Wishful Thinking Studio
Dedicated to Handbuilt Ceramic Arts

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The simplest pot to make is a pinch pot. As the name refers you are going to pinch the clay till it resembles a pot. The only limitation on this pot is that your fingers are only so long so the pot is going to be so big. The shape can be what ever you like. In my explanation I am going to show you how to make a small bowel. This bowel can be decorated to your hearts delight but I’m not going to go over decoration till Chapter .

The tools you will need for this pot are:

  • a work surface

  • a bowel of water

  • a sponge or small rag for applying moisture

  • a plastic bag or wet cloth (to cover pot if you have to leave it)


Get a ball of clay and cut off a piece about the size of a medium apple. Shape it into a ball again smoothing out most of the creases and lines with your thumb. Hold the ball of clay in one hand, use the thumb on the other hand to squish a hole in the center about 2/3ds of the way down. Don’t go too deep because you don’t want the bottom too thin.

With your thumb still inside the clay ball, start pinching around the base of the ball creating a bottom and base sides. You will notice around the top of the pot some stretch and stress marks. Just smooth them out with your fingers.

Now you have the starting of a pot. Set the pot on your work surface and cover the top of your pot with the palm of your hand and gently but firmly force the clay down so that the bottom is flat.

At any point after this you can quit and you have a pot. The rest is refining.

To continue, pick up the pot in one hand and place your thumb back inside. Your fingers are going to be on the outside. The movement you are going to use is pinch with your thumb using your fingers as a stop(need better word) sliding your thumb up. Then turn the pot in your hand and rotate around the base of the pot with the pinch slide up motion.

Every time you complete this motion all around, you are going to smooth the lip of the pot using your finger like a pencil eraser. You need to keep an eye on the lip in case it gets too dry and the stretch/stress marks will not smooth out. This means that the lip is dry and needs moisture. Wet your sponge and squeeze out the excess water (you want the sponge to be a little more than damp but not soppy). Pat or wipe the lip with the sponge. You will notice that the clay will absorb the moisture. You don’t want to make the lip soppy but just moist again so it will continue to be plastic and workable.

Then just smooth the stretch/stress marks out. This is an important technique because clay dose have a tendency to dry out. Any time you have stretch/stress marks anywhere on your pot, that won’t smooth out, use your sponge and dampen the area and you should be able to smooth them out.

Now you are going to put your fingers on the inside and thumb on the outside and use the same motion of pinching and smoothing up. Then use a combination of pinching and smoothing to thin out the pot. You will feel with your finger the lumps and bumps.

This it where the shaping of your pot starts for real. Play with it. Make it into a shape that is pleasing to you. If the lip flares out too much for your liking set the pot down on your work surface and pinch around using both hands pinching towards each other slightly.

It is hard to know when to stop. Sometimes you will have a nice shaped pot and think if I do some more it will look better. I can’t tell you how many pots I have ruined not stopping when I first thought that was enough. When you are satisfied with the shape of the pot, put it down and let it rest for a while. Moisten the lip with your sponge, covering the pot loosly with a plastic bag or a damp (wrung out) cloth. You can stop now if you are happy with the pot, still cover the pot to slow the drying time down. I’m sure if you have followed my directions you will have a lovely pinch pot. You will be able to work on the pot more or decorate it as you please but it needs to rest and become leather hard at this point.

A pot has 4 main parts a bottom, a base, walls and a lip. It is important to keep all of these in proportion to each other. The bottom of the pot needs to be tick enough to hold shape while building the pot. So if you have a bottom that is too thin, your pot will fold over in your hands while you are building it. If the bottom is too thick the pot will be bottom heavy and the balance of the pot will feel off. The base of the pot must support the walls and the lip. It must be wide enough to balance the pot so it won’t fall over every time the wind blows. The walls of the pot should be pretty even in thickness. The lip of the pot should be a little thicker than the walls so that the structural integrity (stresses) of the pot will help it be strong. CAUTION: you cannot put a solid piece or a really thick piece of clay in a firing because it will explode due to uneven drying. The solution to this is to hollow out the piece and turn it while drying so the drying will be even...


More coming soon... (the coil pot)





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updated 04.05.05