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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.

Fig. 1 Using a sprigs from a Day of the Dead mold from Amaco, Tracy adds details and texture.

Finding a Niche: Using Plaster Sprig Molds to Make Clay Nichos

Posted On May 4, 2011 25 Comments

Lately, potter Tracy Gamble has been working on a series of ceramic Nichos (traditional Latin American folk art objects) and discovered that commercial sprig molds are perfect for embellishing them. In today’s post, Bill Jones explains Tracy’s process. I particularly thought of all the teachers out there when I saw this project not only because it is accessible and fun, but because of how nicely it could combine with a social studies or history lesson.


Slab Built vessels by Jeremy Randall.

Pottery Video of the Week: Slab Building Architecturally Inspired Forms with Jeremy Randall

Posted On March 11, 2011 57 Comments

This pottery video features Jeremy Randall, who makes beautiful slab built vessels inspired by architecture. In this demonstration, Jeremy takes us through his process. He discusses using tarpaper molds as template material, playing with contrasting textures and embellishing with with carpenter tacks which mimic nails you might see in architecture. So sit back and enjoy!

Dennise Buckley assembles a two-part pinch pot.

Pottery Video of the Week: Basic Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring – Pretty Organic Forms from Simple and Complex Pinch Pots

Posted On March 4, 2011 18 Comments

In today’s video, an excerpt from the DVD A Potters Progress, Dennise Buckley shares some pointers on making strong pinch pots. She not only gives an overview of the very basic technique, but demonstrates how it can be taken farther to make more complex forms. In her example, she makes a sculptural form influenced by the seed capsule of a poppy.

Patricia Bridges trues up the walls on a slab built box.

Pottery Video of the Week: Working With Slabs – A Ceramic Arts Daily Reader Shares Tips and Techniques for Slab Built Pottery

Posted On February 4, 2011 40 Comments

After working primarily on the wheel for years, I have been super excited about slab building lately. So I thought I would share a slab building video submitted by a Ceramic Arts Daily reader.  In the video, Patricia Bridges of Bridges Pottery in Port Washington, New York, takes us through a couple of slab projects using textured and stenciled slabs. Not only are the projects simple and fun, but Patricia shares a couple of great tool ideas.


Pinch Hitting: Using a Pinch and Paddle Method to Create Large Pots

Posted On January 24, 2011 16 Comments

Kristin Doner produces pinch pots on a larger-than-usual scale. She used to begin her pinch pots with 2-3 pound balls of clay, but she wanted larger forms. So she increased the amount of clay and developed new forming strategies. After opening with a usual pinching method, she expands the pot by rhythmically paddling the outside. Today, in an excerpt from our newly expanded Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery, Kristin explains this pinch and paddle technique.

Eddie Curtis uses contrasting copper effects for black rim and red reduction glaze over his textured jar. Ht: 30 cm (12 in.). Photo courtesy of the artist.

A Good Stretch: Creating Interesting Surface and Form with Stretched Slabs

Posted On November 17, 2010 18 Comments

There are so many cool things you can do with slabs, and since they have been on the brain lately, today I thought I would do an excerpt from Jim Robison and Ian Marsh’s book Slab Techniques. In this excerpt, they explain a couple of different ways slabs can be used to create interesting forms with interesting stretched texture.

Charan Sachar applies slip decoration to his handbuilt tumbler.

Handbuilding Video: Making a Tidy Slab-Built Tumbler with Slip Decoration

Posted On October 22, 2010 55 Comments

Today’s video comes to us from Ceramic Arts Daily reader Charan Sachar. I admire Charan’s ability to make handbuilt forms that are neat and tight. Not that all handbuilt forms have to be neat and tight – loose handbuilt forms are great too – but I definitely struggle with making my handbuilt forms appear well crafted and not sloppy (in my eyes). At any rate, this is an enjoyable video, and I definitely picked up a few tips to help improve my handbuilt pots. Hope you will too! 

In today's video, Mitch Lyons demonstrates how to make a chalice out of a cylinder he makes through the broomstock method.

How to Make a Chalice With Inlaid Decoration Using the Broomstick Method of Handbuilding

Posted On October 8, 2010 28 Comments

There are many ways to make goblets or chalices out of clay, but I especially loved the simplicity of a method that Mitch Lyons demonstrated at a recent Potters Council conference. I liked it so much that I got it on film and I am going to share it with you today! Mitch also demonstrates his method of inlaying colored clay decoration in the video.

Paul Donnelly’s tea tray is inspired by a variety of things: Architecture, landscape and by the practical desire to keep furniture ring free and a spoon or snack close at hand.

A Potter Extends the Practicality of a Cup and Saucer Set

Posted On October 4, 2010 39 Comments

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and Paul Donnelly’s tea trays are a prime example of this. Today, Paul Donnelly explains how he makes his tea trays using a combination of wheel throwing, press molding and slab-building techniques.

More than meets the eye—the lines on Jeff Campana’s pots go beyond just scratching the surface.

Decorating Through Disassembly: Jeff Campana’s Sliced and Spliced Porcelain Pottery

Posted On September 20, 2010 21 Comments

There are many, many ways to put lines onto posts – carving, fluting, painting, drawing – but, I have to say, I had never seen anyone doing it quite like Jeff Campana. Jeff takes his well-thrown porcelain pots, chops them up into pieces, and then reassembles them. Then to top it all off, he uses glazes that pool in the seams. Today, Jeff shares his technique and how he arrived at such a labor intensive process in the first place.