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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.


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.

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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).

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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. 

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Handbuilding Video: How to Make a Handbuilt Ceramic Planter Using a Simple Cardboard Form

Posted On January 15, 2010 24 Comments

For today’s video, I have excerpted a cool planter project involving a simple cardboard form and some slabs. What I especially like about this project is that Graham turns very practical joint reinforcements into lovely loose decorative elements. 

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Ceramic Sculpture Video: Ceramic Sculptor Gerit Grimm Discusses Her Wheel-Thrown and Handbuilt Figurative Sculpture

Posted On January 8, 2010 37 Comments

In today’s video, which was sent to us by Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, a.k.a. NET TV (www.netnebraska.org/television/), Gerit discusses her method of using the pottery wheel to make figurative sculpture. Watch the video!

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How to Make a Square Lidded Jar Using Both Wheel-Thrown and Handbuilt Components

Posted On December 14, 2009 38 Comments

In this project, Sequoia Miller demonstrates how he uses wheel throwing and handbuilding techniques to make an angular, lidded jar.

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Handbuilding Video: Master Yixing Teapot Demonstration Part Two – Considering Every Detail

Posted On December 11, 2009 27 Comments

As promised, today we bring you another Yxing teapot video. This one focuses on the finishing refinements that are made to Yixing teapots. Master artist Zhu Jiang Long demonstrates how every inch of the teapot is considered from the lid right to the signature stamp on the bottom.

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Handbuilding Video: A Yixing Teapot Master Creates an Exquisite Handbuilt Teapot

Posted On December 4, 2009 65 Comments

In today’s video, Zhou Gui Zhen, who has been designated a National Living Treasure in China, demonstrates the construction of the body of a teapot from slabs using the traditional Yixing technique.

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Even the Pros Mess Up Spouts! Potter Lorna Meaden Demonstrates “A Great Way to Fix a Spout You Ruined”

Posted On November 6, 2009 14 Comments

Today, Lorna Meaden explains a great way to fix a messed-up pitcher spout by adding coils when the pot is leather hard and re-pulling the spout. Not only is it a great way to fix mess-ups, but it is also a great way to add length to a pulled spout.