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Basic Hand Building Techniques

Creating Pottery Without a Wheel

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Before potters had the wheel, they were creating spectacular pots and clay forms. Using clay, their hands, and a minimum of tools they brought function and artistry together. Below are the three most common forms of producing hand built pots.

Pinching Pots

An example of a basic pinch pot.
Beth E Peterson

Created from a single lump of clay, these are often the first forms created when beginning to work in clay. Due to the building technique's limitations, most pinch pots are fairly small, holding perhaps one cup to one and a half cups by volume.

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Coiled Pots

An example of a simple coiled pottery form.
Beth E Peterson

Have you ever rolled a worm or snake out of clay? Then you were on the road that leads to coiled pottery. Using coils, forms are built up into the desired size and shape. Coiled pots can take on any number of forms, and can be tiny or huge. The coils may or may not be completely welded together, depending on the desired surface effect.

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Slab Pots

A simple pottery form built from slabs of clay.
Beth E Peterson

Pots can be formed by joining flat slabs of clay together. These pots tend to be a bit tougher, technically speaking, to produce. The slabs of clay need to still be wet enough to produce strong seams, yet also firm enough to be able to hold up their own weight when placed vertically. Also, joints in slab-built pieces are more likely to crack or split during drying and firing, so especial care must be taken with them when the pot is being built.

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