Frequently Asked Questions: 
Here are the questions that seem to pop up most often. Feel free to contact us with other questions or more information.

How much does it cost to join the Clay Arts Guild?

We have several options for membership. Our basic rate is $50 per month and you get what we call a tub. You get 3 – 5 shelves with a large “Rubbermaid” tub on the floor underneath for all your tools, clay and pottery. These “tubbies” have more than enough space for the average potter or beginner.

Do you have studio space available?

Our standard studio is 10’X10’ and costs $130 per month. We also have a few ½ and ¾ studios available too. These smaller studios are pro-rated at ½ or ¾ of the basic studio rate of $130. Some of the studios may have shelves and work tables/counters, depending upon what the last occupant has left. Sometimes the former occupant will leave the furnishing or sell some when they leave. There is a waiting list for studios and you have to be a member to sign-up. Studios may be shared, but the individual’s rate for the shared studio will not be less than the regular $50 per month membership rate.

How much are classes?

We have a variety of classes with most being for beginner or continuing students, and occasional “specialty” or intermediate to advanced classes. We try to always have both handbuilding and wheel throwing classes available, with occasionally classes that are a combination. Our standard class is 3 hours per week for 10 weeks (30 hours)at $150. However, we often teach classes that are only 2 hours per week or maybe only 6 or 8 weeks long. These shorter classes are pro-rated for the number of class hours offered.

What do I get as a student?

Students are considered members and have full access to all of the guild’s facilities 24/7 whether you are taking handbuilding or throwing.

What do I need or what other expenses are there when I take a class? Students and members have to buy their own clay, pay firing fees and furnish many of their own hand tools. The guild has all of the equipment you would need and if you are a hand builder all of the tools you would need. Archie Bray is your best source for clay, tools, and just about anything else you may want to enjoy pottery and it is in Helena.

I thought all pottery is made on the wheel. What other kind is there? The wheel is actually a pretty recent development in pottery's history. Ancient cultures made beautiful works of art using pinch, coil or slab building methods for thousands of years, before the kick or hand wheel was even invented. Many people are misled into believing that round forms must be made on the wheel. While it is true that different shapes tend to lend themselves more readily toward a particular construction method, in reality, each potter has a method they prefer and often specialize in. Many instructors prefer to start off beginners with hand building, and introducing the potter's wheel later as a tool to be used to achieve a certain form, along the same lines as slab rollers, extruders, molds and various hand tools. However, our classes are designed to start you where you would like whether it be throwing or handbuilding.

If I sign up for the pottery wheel, can I still try hand building? As a guild member, you are free to try everything that we have at the guild. There are no restrictions, and no schedules. In fact, you are only limited by your own imagination, and we have plenty of magazine and books for more ideas. Plus you'll be surrounded by other potters doing wonderful things. The guild is a playground and you can try everything. You'll get a little dirty but you’ll have lots of fun.  

I have pottery equipment at home and want to occasionally use your glazes and get my work fired. Do you have by-the-hour rates? We have a number of Guild members who do most of their work at home, but bring their work into the guild for bisquing, glazing and firing. We don't offer hourly rates, but our memberships are very low and perfect for home potters that do not have the firing options (electric, gas, reduction, salt, raku, barrel or pit) that we offer. Plus we offer a large variety of glazes and other finishing materials, including a spray booth that could be very expensive to recreate in your home studio.

Is there a limit on how many pieces I can make each month? No. We do want to fire all of our members pottery in a timely and equitably manner. However, you will only be limited by how often our volunteers are able to fire and how much pottery is waiting to be fired. Many members who make a lot of pottery will learn to fire or help fire so they can make sure that their pieces get done in a timely manner. Everyone “chips” in as the guild is all run by volunteers, so if you make a lot of pottery you would be expected to help out more.

Members & Students get 24/7 access to the facility as they each get the combination to the doors, so they may come and go as fits their schedule. Our membership and class fees are generally lower and our level of instruction is equal to or better than others within the community. We have all of the equipment available for wheel throwing, handbuilding, slabbing, extruding, glazing, sparying and firing. We also have the lowest firing fees around.

How much are your firing fees? Many studios charge per cubic foot or cubic inch to fire, which can add up considerably, even at 10 or 25 cents a cubic inch. We do not charge by the cube and we have the lowest firing fees in the area, which also includes our glazes. We charge by the kiln load and that is shared by all the potters who have pieces in that particular kiln firing.

What kinds of firing do you do you do? We offer Low Fire (cone 06, 05, & 04) and Mid-Fire (cone 6) in both gas and electric. We also have 2 High Fire (cone 10) gas kilns and a gas fired Salt kiln (cone 10), in addition to Raku, pit and barrel firing available.

I’m not a member, can I get my pottery fired in your kilns? Unfortunately we do not fire non-member’s pottery. We're very particular about making sure our member's pieces are fired promptly, safely and don't get damaged, dinged or splattered in the kiln. Firing a kiln can be very time consuming and all of our firings are done by volunteer members. We have to give priority to our member’s pottery and we would rarely have enough room to fire non-member pieces, nor do we allow folks unfamiliar with our equipment and procedures to fire in our kilns.

What if I need help with something I'm working on? Not only do we have a studio technician, but we also have many experienced potters and pottery instructors who are members of the guild. There will almost always be someone around to help out with ideas or techniques and to lend a hand. We are a community or family of potters and everyone helps everyone else.

What do I wear? Comfortable clothes that you won't worry about getting dirty. White and gray clay generally comes out completely in the wash. Some Red clay contains iron oxide and may not wash out of certain materials. Many potters wear aprons and carry or lay a towel in their laps. Also, hand building is not nearly as messy as throwing on the wheel, so plan accordingly.

Do your glazes contain lead and are they all food safe? There is no lead in any of our glazes. We do have a few glazes which may not be food safe and all of these are plainly labeled. You would not want to use these inside of food containers, but they are safe on the outsides or for non-food use. Lead has been one of the most important ingredients of glaze for at least 4,000 years. Since lead is poisonous if ingested, you should be aware of this if you make a habit of buying antique pottery for use as dinnerware. (If in doubt, please check it with lead test strips that are available at most hardware stores.) Over the past 50 years, lead substitutes have been incorporated into the vast majority of potters' glazes and most are as good or better than those old lead glazes. Therefore it is not necessary to use leaded glazes.

Who can I talk to about accessibility issues?
 All around nice guy who has all kinds of information: Gene Hickman – 406-458-3884

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