making clay bee

Methods of Clay Hand-Building Techniques


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"Handbuilding" is working with clay by hand using only simple tools, not the pottery wheel. Before potters had the wheel, they were creating beautiful pots and clay forms using clay, their hands and fingers, and basic hand tools. Below are the three most common forms of creating hand built pots: pinchpot, coiling and slab techniques. Most do not realize the infinite world of hand building and the artistic possibilities it opens.

See some adults class hand building projects and some Children's Handbuilding Projects done in our studio.


1. Pinch Pots

pinch pot construction technique

Begin a pinch pot by forming a lump of clay into a smooth sphere that fits the size of the hand. This method is similar to the way the Native Americans shaped clay into useful pots. While holding the sphere of clay, press the thumb into the center of the ball, half-way to the bottom. While revolving the ball in one hand, press the walls out evenly with the thumb into the inside and the fingers on the outside. Smooth the surface with a damp sponge. See detailed step-by-step pinchpot project

clay turtle made with pinchpot technique clay animal - hedghog sculpting seashell with clay clay pig clay cow bobble head pinch pot fruits
Clay Turtle
Clay Hedgehog
Pinchpot seashell
Pinch pot clay pig
Bobble-head
Pinchpot fruits



2. Coil Method

coil pot construction technique

Coils of clay can be used to build bowls, vases and other forms in various shapes and sizes. Keeping the fingers flat, form the clay into sausage shapes, then roll into ropes 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick. Make a shallow dish with the pinch pot method and turn up-side down to serve as a foot of base. Place a coil along the edge of the foot. Dampen the fingers and join the next coil to it, with a little pressure. Keep adding coils . Coils may be pressed with the fingers or a tool on both the inside and outside to create interesting texture. See detailed step by step coiled pot project

large coiled pots coil pattern - clay platter coil pot idea premitive coiling style coiled bowl



3. Slab Method

Slab construction technique

Place two strips of wood on canvas a little further apart than the width of the finished slabs. Working on a textured fabric will leave imprints on the clay slab. Place clay on the cloth between the strips of wood and roll out. Use a pointed tool to trim the slab of clay to desired size. You may make paper patterns to follow if a form that has a number of sides is desired. Rub a wet finger over the edges to be joined and score with a tool. Roll out a thin coil of sticky clay and place it along one edge. Press the two edges together. Slabs of clay may be placed over rocks, bowls, plastic forms etc. to create interesting shapes. As the clay dries, it shrinks away from the form but retains the shape of the form. See detailed step-by-step slab project sample

Slab Roller
Rolling pin
Smoothing slab clay
Tile cutting (more) Slab construction box
Related Topics - Slab Projects Lessons:

See more handbuilding project ideas and pictures

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