12-Year-Old Alabama Boy Turns Clay Spinning Into Pottery Business Selling Bowls From Home

12-Year-Old Alabama Boy Turns Clay Spinning Into Pottery Business Selling Bowls From Home
(Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
Michael Wing
12/4/2023
Updated:
12/4/2023
0:00

What is the sound of success?

It resounds with a “ding” or makes a ringing sound when you tap it.

That’s what 12-year-old William Knox hears resonating from his hand-spun, kiln-fired, clay bowls which he recently made into his own upstart pottery enterprise.

William may still be in elementary school in his hometown of Mountain Brook, Alabama, and although he loves to play sports every fall, winter, and spring season, none of that stopped him from becoming a pre-teen entrepreneur.

It all started when William squished his bare feet into some real, cold, slimy clay in the creek behind his home. Pretty soon, he was making pinch pots and then on to spinning bowls on a pottery wheel, using clay from an art store in Birmingham.

William Knox, 12, and his hand-spun pottery. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
William Knox, 12, and his hand-spun pottery. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)

“He is self-taught by watching pottery YouTube,” said William’s mom, Katherine, who works in medical sales. Careful notes were taken by her son on the various techniques and tools used. Skills long handed down by famous potters were mastered soon after he set his mind to it.

“William has spent years perfecting his skills outside in his studio shed his father built him,” Katherine said, adding that he has learned from making lots of mistakes. “He is still learning something new each week.”

William was gifted his own wheel for his birthday—and later received a family friend’s old wheel—as well as tools and bottles of colored glaze from his grandparents. Each piece needs to be fired twice after four coats of glaze are applied. He borrows the neighbors’ kiln for that.

(Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
Pottery bowls hand spun by 12-year-old William Knox. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
Pottery bowls hand spun by 12-year-old William Knox. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
William Knox with his hand-made pottery. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
William Knox with his hand-made pottery. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)

The tedious process of trimming, spinning, drying, applying glazes, and firing takes about a month for one bowl.

William loves pottery because it’s therapeutic and he can’t wait to see the finished pieces, he said, adding that he also loves “making some money in the end.”

No one bowl, coffee mug, or vase looks quite alike. It’s a thrill for William to see each piece come out of the kiln after the final 20-hour firing, all glazed and glittery. That’s when William taps them and listens for that signature ringing that sounds like your dishes at home.

Soon, the pre-teen’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled and he pitched the idea for a business venture to his parents, who supportively helped by setting up his very own Instagram—though his mom manages it “since he is still too young for social media,” she said.
Hand-spun assorted pottery by 12-year-old William Knox. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)
Hand-spun assorted pottery by 12-year-old William Knox. (Courtesy of William Knox Pottery)

Not long after, he started crafting pots ahead of this year’s Christmas season and was featured on CBS 42 and the local Stroll Crestline magazine. His parents were “excited and in shock he was in a magazine and on the morning news,” his mom said. “All of this was his idea, and we are just along for the ride and supporting him.”

William’s handiwork will soon be for sale to patrons on his Instagram, William Knox. “I want to earn enough money to buy a kiln and then set up an Etsy shop so I can sell them online,” he told the newspaper.

The 12-year-old is currently as busy as ever with sports, friends, and homework, but that hasn’t slowed his pottery ambitions one bit; he aims to expand his venture into serving trays and large centerpiece bowls—but above all the budding businessman aims to be successful and make a profit with his pottery.

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