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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.


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Video of the Week: How to Make a Freeform Handbuilt Serving Tray with a Faux Foot

Posted On February 14, 2014 20 Comments

Gail Kendall has a fantastic ability to manipulate clay that seems too soft to form with. Time and time again during the filming of her new video From Plate to Tureen: Slab and Coil Building, I thought to myself “there’s no way that is going to work!” But time and time again, Gail pulled off what I thought was impossible! In today’s video, Gail demonstrates the unconventional method she uses to make trays and platters with what she calls faux feet. I love the low-tech simplicity of this method – all you need are a slab, a coil, and your hands (plus lots of practice to get it to work with such soft clay!). – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Birdie Boone’s Belly-Bottomed Dishes

Posted On January 29, 2014 8 Comments

I first saw (and held) Birdie Boone’s belly-bottomed pots at an NCECA exhibition a couple of years ago, and I absolutely fell in love with them. Not only were the soft subtle colors contrasting with red clay body beautiful, but they felt so good in my hand because of the rounded bottom. In today’s post, Birdie explains the handbuilding techniques she developed for these pots, and the smart way she fires them to avoid slumping. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Decoration as Structure: Integrating Ornamentation into Form

Posted On January 13, 2014 5 Comments

When I first saw Blair Clemo’s work, I figured the ornate surfaces were developed with sprigs that were attached after the pieces were thrown. In fact, the ornamental elements are a part of the structure of the pieces. In today’s post, Blair explains how he handbuilds with decorative sprigs and forming molds, and then finishes them off on the wheel. Ps. Next week, Blair is coming to town to film a how-to video of this interesting process!- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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A Smart Way to Center a Coil Foot on a Square Slab Plate

Posted On January 6, 2014 5 Comments

Slab-built plates seem like a pretty simple endeavor, but it can be challenging to get the feet just right. Coil feet often have that pesky bump where the coil is joined and if you throw a foot on a slab plate, you can often have problems with cracking. In today’s post, an excerpt from the January/February 2014 Pottery Making Illustrated, my good pal Liz Zlot Summerfield shares her nifty technique for getting a slab foot just right.

ps. Stay tuned for Liz’s how-to video, due out in the Spring of 2014!

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Lovely Handbuilt Forms and Intricate Sgraffito Drawings Reveal the Beauty of Red Earthenware

Posted On January 1, 2014 2 Comments

In Today’s post, Shoko Teruyama explains how she creates her forms using coils and slabs over bisque molds. Plus she shares how she coats her pieces with slips and carves intricate drawings into them revealing the red earthenware clay underneath.

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Festive Flower Bricks: Coil-Built Forms Fit For a Party

Posted On December 30, 2013 20 Comments

Today, in an excerpt from the November/December 2010 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Arthur Halversen takes us through the coil building process he uses to construct his flower brick forms. He also shares his recipe for the frosting-like glaze he uses – the icing on the cake, as they say. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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How to Handbuild Using Molded Sections

Posted On December 16, 2013 2 Comments
Brenda Quinn loves exploring new forms by mixing and matching techniques. In today’s post, which is also included in our free download Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery, Brenda explains how she used a mold originally intended for a platter to develop a lovely vase form. – Jennifer… Read More »
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How to Make Interestingly Shaped Pots with Slump Molds

Posted On December 4, 2013 2 Comments

Slump molds are great tools in handbuilding because they allow you to dream up whatever shape you want and allow you to repeat it many times. They can be made from a wide variety of materials – from found objects to plaster. Plywood is Joe Singewald’s slump mold material of choice. In today’s post, he explains how he uses plywood to make his signature clover bowls.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Productive Play: How Playful Experimentation Leads to Fun Pottery Forms!

Posted On October 21, 2013 0 Comments

Learning to play in the studio can have its rewards, especially when new and unique forms are discovered. As is evident in her work, Chandra DeBuse embraces play in the studio. How else could she create such fun pieces? In today’s post, an excerpt from the hot off the presses November/December 2013 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, she shares the process for making one of her “Treat Servers.” I especially love the ingenious use of craft foam as a template! So smart. - Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Using Simple Components to Make Complex Pottery or Sculpture

Posted On October 18, 2013 12 Comments

Scott Dooley’s work looks to be anything but simple, with its wild angles and off-kilter shapes. But if you break it down to the basics, you learn that it is just made up of a lot of simple parts. In today’s video clip, an excerpt from his new DVD Handbuilding Modular Forms with Stiff Slabs, Scott demonstrates how he makes the building blocks of his sculptural vessels and the tools he has come up with along the way to make his process easier. With these tips, all you need is some imagination to develop interesting hand built pottery of your own. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.