.

By the iron age the potter’s wheel was in common use throughout the UK. With the industrial revolution the potter’s wheel was brought up to date by adding an external drive, speeding up production of pottery, and leading to the development of the modern potter’s wheel we know and love today.

How to make a pot on a pottery wheel


Wet clay is placed on the pottery wheel and spun at speed. We use stoneware clay which is ideal for kitchen and everyday use as it is extremely hard wearing.


Shapes are formed using your hands and a selection of wooden tools.


The pot is then cut from the wheel using a wire and left to dry for several hours until it is leather hard and ready to be trimmed and shaped using tools. This makes the object lighter and refines its shape. At this point, any decoration or handles are also added.


The clay is then left to dry for several weeks before being put into the kiln for its first firing which is called a bisque fire. The bisque fire causes a chemical reaction within the clay turning it into ceramics.


Once the pot has been bisque fired, it can be glazed in a colour of your choice.


The pot is then put into the kiln at a higher temperature for 24hrs. After that, it is finished and ready to use!

How difficult is the pottery wheel?

The pottery wheel does take practice and time to get the hang of, with most master potters putting in years and years of hard work to get where they are today. Despite this, with the right guidance you can create a beautiful handcrafted object on a wheel – even as a total beginner.

Here at Stupots, classes are broken down into easy, manageable steps so you can quickly and easily pick up the method of making forms. After a 2-hour class, all students will be able to make a bowl of a good standard.

Pottery wheel & throwing classes Bristol

Create something beautiful at one of our fun and engaging throwing workshops. We’ll provide you with all the tools and guidance you need to throw your very own pot – whatever your abilities and experience level.

Whether arranging an occasion with friends or planning a corporate social, our pottery classes are a highly enjoyable and memorable introduction to the wheel.

Don’t just take our word for it

View all 700+ Google Reviews here

  • As my friend and I left our pottery wheel taster session we both looked at each other and exclaimed ‘I LOVED that’!! Not knowing what to expect I assumed I’d be terrible and be lucky to end up with a wonky little pot or something but with Stu’s expert and friendly guidance we all made several things and I loved them all! The studio was beautiful with lots of inspiration displayed all around us. Our group were very soon chatting and laughing together and everyone had such a good time. I’m sure there was a great deal of behind the scenes preparation which meant there was a plentiful supply of clay ready to go and as soon as we’d finished one piece we were on to another one and I was amazed at how many we made in a couple of fun packed hours. Would love to return and I’ve been recommending Stu Pots Pottery Studio to everyone! Can’t wait to see the fired results! Thank you so much for a fabulous experience!

    Helen Phillips
  • AMAZING EXPERIENCE! Bought a gift voucher for my friend and so glad I got me one too. Such a fun morning. Stu and his entire family were super welcoming, including Ted and Burt 😍 anybody who has anxiety, do not stress! Stu is so friendly and genuinely lovely, you'll feel at ease immediately. Lots of humour, fun learning and just all round great. The cost too is incredible considering the time your getting, the pots you make and the effort that goes into them after you've left! Thank you Stu for a wonderful experience. We will be back 🙌 P.s. anyone looking to buy someone a unique gift-get a gift voucher for the two hour taster session!

    Caz Thompson
  • I attended my first pottery class today wow 🤩 what an amazing afternoon. Great fun highly recommended. Stu is absolutely brilliant teacher so helpful and supportive. As a newbie with Stu help managed to create and complete three unique pieces of pottery which I’m thrilled with. If you’ve always wanted to have a go Stu Pots is the ideal class to attend. He is a credit to the Pottery world. Thank you, Stu, for making my experience so memorable.

    Lorraine Dolton
  • I cannot wait to go back again and would thoroughly recommend anyone wanting to try something fun and different to go.... guarantee you will have a brilliant time 💯👍 informative introduction talk. I even managed to make a bowl, although slightly wobbly. Stu has a wonderful studio in lovely surroundings which was very comfortable, as a group of eight we had plenty of room. I would highly recommend the two-hour taster session, A+.

    Tracy Eliot

Have a question?

Can I wear jewellery while throwing? What do the classes include? And how many people can attend?

For answers to some of our most commonly asked questions, feel free to check out our FAQs page.