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Everyone uses pottery. Dishes, mugs, serving bowls, flower pots and vases. These items are all often made using clay that is shaped, glazed, and fired to prevent it from falling apart. Usually, we use household items that have been mass produced. But sometimes, we use special, handmade bowls, unique mugs, or colorful flower pots or vases. These one-of-a-kind items are made by potters, artisans who create beautifully interesting items that are both decorative and useful.

Along with clay, glaze and fire, potters create with wheels, moulds, and freestyle with their hands. They can etch in designs and patterns using small tools. Unlike some other artisans, potters need a large, well-stocked studio space in which to create their work.

Potters can make just about anything out of clay. They have so many methods for creating, from pouring liquid clay into plaster moulds to simple shaping with their fingers. They can even determine the look of the piece by controlling the temperature of the kiln, or oven. The higher the temperature, the smoother and more waterproof a piece will end up being.

Potters are generally strong, as the work takes a lot of muscle. They must be able to see things three dimensionally, and believe that anything is possible. They must also be determined, and have faith in their talent.

Often potters' work is so beautiful, it is considered to be more artistic than useful. Potters create art out of clay because if its versatility, and its link to nature. But even if their work is sold in gift shops and never displayed in a gallery, all potters have respect and skill enough to see clay as a thing of beauty.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a potter? Potters are creative, and driven to create art. They must be willing to put in long, hard hours. They need good manual dexterity, steady hands, and patience to work as a potter. They need to be innovative thinkers, willing to create new things. Drawing, design, and mathematical skills are also important. They should have some business sense, as well as good people skills, especially for potters who would like to make this their career.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Come up with original designs and pieces
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about piece
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Prepare the clay for use
  • Shape pottery items using hands, a potter's wheel, moulds and other tools
  • Prepare and mix glazes (chemicals that give a shiny finish) for decorating
  • Prepare, load and fire kilns
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • They typical day for a potter involves meeting with clients and drawing up plans for the item. When potters actually get down to it, and begin making the objects, the hours can be long, and quick, accurate work is crucial. Depending on the size and detail of a piece, it can take several days for one item to be completed. Potters may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, potters work part-time, however, the longer they work and the more popular their creations, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in studios, often in their own homes. Potters usually work alone, or in collaboration with a few artists. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their original work in galleries, jewelry stores, or artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made-to-order for specific clients.
  • Some potters find full-time work with museums and historical societies, making historically accurate re-creations or restoring antiques and artifacts, and work completing their own creations on the side.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Potters can become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can branch out into other areas of art, and become potters, silversmiths, jewelry or clothing designers, or open a store or gallery for artisans to sell and display their creations.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required program to take or path to follow to become a potter. Often, they will study under the guidance of an established artisan, so it is a good idea for novice potters to find an individual with whom they can work and learn. Some colleges and private schools offer courses in pottery. It is a good idea to complete a university degree or college diploma in fine art, design, or sculpture, as well as a few courses in business administration, for individuals who plan on establishing their own business.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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