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'Handbuilding Ceramic Forms' Reviewed

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Cover image of the book, 'Handbuilding Ceramic Forms'.

Cover image of the book, 'Handbuilding Ceramic Forms'.

Photo Beth E Peterson

The Bottom Line

This is a good basic text on hand building with clay. If you are just beginning to work with clay, especially if you are more focused on hand building, this could be a very useful book for you.
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  • Very clearly written with good step-by-step directions.
  • Covers the basics of hand building with clay quite well.


  • Photographs tend to be dark, although still informative.
  • Lack of color photographs seriously detracts from section showing artwork.


  • Paperback, 8.5 by 11 inches, 238 pages, by Elsbeth S. Woody. First published 1978, re-released 2008. B&W photographs.
  • Has two main parts: Basic Processes and Techniques and Ten Approaches to Handbuilding, which showcases ten ceramists' work.
  • Back matter includes a glossary and an appendix giving clay body and glaze recipes of the ten artists.

Guide Review - 'Handbuilding Ceramic Forms' Reviewed

Handbuilding Ceramic Forms was first published in 1978 and re-released in 2008. It would be quite at home as a textbook for a beginning ceramics course. It is clear, understandable, and very explanatory in its coverage of hand building techniques.

The darkness of the photographs is somewhat disturbing, and can interfere with the visual information given. The black and white format is also problematic when showing the artwork of the ten featured artists. I believe the book would have benefited as a whole from new, full-color photographs.

The book is broken into nine sections: Technical information on clay, Tools and working space, Preparation of clay, Considerations common to all forming methods, Forming methods, Surface treatment, Specific forms, Handbuilding with wheelthrown forms, and Ten approaches to handbuilding. This last section highlights the work of Elaine Katzer, Elizabeth MacDonald, David Middlebrook, Donna Nicholas, Sy Shames, Billie Walters, Susan Wechsler, Paula Winokur, Elsbeth S. Woody, and Mikhail Zakin.

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