HAND-BUILDING TECHIQUES

Hi Everyone,

Hand-building techniques in pottery are one of the few areas of ceramics that have not changed since they were developed in ancient times. No mechanical tools are needed, you just need to use your hands. Hand-building can be categorised into three main areas, pinching, slating, and coiling and of course these techniques can create a multitude of sculptural forms. In hand-building most forms are created by joining different bits or components of clay together. The joining has to be done carefully, because one of the main reasons why clay cracks or breaks, is because dry clay is joined to wet clay or because a thin piece of clay is fixed onto a think piece. And the reason why this doesn’t work, is because the two clays dry at different rates and hence crack! In fact, I would say that the drying of your finished clay pieces is as important as the making. The rule is dry them as slowly as possible.

Hand-building in clay can be a very spontaneous activity, but sometimes it helps, if you use a drawing book to sketch out some of your ideas first.

A good way to start hand-building is to begin by making simple pinch pots. Unfortunately, there is only one way to get good at any of these techniques and that is by repetition and practice, practice, practice!

Next try coiling. Roll your coils of clay on a stable surface, like a wooden table or board and try to make your coils of clay a consistent thickness throughout. Have a go at making a coiled bowl and to help get your bowl symmetrical, place the first coils you make in a cereal bowl, lined with clingfilm, and as you approach the top of the bowl, you may have to dry it off with a hairdryer, before you go higher so the bowl retains its shape.

Finally, try rolling a slab. I always use a piece of canvas to roll the clay on, as it will prevent it sticking to the table. The great thing about slabs of clay is that you can add textures to them and add slabs together, using slip to make larger constructions.

With these three tried and tested techniques you should be able to explore and develop your own personal style. Have a go, I’d be intersted to see how you all get on and remember, there are no hard and fast rules about how you could mix and match these techniques together, so send some pics of your creations.   

Until next week,

Barry