Ergonomics in the Studio

Tips, Tricks and Techniques BY Rosemary Schalek

Ergonomics in the Studio

All of us in the Studio deal with many of the same health and safety issues, regardless of our specific physical condition.  It can be a daunting task – handling 25lbs of clay is not easy.  However, there are some things we can do to protect ourselves while working on the wheel or sitting at the table doing hand-building.  We must be conscious of our posture, and we must take frequent breaks. Be especially aware of the legs of the stools that we use in the studio – they stick out and can easily trip you.  Be aware of dust and inhalation of clay and glaze particles.

Visit to learn about preventing wrist injuries.

Visit to learn about workplace safety.

The following article from Jane Street Clayworks offers some good advice and has links to specific health and safety articles. To follow the link, use your Control key+Click with your mouse.

Article Round-up: Ceramics, Repetitive Stress, and Ergonomics

Instead of having our general Friday news briefs, I’ve opted to cover a specific topic, ceramics and health issues. We all know about the dangers of inhaling clay dust, but there are many other areas we can attend to keep ourselves healthy or to work within the limits of our health conditions. Personally, I am unable to do some of the things I used to be able to do with clay. In addition, I have altered some of the ways I do things to compensate for problems I have with arthritis in my neck and hands. I know I am not the only one…many are in the same boat.

Potters, sculptors and ceramists, as a group, suffer from repetitive strain and cumulative trauma to joints and tissues. Tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia. Also, back, neck, and shoulder pain and muscle strain. Yes, we can become stronger, physically, by working with clay, but we do pay certain ways. Here are some links to briefs about issues and solutions. For good measure, I’ve even thrown in a story about skin care for potters. If we take proper care of ourselves, we will be able to prevent injuries and enjoy our passion, ceramics.


MDGuidelines Occupational Information for Thrower, MD Guidelines. Job description of potter, list of occupational hazards of throwing.

How you can beat aches and pains if you love doing pottery, by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR, A rheumatologist discusses areas of the body that are affected from repeated throwing over time, especially the neck.

safety – health, updated April 18, 2011, Clayart. A subject list for the message board on the site…attends many health-related subjects relevant to potters. Arthritis and repetitive strain injury account for many entries.


ERGONOMICS IN THE CERAMIC STUDIO: PROPER STUDIO EQUIPMENT AND EXERCISE, by Jayne Shatz,  October 22, 2009, CERAMIC WRITINGS FROM JAYNE SHATZ. Covers health issues, ergonomics, and the role of exercise in keeping fit enough to prevent injury and strain.

Prevent Wrist Injuries,February, 2011, Pottery-on-the-Wheel, How to prevent repetitive motion, repetitive strain to the wrist.

4000 year-old technology solves injury problem, increases output 20%, and eliminates rejects, by Dan MacLeod, January 10, 2006. An ergonomics consultant shows how he modified a potter’s wheel to create an ergonomic work station.

Is Ceramic Clay Good for Skin?, Elizabeth Beeson, February 4, 2011, Suite 101.Skin care is especially important…dry skin, abraded skin from working with heavily grogged clay….”

Portions of the above article from Jane Street Clayworks