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Handbuilding Techniques

Handbuilding may be an ancient pottery making technique, but there is no shortage of exciting work being created today by the hands of ceramic artists. Here, we’ll share with you some of the most inventive handbuilt work out there and give step-by-step instruction from the artists making it. Handbuilding projects, from the simple coil built pot to complex slab built sculpture, are covered in detail. Peruse through our archive of articles and videos on handbuilding techniques, whether you want to brush up on a process or start off in a new direction. And, if you haven't already, be sure download your free copy of our Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: How to Make Pottery Using the Pinch, Coil and Slab Methods for some handbuilding project ideas.


Patz Fowle adds detail to her handbuilt ceramic sculpture.

Handbuilding Video: A Surefire Way to Build Strong Handbuilt Sculptures

Posted On August 27, 2010 38 Comments

If you’ve ever had problems with appendages cracking off of handbuilt sculptures, today’s video might just help you solve that problem. In it, Patz Fowle explains the process she developed to avoid these unfortunate occurrences. Watch the video!

Pitcher, wheelthrown and hand-built porcelain, multiple glazes, fired to cone 10 in oxidation.

For the Birds: How Deborah Schwartzkopf Uses the Pottery Wheel Combined with Slabs and Molds to Create Her Avian Inspired Forms

Posted On August 24, 2010 11 Comments

Deborah Schwartzkopf’s work has gone to the birds – for inspiration that is. Using bisqued molds based on her observations of birds, Deborah makes work inspired by pelicans and loons and everything in between. Follow her through the process of creating molds and using them as forms for her assembled pots.

Brand Remover (front view), 7½ (19 cm) in height, porcelain, raku fired, 2010.

Message on a Bottle: How to Make an Ultra-Thin, Textured Slab Built Vase

Posted On August 18, 2010 28 Comments

Today, Frank James Fisher takes us through the process of creating a stamp-textured bottle form out of very thin porcelain slabs. He not only gives insight into effectively using stamps, but he also gives some great tips for success with super thin slabs.

Philippe Faraut separates a sculpture into two sections so that it can be hollowed out.

Firing Figurative Clay Sculpture: How to Hollow Out a Handbuilt Form in Preparation for the Kiln

Posted On July 9, 2010 18 Comments

In today’s video, Philippe Faraut demonstrates how he prepares a figurative sculpture for firing by cutting the piece into two sections, hollowing it out, and then putting it all back together without the slightest hint that it was ever two pieces. Watch the video!

Sally and Alisdair MacDonell, Face Brooches, 2008. Nine awaiting glaze application and nine fired, finished with cobalt or copper oxide and a matt white stoneware glaze, 30 x 40 mm (11⁄4 x 11⁄2 in.). Photo: Dan Bosworth.

How to Make and Use a Plaster Press Mold to Make Ceramic Jewelry

Posted On July 5, 2010 31 Comments

In today’s post, Allistair and Sally MacDonnell show us how easy it is to make plaster press molds to make a series of brooches. Plus they explain how they use stamps to texture each slab before molding it into the shape they want.

Sandi Pierantozzi cleans up the textured rim on a handbuilt bowl.

Handbuilding Video: Sandi Pierantozzi Demonstrates How to Use a Template to Make a Textured Soft-Slab-Built Bowl with a Wrapped Rim

Posted On June 18, 2010 77 Comments

In today’s clip, Sandi Pierantozzi demonstrates a cool soft slab building technique for a bowl with a wrapped rim. She also explains the template system she uses to make her pottery. Watch the video!

Making slab plates is a great way to develop basic slab techniques, and using Chinet® plates for forms makes this an easy project. They also make perfect surfaces for exploring decorating techniques.

Great Idea for Teachers: A Simple Lesson Plan for Slab-Built Plates with Textured and Stenciled Decoration

Posted On June 16, 2010 26 Comments

Making a set of ceramic plates can be fun for the beginner, but is also easily adapted for the more-experienced student. This project presents a direct and fresh slab-forming approach resulting in plates that become great canvases for surface decoration. Materials are simple, inexpensive and readily available.

Joyce Michaud builds an appendage off of a coil-built form.

Handbuilding Video: How to Make Strong Appendages on Coil Built Forms

Posted On June 4, 2010 20 Comments

A few weeks ago, I posted a clip from Joyce Michaud’s new DVD Hand Thrown: East Asian Wedged Coil Technique. In the clip, Joyce gave a great introduction to this technique, which combines coiling with potter’s wheel concepts. This combination makes for coil-built pieces that are very strong structurally. Today I decided to share with you another tasty morsel from the DVD. Joyce takes the instruction further by explaining how these same principles can be used to make very strong appendages on pieces.

fig. 6

Adornments: How to Create Colorful Ceramic Jewelry Using a Carved Plaster Slab and Casting Slip

Posted On April 7, 2010 13 Comments

Today, I am sharing a nice little ceramic jewelry project from Joanna Veevers, in which designs are scratched into a plaster slab and then casting slips of different colors are poured and painted over the slab to make colorful brooches (like those shown at left).

mosaicbowl_400

Handbuilding Video: How to Make a Mosaic-Patterned Bowl Using Loaves of Colored Clay

Posted On March 12, 2010 27 Comments

In today’s video, an excerpt from Pottery Decoration: Traditional Techniques, potter Tom Shafer demonstrates a version of the nerikomi technique. Nerikomi (often referred to as “neriage”) is a decorative process established in Japan that involves stacking colored clays and then slicing through the cross section to reveal a pattern, which can then be used as an applied decoration, or in this case, to build a form on a plaster mold.