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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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Making Music with Clay: How to Make a Ceramic Whistle Flute

Posted On May 21, 2014 18 Comments

Today’s post combines two great things: clay and music. In an excerpt from Barry Hall’s From Mud to Music, you’ll learn how to make a clay whistle flute step by step.

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Sketching in Clay to Come up With Beautiful and Interesting Handbuilt Forms

Posted On May 16, 2014 10 Comments
When learning to hand build, one of the biggest challenges can be staring at that slab or lump of clay and envisioning an interesting form. That “blank canvas” can be pretty intimidating. So I absolutely love the “clay sketching” exercise Liz Zlot Summerfield shares in her new DVD Handbuilt Forms with Soft Slabs: Developing Ideas,… Read More »
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Tips for Darting Wheel Thrown Forms and Pulling Handles off the Pot

Posted On April 25, 2014 1 Comment

I have not done much darting in my work, and the times that I have, haven’t really been too successful. I think it’s because I have been to wimpy with my darts. In today’s video, Suze Lindsay walks through her darting process on a gravy boat, and explains that in order to be really successful with darting, you have to get over your fears of cutting too much. Plus, she shows how she pulls a handle off the pot. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Pottery Video! Tips for Strong Joints on Slab Built Pottery

Posted On March 21, 2014 16 Comments

I am happy to announce that the lovely Lisa Naples’s DVD Flat to Functional: Handbuilding and Slip Decorating, is making its debut to the world today. Lisa is a consummate teacher with a gift for explaining how her hands manipulate the clay. In today’s clip, I’ve gathered a couple of particularly good little nuggets of information on making your slab built joints super strong. Enjoy! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Pinched Pitchers: A Fundamental Pottery Technique with Gorgeous Results

Posted On March 17, 2014 3 Comments

Pinch pots are often the first thing taught in a beginning pottery class because they require very few tools and are a great way to get familiar with the properties of clay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make sophisticated forms with this method. In fact, the beauty of this technique is that the only limiting factor is your imagination. In this project, an excerpt from our free download How to Make Pottery: How to Learn Pottery Techniques and Enjoy Working with Clay, coil potter extraordinaire Emily Schroeder Willis shows how to make a beautiful pinched pitcher.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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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 21 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.