Education FAQs

Education FAQs

What’s the difference between handbuilding and wheel throwing?

Wheel throwing is what we call work made on the potter’s wheel. You might have heard it called “spinning,” “potting,” or “throwing,” and it involves an electric wheel, kick wheel, or treadle wheel.

Handbuilding, also called “fingerbuilding,” is work made — surprise — by hand (without the use of the wheel). This includes sculpture of all sizes, from abstract to figures and animals, as well as “handbuilt pottery”— vessel forms such as bowls, cups, and vases that are made by coil building, slab building, carving, or other construction techniques. Our handbuilding classes also include tile classes and mold making.


What is the beginner tool kit and where can I purchase it?

The beginner tool kit generally includes a sponge, wire tool, pin tool, wood knife, wooden rib, aluminum rib, and large and small trimming tools. We sell the tool kit at NCC and you can purchase it when you check in for your first night of class. Most art and ceramic supply stores sell an identical or similar kit. NCC sells beginner tool kits for $25. NCC also has a selection of individual tools — either to replace things from the basic kit, or to serve some specialized function. Ask the front desk to see our selection.

We recommend that everyone in the Land of Round Pots, Three Graces of Handbuilding, or beginner level classes have these tools. Beyond that point, students have enough experience to know what they like to use and usually develop a collection of “favorites.”


Can I come in to “play” with some clay?

We do not allow “walk-in” studio time, or allow students to work on projects far outside the scope of a class (e.g. working with plaster in a beginning pottery class). Regular adult classes do include open studio access. If you’re looking for a short experience to try out ceramics, please enroll in a one-time workshop such as Crafternoon, Clay for Couples, or a sculpture workshop. We also offer family classes for parents and kids, and some free drop-in workshops.


Do you host birthday parties or scout troops?

Yes! Find more details here. We also host special workshops for groups of adults or professionals. Contact us with your needs and ideas and we can build a great experience with you.


Do you offer scholarships?

We have a limited number of scholarships available for kids, primarily for our summer camp program. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer scholarships or discounts for adults, other than our membership program. In addition to our less expensive weekend workshops, we also offer periodically free hands-on events, at our Holiday Open House (November), Chili Cook-off (February), and summer art fair (August).


I made some pottery at another studio or at my home, can I bring it in to fire? 

Northern Clay Center does not offer kiln access or rental to members of the public.  
Continental Clay will fire work based on the space it occupies in the kiln and the number of pieces. You can contact them for rates at 612.331.9332. Should you be interested in becoming a studio artist and having paid access to facilities and kilns, click here for more information.