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The Pottery Guide - Hand Building Ceramics


Hand building ceramics is the oldest method of making pots, plates and other items out of clay. It involved creating the shapes without the help of a potters wheel, instead just using your hands and simple tools. Pinch pottery, coil building and slab building are all forms of hand building ceramics.

Pinch Pots

To create pinch pots, you insert your thumb into a ball of clay and continually pinch at the edges between your thumb and fingers. While doing this, you rotate the clay as well to thin it out and raise the height of it. Pinching can create a really authentic look, the creations can be a little topsy-turvy and actually very beautiful. If you take more care and time on it, you can achieve the perfect look through pinching as well.

Coil Building

Coil building is a ceramics building method that uses rope-like coils of plastic clay. The clay rolled into big long snake-like things, then used in a stacking method to build up an eventual wall or structure.

The slab building technique

The slab building technique starts with smooth slabs of clay that are formed around moulds or shaped and cut by hand. The slabs are then layered. This technique is used to make more angular shapes that can't be created on a wheel.

You can use all these techniques on the same piece. For example, you can use a slab for the bottom of a vase, build the walls with coil building and then use pinching to create an interesting lip or finish.

All hand-building techniques can be used on one piece, such as using a slab to form the sides of a vessel, and then using coils and pinching to create an interesting rim or handles. Handbuilding techniques can also be used to alter and enhance a form thrown on a wheel.

Hand building techniques are great for beginners and offer a huge range of creativity.