One day as Rick Berman was transporting a board full of soft leatherhard pots around his studio, a pot on the end of the board lost the fight with gravity and tumbled to the floor. Instead of just tossing it in the scrap bucket, Rick decided to drop it on the other side to see what would happen. When he blew air into the flattened pot, the result was a form he really liked and now deliberately creates.


In today’s post, Rick explains how he refined this process and now creates his rolled pots. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

About fifteen years ago I was bringing a ware board full of bottles back into the shop after setting them in the sun for a while to stiffen up for trimming. While I was fiddling with the door, a pot on the end of the board fell to the ground. After taking the rest of the pots into the shop, I went back and picked up the one that was flat on its side.


To me, the obvious thing to do now was to pick it up and drop it on the other side to see what would happen. It completely collapsed, but I kind of liked the form so I blew into it. Lo and behold, it turned into what I thought was an incredible shape and I’ve been making it ever since, because I love having a pot with two or more surfaces to decorate. Now, of course, I make sure I have a little more control over the process.


Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!



I start by making a variety of bottle shapes using from three to five pounds of clay (figure 1). I allow the pots to dry to a soft leather-hard state so that when they’re rolled they won’t completely collapse. I realize that the term soft leather hard is very subjective, so you’ll need to do some experimenting to find the right working state for you. If the clay is too soft, the pot will completely collapse and if it’s too hard, the pot may crack when rolled.


Place the bottle on its side on a canvas covered ware board or piece of sheetrock (figure 2). Be sure to roll the pot on something similar since the clay will stick to non-absorbent surfaces. For best results, your hand should be relaxed but firm while rolling back and forth. Be sure to use your palm and not your fingers as they will make unwanted marks and dimples on the surface (figure 3).


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After rolling one side (figure 4), pick up the pot cleanly by pulling it straight up off the rolling surface rather than rolling it up onto its foot (figure 5). If this is not done properly, the foot can get flattened on one side and may be difficult to repair. Next, turn the form to the other side, and repeat the same process. If the form becomes concave on either side, carefully pick the pot up and lightly blow into the opening to get the desired shape (figure 6). The piece could also be rolled on three or more sides to get even more variations and shapes. If the bottle is rolled back and forth over half way on both sides until the rolls meet, a really nice point or hard edge can be achieved on both ends. Sometimes I paddle the meeting points on each side to get an even crisper angle.


Rolling thrown forms to alter their shape and create different planes on the surface is an easy and effective way to expand your technical vocabulary. There are countless ways that you could expand on this technique. 


Rick Berman is on the art faculty at Pace Academy. To see more of his work, visit




For more great pottery making techniques, be sure to download your free copy of Five Great Pottery Wheel Throwing Techniques: Tips on Throwing Complex Pottery Forms Using Basic Throwing Skills.





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