What Are the Popular Clays for Pottery?

Potters have a wide range of clay bodies to choose from. Each has different ingredients, different firing temperatures and is suited for different uses.

Popular clays for pottery include: terra cotta clay which is a mid-range cone clay, good for hand building and wheel throwing. It can be fired low to create earthenware, or high to achieve stoneware.


There are many different clays in pottery supply stores. Depending on the type of clay you select and how it is used, your finished product will look very differently. Some clays have very little iron in them, like porcelain or stoneware, while others have a lot, which gives the clay a richer color.

Choosing the right pottery tools for your project can be overwhelming for beginners. You have to consider how you are going to use the clay, whether that will be hand building, wheel throwing or sculpting and modeling. It’s also important to think about what kind of pottery you are making and what temperature it will be fired to.

Porcelain is a very popular clay that can be used for both functional and decorative pieces. This clay is usually fired to a high temperature, which makes it very durable and hard-wearing. Porcelain is very smooth and refined to the touch, but it can be quite challenging to work with, especially for beginner potters. This is because porcelain has low plasticity, which means that it does not hold the shape that it is given very well.

A good alternative to porcelain is a mid-range stoneware clay. This clay is a good choice for both hand and coil building, as well as wheel throwing. It can be fired to a variety of cones from cone 4 to cone 7, and is very versatile.


If you’re a beginner potter, you may want to start with stoneware. It’s a great clay for hand-building or wheel-throwing and is available in a variety of colors. It’s also a good choice for glazing. It’s a durable, nonporous material that can withstand heat, making it ideal for dishes and cups.

It’s important to choose a clay that works well for your pottery style. Porcelain, for example, can be difficult for beginners to work with. It requires a lot of maintenance and is not forgiving. Even a small bump in the clay can throw the piece off-center and make it difficult to recover. It’s also expensive, about twice as much as other types of clay.

For this reason, porcelain isn’t a favored clay for beginners. However, there are other high-quality clays that are suitable for beginners, such as earthenware or fine bone china. These clays are made with a denser clay, creating a thicker silhouette and durable construction.

Another popular type of clay for pottery is ball clay. This is a raw material that can be added to other clays to improve their plasticity. It fires to a light tan or buff color and is less white than kaolin. It’s often used in porcelain to improve its plasticity, but it can also be combined with other clays to create earthenware or stoneware.

Ball Clay

It is very hard to say what the best clay for pottery is, because it depends on your individual preferences and the types of projects you’re making. However, there are some clays that are popular amongst many potters. This includes porcelain, stoneware, and ball clay.

Earthenware and ball clay are good choices for beginners because they are soft, sturdy, and low firing. They can be used for hand-building or wheel throwing, and they can be glazed easily. These clays are also more forgiving than other types of clay, especially porcelain, which can be quite difficult to work with on the pottery wheel.

Another benefit of clays like ball clay is that they are very affordable. They can be purchased in bulk and are a popular choice for ceramic raw materials for industries such as sanitaryware, wall and floor tiles, and tableware. These clays are usually mixed with kaolin, silica sand and flux to enhance their firing characteristics.

When buying clay, it is important to understand the differences between different types. While all clay needs to be fired, some types require higher temperatures to mature than others. Also, different clays absorb water at a different rate, which can change their drying and working properties. It is crucial to read the label of your clay to ensure you’re purchasing what you need.

Recycled Clay

It is not uncommon for potters to mix recycled clay into their kiln firings. This clay can come from scraps, broken greenware, old throwing slurry or even reclaimed clay that was kilned and cooled once before.

Whether you are recycling or reclaiming your clay it is important to keep it as non contaminated as possible. This can help your clay slake more quickly and keep it plastic longer. It can also save on cost.

One way to do this is to put your reclaimed clay in pillowcases and hang it up to dry. Make sure your pillowcases are made from a tightly woven fabric so that thread and lint do not get into the clay. You can also use a pouch or a fabric bag instead of a pillowcase. The idea is to put your reclaimed clay into the pouch or pillowcase and then hang it up on a metal hook. Some potters like to turn the pillowcase inside out and this can reduce the chances of thread or lint getting in the clay. The clay is left hanging to dry until the clay is stiff enough that you can leave an indentation with your finger.

Some potters recommend that you wedge all reclaimed clay as this helps it to slake more quickly and improves the clay’s plasticity. Wedging also gets rid of air pockets which can weaken the clay structure.