Studio Startup! Vol. 2

Studio Layout: Four Steps to be Efficient in Any Space

One thing all creators have in common is the unquenchable urge to create, and we will do so ignoring all obstacles, embracing any opportunity, and persevering through to the next idea. As working artists, we are inherently bound by the available space to work in, however we also have unlimited potential to efficiently use that same space! Whether you are creating in 100 square feet, or 1000 square feet there are ways to make your studio work for you more efficiently. My name is Will Donovan, career potter, and the face behind Clay King’s social media, and in this week’s Studio Startup we are going to cover the 4 steps you need to follow to plan an efficient pottery studio.

  1. Plan Your Flow

Did you know that clay flows? We call the flow the route clay takes as it enters your studio, is stored, sculpted, glazed, fired and leaves. When planning the layout of your space, it helps to visualize this flow before you begin placing equipment, or rearranging.  Establishing a flow to your studio is the foundation to making any sized studio work for you. To do this, it’s best to grab a piece of paper and sketch out the outline of your studio and include the door. Then draw a line coming into and then out of your space, following any contours your unique studio might have. This is going to serve as our map for where we need to place key studio fixtures; as we go through these steps go back to your flow map, and plot these fixtures along it. This will help ensure that your studio is as efficient as it can be. For an example, we’ve plotted a studio layout below. The flow of clay is outlined in red.

2. Plot your Unmovables

In any pottery studio there are pieces of equipment that are built in place, need a particular outlet, or are too heavy to move around. We’ll call these your unmovables. Such things might include (but are not limited to) a door, wall, sink, wood stove, AC Unit etc.  Whatever your studio comes built with, or is heavier than you want to move plot this in its current location. These will be the items you have to work around, or incorporate into your flow. In the photo below, these are the orange features.

3. Plot your Key Fixtures

Next you’ll need to plan out where you’ll place more flexible, but pivotal areas. These are the fixtures that you’ll be returning to throughout your making process, or spending a lot of time at. These are plotted on the layout in Yellow.

  1. The first one to establish is clay storage. This should be a designated area that you will store all the clay and reclaim your studio will use and produce. This could be under a worktable, or beside your wheel but preferably nearby your studio door, as it begins the flow of your work. Also because clay is heavy and who wants to carry 50lb boxes to the opposite end of your work space?
  2. The next item you need to accommodate (if storing it in your studio) is your kiln. Unless you have a rolling stand, a kiln will likely not move. Your kiln will need to be within 50 feet of your breaker panel so its range of movement will be small. You should also plan to have your kiln at least 12” away from any wall nearby. Also include in your kiln’s plot area an additional 1-3 feet nearby where you will store kiln posts and shelves.
  3. If you’re a wheel thrower you’ll want to plan your wheel placement next. Ideally this would be nearby your clay storage so the distance between your clay/reclaim won’t be far from where you are working on it.
  4. If you are a slab roller then this is an item you’ll want to place this near clay storage, as well as a reasonable distance from your work table.
  5. Work table. This should be located somewhere in the middle of your clay flow; the halfway point in between your clay storage, and kiln. This is the center point of most studios and where most time is spent wedging clay, decorating, or glazing pots.  However large your worktable is, make sure you have space around it to move comfortably. Your work table can often double as storage space for glaze buckets, or overflow clay. Most worktable designs include a shelf underneath that is perfect for storing regularly used- or bulky items.

4. Shelves, Storage, and Castors!

            This is the part of studio layout that I call “filling up the corners”. It is a common for potters to underestimate the amount of shelving and storage space they will need when they’re first starting a studio. Don’t fall into that trap, plan for growth, and that means more ware boards, more shelf space, and larger areas to store tools and materials. The good news is, shelving can be made to be as compact as you need, and can fit all around the fixtures you’ve already set in place.  Double bracket wall mounted shelves make a great solution because the shelf height is adjustable, and it takes up minimal floor space. We also have versatile and mobile shelving units on wheels- some even have plastic wraps that double your shelving unit as a damp box. You can find more about those here. You should plan for 3 main shelving areas: one for green ware placed close to your wheel. The second should be for tools, and materials or glazes, located near the worktable. Lastly a place to store ready-to-be fired or finished work near the kiln area. Additional shelving and storage options are easy to fill in smaller areas where needed. These areas are outlined in Green.

            Another tip that can be extremely worthwhile for any studio space, but especially ones that might require regular reorganization or more fluid elements is this: Anything that can go on castors should go on castors. Having mobile worktables, clay storage tables, glaze buckets, etc. is incredibly helpful for efficiency and makes cleaning behind or underneath larger fixtures easier. Most hardware stores will sell various sizes of locking castors, some even fold up when not in use, and can be pressed down to engage.

That’s it! Your studio map should be well plotted by now. Although every space is different in its size and location these are some key elements that can help make sure that the layout of your studio works for you rather than against you. It is easy to begin your side hustle or hobby by slowly collecting new tools and pieces of studio equipment then placing them in your studio wherever you have room. But as you grow, you’ll realize that often needs to adjust to a more fluid and efficient work environment. With proper planning now, you can ensure your space will still be as efficient as you and your skill grows.

Don’t forget to log on to Clay King’s Instagram (@Claykingceramics) this Friday 3/19/2021 at 1pm EST where I will be hosting a live Q&A covering this Studio Startup entry. We’ll give you a tour of a working pottery studio, and I’ll go more in depth into different studio arrangements, share tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout the studios I’ve worked in, as well as being available to answer any specific questions about your studio setup that you might have. In our next blog we’ll be discussing how to choose a wheel that will meet your needs now, and keep pace with you as you grow- you won’t want to miss it!

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