Like any proper tea enthusiast, we’re sure your eyes light up just like ours do every time you see a beautiful piece of teaware! But have you ever considered making your own teaware? Sure, it may not turn out as perfect as a Yixing teapot made by a multi-generational master. However, it will be yours! Furthermore, it will definitely become a conversation piece during your next friendly tea ceremony. In this post, we share some tips on how to make your own teaware.
Setting Up A Pottery Space To Make Your Own Teaware
Indeed, everything starts from a suitable space! Suppose you’re a total beginner to pottery. In that case, you might want to find a local pottery studio in your area and take a class or two just to get acquainted with the basics. On the other hand, if you want to go ahead and start straight from home, there’s plenty of video tutorials on youtube that will teach you the basics.
If you want to go right ahead and start making your teaware at home, make sure you find the proper space. Working with clay can get messy! Especially once the clay begins to dry, the dust can get around quickly.
Work in a well-ventilated area. Ideally, this can be a specially dedicated craft room, garage, covered space outdoors, or simply a large enough room. That way, the dust, and mud won’t get all over the place! If your kitchen allows for it, working on a kitchen counter is also a good idea since you can easily clean up afterward. Just make sure to hide all the food and dishes first!
The Pottery Materials for Making Teaware
If nothing else, you will definitely need clay, the soul of ceramic teaware! Clay usually comes in large quantities and is not too expensive. This gives you the freedom to experiment until you have a teacup or tea bowl that you are satisfied with! Here are the most common types of clay:
Stoneware is the most basic type of clay. Probably a lot of your teaware is made from stoneware! For example, Yixing teaware is stoneware. We recommend starting with this clay type if you’re a beginner. It’s easy to work with and also, generally, easily accessible. Stoneware comes in many different colors, so choose the one that appeals to you!
Porcelain clay is pure white when fired, very glossy, and is perfect for painting. It is prized when it comes to teaware because of its elegant nature. However, it can be hard working with porcelain if you are a beginner. The clay is very malleable but challenging to shape. On top of that, it dries out quickly. As a result, pottery beginners may need more time to work with their creations. Thus this clay type is not ideal.
Earthenware clay usually comes in red and brown colors. It's fired at low temperatures (compared to porcelain and stoneware). Thus, it results in quite porous tea ware. It's also quite easy to break. This type of clay is usually used for more stationary or decorative items, rather than tea ware.
Depending on where you live, you may find different varieties of local clay. It’s always interesting to experiment with local clay varieties. Just be aware they are not always the most beginner-friendly. Sourcing your own clay can also be an exciting project if you live in a clay-rich area!
Read more: The Effects Of Clay On Loose Leaf Tea
Wheel or No Wheel
There are two most popular ways of making teaware when it comes to pottery - on a pottery wheel or hand-building. With a pottery wheel, you can achieve faster results and make more uniform pieces. For example, teacups, teapots, and gaiwan. However, a wheel is a more considerable investment and requires a bit of initial practice to get your clay centered.
Hand-building is more accessible and doesn’t require any additional materials, just a tabletop! With hand-building, you mold the clay by hand without using a wheel, so naturally, the finished pieces may not be as uniform. However, you can still make a wide variety of teaware and shape it any way you like with the help of pottery tools.
By the way, most craft stores conveniently sell them in sets! Although with a bit of ingenuity, you can make your own by using kitchen utensils. For example, spoons, butter knives, skewers, sponges, or rolling pins all make great pottery tools.
Firing your pottery is the first point where it might actually get tricky. If you want to use your teaware, it has to be fired. Otherwise, it is too porous and can easily break. Plus, you can’t use it with water. Thus, firing your teaware is essential.
The thing is, electric kilns are a big investment. A kiln can cost $1000 and up, not to mention the increased electricity bills. A kiln is a good investment if you know you will continue making pottery. Still, we don’t recommend taking this step for complete beginners.
A good option is to find pottery studios in your area first. Many studios allow you to use their kiln for firing your homemade ceramics as long as you use a standard type of clay and glaze. Another option is making your own wood-fired or gas-fired kiln. Only do this if you have a big, open outdoor space and if you can follow safety procedures. Here is a tutorial on making your own raku kiln (Japanese low-fire pottery) which is relatively easy to follow. Plus, they will give your pottery a unique look as no raku firing ever turns out the same!
Glazing Your Teaware
When you choose to fire your tea ware, you must glaze the pieces first. The glaze is what makes it water-resistant. Not all clay types require glaze, but many do. You can use a clear glaze to keep the natural look of your teaware. On the other hand, you can only glaze the inside and keep the outside unglazed.
Glazes can really transform an imperfect teacup into a masterpiece! Many glazes come premixed in tubs, so they are effortless to apply to your pottery. You can also mix your own glazes to make unique colors. However, the unmixed glaze powders can be quite toxic, so you must follow safety procedures and work in a well-ventilated space, ideally while wearing a mask.
For a very comprehensive guide on making pottery at home, check out this article.
What Type Of Teaware To Make
This is your chance to be creative and make those teacups of your dreams! Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Chawan (matcha bowls) are the embodiment of the concept of wabi-sabi. They can be rustic, bulky, and perfectly imperfect. Thus, they are easy to try your hand at if you’re a beginner! Teacups and cha hai are also excellent choices for pottery beginners. Once you feel a little more confident, you can try making more complex teaware. For example, teapots, kyusu, and gaiwan!