Throwing functional pots – oven to table with Alison Sandeman

Ref: S4D31649

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About this course

This course combines the opportunity to improve and develop throwing skills with the production of basic and more advanced functional pots for the kitchen, oven and table.

Course Description

In the ceramic world, drinking vessels, storage and cooking pots go back at least 4,000 years B.C. to the Neolithic Period in Britain and Ireland. Right up to the present day they have been, and still are, a vital part of home life. Food always tastes better from a handmade pot and the satisfaction of completing a set of plates, or a lidded casserole, along with all of their component parts fully justifies the challenge of the process.

On the first evening, we start with an introductory talk, and then take a look at historical and contemporary examples of functional ware. The tutor will guide your decision on which forms to work on, according to your level of experience. Forms will include mugs, jugs, bowls, plates, lidded storage pots, kitchen mixing bowls, open cooking dishes, flan dishes, skillets, egg bakers, soup pots and casseroles. The tutor will give a throwing demonstration. Two types of stoneware ovenproof clays will be available.

On days one and two you will concentrate on throwing, getting the most out of the clay and making the main bodies of the pots. The tutor will demonstrate all techniques.

On the next two days, you will make the component parts needed, i.e. lids, lugs and knobs. We start to concentrate on the completion of pots, and turning where needed. This includes pulling and applying handles for the mugs and jugs, plus lugs (side handles) for the casseroles and storage pots. Handles for lids and throwing knobs on lids will also be covered. You will be able to return to the college to glaze your own work; please see ‘Additional Information’ section below. For those taking their pots home, the tutor will advise on glazing techniques.

The course is limited to eight students with each having the use of a wheel for the whole course. You are taught at your own individual level, encouraged to practise and are introduced to new ideas and methods of making, where appropriate. It is useful, but not essential, to come with some ideas, sketches or photos of the designs you wish to make.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course, the College will supply all of the materials, the stoneware clay/glazing materials and firing costs of work made – large work in size and quantity may be charged extra.

What students need to bring

  • The tutor may contact you by email nearer to the beginning of the course to help with the planning.
  • You may bring your own tool box, although the College does supply a basic set of tools and has all other tools needed.
  • Ideas and sketches/photographs of the oven to table shapes you are interested in making.
  • Bring an apron and suitable non-slip covered footwear to wear in the pottery studio.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Natural sponge, notebook.

Additional information

Firing and glazing options: 1. Leave your most successful raw, finished pieces, for biscuit firing, basic glazing and re-firing by the College, for collection within six months. 2. Leave raw, finished pieces for biscuit firing at the College. You can then book a place on a Glazing Day and glaze your own work (allowing four weeks for your work to be biscuit fired). This work will be re-fired after glazing and available for collection within six months. 3. Take away your unfired pots for firing and glazing elsewhere. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no open-toes or sandals). Possible equipment restrictions in tutor absence. Course reading list: For those interested in reading any books before the course, the following may be in your public library: The Craft of the Potter by Michael Casson (BBC Publications) The Complete Potter's Companion by Tony Birks (Conran Octopus) The Techniques of Throwing by John Colbeck (Batsford Watson-Guptill) Throwing by Richard Phethean (Blandford) Throwing Pots by Phil Rogers (A & C Black) Country Pottery by Andrew McGarva (A & C Black) 10,000 Years of Pottery by Emmanuel Cooper (British Museum Press)


Porcelain vases in the kiln

Alison Sandeman

Alison Sandeman is a long-standing tutor at West Dean. She makes functional individual pieces in stoneware, porcelain and Raku. She has a special interest in outdoor firing techniques.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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