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The Handle-Less Pitcher: A Simple Pottery Form that Does Not Sacrifice Function

Posted By Jennifer Harnetty On November 28, 2011 @ 9:38 am In Daily,Features,Handbuilding Techniques | 9 Comments

Bill Griffith had been making small creamers and pitchers for a while when he decided that the handles, while pleasing aesthetically, were not functioning as well as he wanted them to. He then realized that he was drawn to a particular creamer in his cupboard by another potter because of it’s simple form, which featured no handles.


After experimenting with the form, he came up with handle-less pots that actually functioned better ergonomically than the pots had been making with handles. In today’s post, Bill explains his process for these slab-built handle-less pitchers. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


The idea of a pitcher without a handle evolved from similar small creamers with handles. The saying “form follows function” played a role in the evolution of handle-less pitchers. As a potter, I often struggle with making and attaching handles and in the case of the creamers, I realized the handles were awkward and fragile functionally, but they looked okay, decoratively speaking. I own and use a Mary Barringer handle-less creamer and always enjoy its simplicity of form and function.


For more great handbuilding ideas, turn to Sandi Pierantozzi’s 3-hour DVD What If? Explorations with Texture and Soft Slabs, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Daily Bookstore.


In terms of decoration, while I was making the creamers, I was making slab-constructed vase forms using the same technique and pinching, cutting, stretching, and pressing into the slabs as surface treatment/decoration. The “aha” moment of transferring the pinching technique onto the creamers to create indentations for a hand to grasp seemed to work visually and ergonomically.


click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!


When people pick up the creamers or the small pitchers, they naturally reach for the indentations and remark on how comfortably they fit the hand. I am fortunate to have several professional potter friends whose opinions I trust and value. After dinner and critique with them one evening, I began to slightly change the forms based on their feedback. The newer forms have become more animated and I am working on “companion sets” presented in trays or staged.


click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!


The small pitcher grew out of the creamer form, but I do work with vase forms that are 12 inches tall, so I assume I could move into larger forms. I do see a limitation of scale with this form, as a much larger pitcher form without a handle would be more weighty and awkward in use.


click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!


Fortunately, for me, my position at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts provides me individual contact and conversation with many nationally respected ceramic artists and their art. Because of this, my eyes and brain have been exposed to great pottery forms and surfaces. My challenge is to transfer that visual language to the hand and object making.

Bill Griffith is Program Director at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. To learn more about him or see more if his work, see www.billgriffithclay.com.


For more great handbuilding techniques, be sure to download your free copy of Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery.


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