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Making a coil pot: Step-by-step process and tools

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Tutorial for beginner and intermediate level students

Coiled pots are constructed by gradually stacking and joining coils of clay one on top of the other. The coils can be left visible or can be smoothed away depending on your desired aesthetic end result. It is important that the coils join well during construction to avoid cracking or separation during the drying and firing process.

To avoid cracking or coil separation, the clay is required to be soft and using the proper process to connect the coils together. You can use your thumb or index finger to smooth the coil into the lower level coil or use a wooden or silicon rib tool while the clay is still soft. If you want the coils to show on both, the inside and outside of the pot, slip and scoring is required, but with no guarantee of surviving the drying and firing process without coil separation.

See a basic step-by-step example below where the coils are not visible in part of the pot and visible with surface texture on one side of the pot's rim. See Children's Handbuilding Projects

extruded coils ready for assembly
Premade extruded clay coils

How to Make a Coil Pot | Tutorial
Construction and Tools Needed

1. Flatten piece of clay to about 1/4" thickness. Use a rolling pin or a slab roller. Cut slab to desired dimensions. Ahead of time, prepare clay coils by hand or with an extruder. Make sure your pre-made clay coils are covered with plastic to keep them soft - coils dry out very quickly!

Make slab of clay with rolling pin
making clay flat with a rolling pin
Or with a slab roller
using a slab roller

Cut a slab base - 1/4" thick
flat base

Make coils by hand or extruder
making clay coils by hand

2. Score and slip slab and lay the first layer of coil. Push the coil firmly into the slab. Cut first layer of coil as illustrated below to ensure perfect fit around the parameters of the slab. Remove the unused coil pieces and blend the joint. Pinch / scrape the coil with one finger into the slab smooth using your finger, a rib, or a wooden tool.

Score and slip base and apply coil
slip and scoring coil to slab
Cut coils as illustrated
cutting coil with pintool

Pinch coil into slab on the inside
attaching clay coil

Merging coils using both hands
attaching clay coil

3. Smooth the outside using a rib. We use Sherryll's Mud Tools red rib. Place the next layer of coil, pinch and smooth as in previous layer. When merging two layers, make sure that one hand is supporting the clay on one side while the other is hand pushing / smudging the other side.

Do the same on outside
smoothing clay
Smooth pinched coil with a rib
using a silicone rib to smooth pot's walls

Place 2nd coil - no slip & scoring
attached second coil - no slip and scoring is required

Smudge coil into lower coil
smuge into first coil layer

4. Keep adding layers. You can add up to three at a time before blending and smoothing. When cutting a coil to fit, make the cut in a different place to ensure that the two joints are not directly one above the other.

Pinch outside of coil
smuge teh outside wall
Repeat with next layer
add third layer

And with next
coiled pot process

Join coils in a different place
attaching clay coils

5. To widen the pot, use longer coils. If taking a break, cover your work and pre-made coils so that the clay will remain moist and soft

Use longer coils to widen pot
widen the pot with larger coils
Repeat the process
this coiling project is suitable for begineers

Inside view
coils can be made with extruder

Close-up view
clay is required to be soft to connect properly

6. Use the same method as above to create the pot's rim. You may choose to leave the rim "un-smoothed" as illustrated below. If making a large pot, it might be too soft to hold it's full weight. Cover it and allow it to set for a while before proceeding. When starting again, the next coil added MUST be slip-and-scored to the existing pot.

Coiling the rim
use wider coil ring for the rim
Pinching the rim
rim can stay rough for a handmade look

Close up - rim with texture
smuging close up

Finished pot
knowing when to stop to avoid collapse is important

7. Use a paddle to both shape the pot and strengthen the coiled wall. Dry slowly by covering the pot loosely with plastic before Bisquing.

Use a wooden paddle to shape pot
paddle pot into a shape
Coiled pots with finger texture
coiled bowl, bottle and a vase samples

Glazed pot
Readers Digest and cobalt blue glaze

Other coiled pot
coiled clay paltter

8. Other samples of coiled pots made at Lakeside Pottery. See Children hanbuilding Projects

Other coiled pot
coiled pot with design
Other coiled pots
huge / large coiled pots

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