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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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How to Incorporate Colored Clay into Delicate Pinched Coil Vases

Posted On May 6, 2015 32 Comments

With their delicate undulating rims, Cheryl Malone’s seemingly paper-thin vases bear a striking resemblance to flower petals. No surprise since Cheryl is inspired by the growth patterns of plants and their similarities to the coil building process. To pull off such petal thin work through the coil/pinch process takes practice, and in an excerpt from our new release Handbuiling Techniques, Cheryl shares her secrets to making it happen. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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How to Make an Interesting Recessed Foot on a Mug

Posted On April 24, 2015 3 Comments

If you are someone who likes to combine throwing and handbuilding to make interesting forms, today’s video is for you. In this clip from Deborah Schwartzkopf’s Pieces and Patterns: Complex Forms from Handbuilt and Wheel-Thrown Parts, she demonstrates how she makes the super cool bottoms of her cup forms with a slab and a bisque fired mold. She then skillfully attaches the base to a bottomless wheel-thrown cylinder, which she then darts and alters to make the shape just right. The best part about this is that once you make the bisque mold for the recessed foot, you can repeat it over and over again! 

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The Drop-Technique: How to Make Softly Textured Tiles

Posted On April 17, 2015 7 Comments

Lana Wilson is known for her textured surfaces and she has some pretty fun ways of coming up with said texture. Take for example her “drop technique tiles.” Looking at these, it is a little bit difficult to figure out exactly how the soft-edged texture was created. The good thing is, in today’s post, an excerpt from her new DVD Handbuilding with Color and Texture, Lana demonstrates this unusual technique!– Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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How to Make a Slab Vase with Inlaid Sprigs

Posted On April 6, 2015 1 Comment

Sprigging is a great way to add low relief texture onto pottery forms. But putting sprigs on top of a surface is just one thing you can do with sprigs. What about putting sprigs INTO a surface? In today’s post, and excerpt from the completely revised and expanded Electric Kiln Ceramics, Frederick Bartolovic explains how you can roll sprigs right into slabs of a different colored clay body (you can color clay with mason stains, or use two different clay bodies) for a completely different sprigged effect.- Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Tips for Making a Large Oval Platter Using a Custom Slump Mold

Posted On March 27, 2015 0 Comments

Slump molds are great for making plates since you can just drop the slab into the mold and not worry about it shrinking around it. They are even better when they are your own homemade mold. In today’s post, an excerpt from Platters: Four Approaches to Making and Decorating Plates, Ben Carter shares some tips on using an easy-to-make slump mold to make a large oval platter.

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Tips for Making Graceful and Refined Handles Without Much Pulling

Posted On March 20, 2015 1 Comment

Pulling handles can be a challenging skill to master. It can be a little intimidating to try to pull them directly off the pot, but trying to transfer a handle to a pot after pulling it separately is also a challenge.

 

That’s why I really liked Paul Donnelly’s approach to handle making. Paul does very little pulling and does most of the shaping ahead of time. Then he lets the handles sit flat overnight. A little water rehydrates them the next day and they are ready for attaching. All of this helps Paul to make very tight, refined handles. Have a look at this excerpt from his new video! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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Pottery Video of the Week: How to Design and Make a Stiff Slab Vase

Posted On March 13, 2015 4 Comments

In today’s video clip, an excerpt from our latest DVD project, Clay Projects and Fundamentals: A Resource for Aspiring Clay Artists and Teachers, Neil Patterson demonstrates a stiff slab vase project. He also gives great tips for working with paper to come up with interesting designs.

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Ribbing and Stretching Lively Marks into Thrown and Altered Pottery

Posted On February 27, 2015 2 Comments
Nick Joerling likes to make pots that are “active in the mind and imagination.” He achieves this goal by making gestural marks with simple tools on the wheel and then stretching and bending the clay to enhance those marks. In today’s post, an excerpt from his video Gesture and Form: Throwing and Handbuilding, I have… Read More »
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How to Use the Broomstick Method to Make a Vase

Posted On February 23, 2015 7 Comments

I keep a lot of things in my studio that I think may one day be useful for texture or as a tool of some sort. I also cannot bring myself to throw any kind of wood in the garbage. I have a scrap collection that would be the envy of many a woodchuck. The other day, these two passions (let’s just call them passions for now) came together in a very useful way. I ran out to the garage and gathered every single dowel scrap I had and transfered them to the studio, thereby fulfilling both obsessive habits (okay, let’s call them what they really are). The reason I did this was because I watched the DVD Handbuilding with Mitch Lyons. He demonstrated a method for making cylinders that employed these dowels, and then went on to explore wonderful surface inlay and texture treatments that really got me excited about handbuilding again. And I got to use some of my scrap wood!  — Sherman Hall, Ceramic Arts Daily

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How to Make a Prototype for a Decorative Sprig Mold

Posted On February 13, 2015 0 Comments

Most people think of sprig molds as press-molded decorative elements that are affixed to work, but Blair Clemo uses sprigs as part of his construction process. Blair started off working this way by experimenting with sprig molds he made from found objects. Then he decided to make his own custom sprigs.

 

In this clip from his new video Simply Ornate: Handbuilding and Wheel Throwing with Press Molds, Blair shares how he makes these fairly complex-looking sprigs with a process that is actually quite simple. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

 

PS. To see how Blair uses these strip sprig molds, check out this video!