Handbuilding can be done in many ways. The most basic method of all is to work with a ball of clay directly, with no intermediate steps. Due to the action of thinning the pot’s walls through pressure between the thumb and fingers, these are called pinch pots.
Pinching pots is very tactile and can be an exciting introduction to the magic of creating with clay. It is also a wonderful project to do with kids.
Begin with a lump of clay half as large as or slightly smaller than your closed fist. Form it into a firm, compact ball.
Open the Pot:Hold the ball of clay firmly in one hand. Use the thumb of your other hand to push an opening into the ball. This opening should end about a half to a quarter of an inch from the other side of the ball; be careful not to push your thumb all the way through.
If the hole does end up going all the way through, simply compress the ball back together and begin again.
Pinching the Pot: Using your thumb, push against your fingers in a pinching motion. This will thin the clay out to create the pot’s floor and walls. Do not try to thin the clay too much with one pinch. Instead, use a series of smaller pinches to work the clay upwards more than outwards as it thins.
Work to make the floor and walls as uniform in thickness as possible. This will help keep the pot from cracking as it dries or during firing.
Finishing the Pot Part of the charm of the pinched pot may be the rustic look it has when the top edges are left uneven. You can, however, also choose to trim the upper edge to give the pot a more refined look.
The finished pot should be placed somewhere safe and allowed to dry slowly. Fast drying will often result in cracks appearing in the greenware or during firing. After the pot is bone dry (no part of the pot feels cool to the touch) it is ready to be bisque fired.
- If the clay is too wet and sticky, wedge or knead it on either a plaster surface or a piece of canvas until it dries slightly.
- Keep any clay you aren't working with covered with plastic.
- If your clay is too dry to work well, seal it in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel overnight. The next day wedge or knead the clay on a piece of canvas to distribute the moisture evenly through the lump.
- Don't throw away any small pieces of clay. Gather them into a bucket or other container and let them dry thoroughly. Because they will easily slake down and mix with water, they make the easiest way to make slurry, which is used in other forms of handbuilding and in throwing.
What You Need
- A lump of workable clay, a bit smaller than your fist