Handbuilding in Clay
Welcome to The Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit for Handbuilding in Clay. Explore some handbuilding techniques, projects and resources for the clay artist and potter. Some of these techniques have been in use since man first touched clay, creating both pottery and art. So come and touch your hand to clay and add your chapter to the ceramic story of man.
This lens is always a work in progress, new stuff added often, your feedback is appreciated.
Handbuilding Art and Artists, Pots and Potters
The techniques used to make pinch pots is one of the oldest methods for making clay vessels. The results can be primative or very symmetrical and fine. Some fall in love with this method as it requires no other tool than your own two hands. Pinch pots can be small, made with the pinching of fingers and thumb or can be large, made by pinching the clay between fists. Whatever the size, this method has stood the test of time and is still used today by functional and decorative potters and clay artists the world over.
Pinch Pot Projects and Tutorials
Art and Artists, Pots and Potters - Pinching Method
My most admired pinch pot artist is Roddy Brownlee Reed, his pinch pots are so amazing. Sadly, his website went down after his death and very few example or his work can be found on the web. I first came across his little gems of pottery was at an outdoor show while I was in college. I went back an inquired about them to me pottery professor as I wondered as to the symmetry of Reed's pots, up to that point pinch pots I had seen were fun primitive clay expression. If you have the chance to take a look at one of his pots do so they are wonderful. Here are other artists whose work can be admired online:
- Roddy Brownlee Reed
An image of one of the fantastic pinch pot creations of Roddy Reed I found online.
- Pinch Pot People
Sculptural pinch pots of David Ducker.
- Organic Pinch Pots
Some pinch pots of Clayton Baily.
- Pinch Pots
The pinch creations of Karen Bamonte
- Hanna Ashraf
An article about Egyptian-born British studio potter Hanna Ashraf, features great photos of her beautiful pinch pots.
Great Pinch Pot Books on Amazon
Basic Handbuilding Tools from Dick Blick
This is your basic kit that you will need to start handbuilding in clay. Add to this a soft steel fettling knife and you are ready to start creating in clay.
Kemper Pottery Tool Kit
Quality tools of finest stainless steel and select, smooth hardwood. Includes a potter's rib, steel scraper, wood modeling tool, needle tool, ribbon tool, loop tool, sponge, and wire clay cutter.
Kemper Fettling Knives
Use these knives to trim, carve, remove mold marks and sculpt ceramics, greenware, styrofoam, and more. The softer steel blade is flexible enough to bend while the harder is a tempered steel blade with the same feel as other conventional blades. Blades are 4" (102 mm) long, total length 8" (203 mm).
Solid Build Up Project
This method is one of my favorite ways of handbuilding small sculptures. The method can also be used to make larger forms too.
Take a solid lump of moist clay the size you need for your project. Start to move the clay around with your fingers and thumbs to get the roughed out shape you want. If I was doing a face I would pinch up a nose and chin. Push in the eye sockets, start to define the brow and cheek bones. Continue until you have the form you want. Then come back and carve and refine your form with tools. Carve out the eyes and lids, define a mouth, carve the nostrils, carve out the ears and texturize the hair. Smooth rough places with your fingers until you are happy with your creation.
If we fired the resulting solid form now it would likely crack or blow up in the kiln.
So we let it dry a bit and let it get to leatherhard. Leatherhard is when the clay firms up a bit. Your light touch on the clay doesn't imprint marks on the clay anymore. The clay is still moist enough tho to cut with a fettling knife. And that is what we do. We cut the form so to hollow out the form. Cut it somewhere where the details of the form will not be marred. Then take a ribbon tool and carve out the clay, be careful not to carve thru the wall. You want to carve so that your walls are an approx. 1/4 to 1/2 in. thick.
Now we need to put it back together. We slip and score the two cut surfaces where we sliced the form. Take a needle tool or other tool to score hatch marks on both cut surface. Now take a bit of the clay you removed from the inside of the form and put it in a bit water and smoosh it around til you have slip(consistency of thick cream) and smear this slip on your cross hatched cut surfaces. Now place the two halves back together. Careful not to mar your form or push it out of shape. Take care to line up the halves so they match. Now clean up the seam removing any excess slip. Smooth the seam line til you can't see it.
Set it aside so the seam has time to weld together. One last step. If we were to leave the hollowed form as it is right now it would blow up in the kiln. We need to give a place for the air to escape while the form fires so we need to make a vent. This can be as simple as to cut a hole in the bottom or as complex as to incorporate the hole in the design of the form such as an open mouth or other opening.
Dry your form slowly under plastic. Once dry it is ready for the kiln.
The coil pot, another ancient clay construction method. But coils aren't just for pots. Coils can be used to make all kinds of forms. They are great for free forms and organic forms, anything with curves. You can smooth your coils or keep them as they are. The method is fairly straight forward and easy to do. Come lets discover what you can do with a humble coil of clay.
Coiling Projects and Tutorials
Hand rolling coils although very mesmerizing can be very time consuming. If you find you enjoy working in coils you might want to invest in a clay extruder. Extruders not only extrude coils but many other shapes as well used for handles, knobs and other clay attachments. You can extrude hollow forms as well with special dies that come with some extruders. Here is a dependable extruder available from Dick Blick and its optional die kit:
Brent Clay Extruder
Choose your die and place it in the easy-to-remove cap. Pull the handle, and form thousands of different solid and hollow shapes! The 4" (10 cm) diameter barrel holds 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of clay. Heavy-duty steel pipe construction with case-hardened wear and stress points. Bolt it to a wall or bench with the included hardware, or use optional stands to mount it to the end of SR series slab rollers. Shipping weight is 45 lbs (21 kg).
Brent Clay Extruder Die Kit
Art and Artists, Pots and Potters - Coiling Method
- Laura Orvieto
Website of Artist/potter Laura Orvieto. She uses the coiling method in her pottery and sculpture.
- Betty Blandino
The work of Betty Blandino.
- Native American SouthWestern Pottery
Contemporary pottery of the Native American people of the Southwest from The Buchsbaum Gallery.
- Ali Jeffery
The interesting coil work of sculptor Ali Jeffery.
Coiling Related Links
- Build Your own Clay Extruder
Directions and plans by Otto Pearsall found at The Studio Potter Website.
Great Books about Coiling and Coil Pots on Amazon
Fantastic book. I highly recomend this book. Betty Blandino's pots are fabulous.
Great photos of coiled pots. A very indepth look into the different things you can acheive with coils.
Working with slabs is fun. There is so much you can make with a slab of clay. I've made everything from tiles to furniture to fountains from clay slabs not to mention pots and other containers. All it takes is imagination and a slab roller or rolling pin and you have all you need to make some great projects in clay. Slabs take texture so well. Rolling and pressing things into the surface of your slabs opens the door wide for all kinds of surface decorations. Exploring your creativity with slabs is endless and unlimited. So what can you make?
Slab Projects and Tutorials
- Making Clay Slabs
An article about proper rolling out of your slabs for successful slab construction.
- Clay Techniques- Slump and Drape Molds
Instructions on using a slump or drape mold to make a platter or bowl using clay slabs.
- Soft Slab Project
A mug project using soft slab construction.
- Hard Slab Project
Making a box out of leatherhard slabs.
- Slab Box Pictorial Tutorial
A very good photo tutorial for making a leatherhard slab clay box.
- Slab Construction Tips
Helpful hints on creating and constructing with clay slabs.
- Slab Clay Figure
A downloadable PDF, Project and lesson plan for making clay figures out of Slabs from the Dick Blick website.
- Slump Slab Project
Making a slab platter from the DYI website.
- Cosmic Water Dish
Project using a plaster slump mold.
- Summer Fish
Project using a plaster hump mold.
Easier Slab Rolling with a Slab Roller
Rolling slabs is so much easier and quicker using a slab roller. This slab roller pictured here is similar to the slab roller that is in the classroom studio where I teach. This slab roller can be connected to a table so you can use it when needed in your home studio. This is a great time saver for anyone finding they are rolling many slabs.
North Star Polaris Slab RollerTwo driven rolls 2Â½" diameter by 24" long (64 mm Ã 61 cm). Clay is sandwiched between canvas strips, then cranked into the machine. Knurled rolls grip canvas and pull slabs through easily. Wet slabs can be moved on the bottom canvas. Two-roll system gives least warping in kiln. Infinite thickness adjustment from 0 to 2Â½" (64 mm) with no shims or boards. Polaris accepts texturing materials, press molds, and makes tapered slabs. Roll opening and handle can be locked in place. Full five year warranty. Furnished complete with canvas and mounting hardware. Shipping Weight 35 lbs (16 kg).
Art and Artists, Pots and Potters - Slab Construction
- Hayne Bayless
The slab work of Hayne Bayless.
- Rocket Skull Art Studio
Home of Gery Henderson and his unusual slab work.
- TVD Artworks
Here you will find the slab work of Todd Van Duren. His work seems to explore the concept of box or container, many times the container seems to be a house or room. Interesting work.
- Elissa Burr
The handbuilt work of Elissa Burr, an interesting construction of deconstruction.
Slab Related Links
Favorite Handbuilding Method?
What is your favorite method for handbuilding clay art and pottery?
Great Books on Handbuilding on Amazon
Great book. Lots of wonderful photos and insights into the work and methods of many clay artists and potters.
Want To Know More?
- May the Kiln Goddess Smile Upon You
Here is the Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit, it is a central hub for all things related to working with clay. Here you will find links to other lenses on clay art, pottery, techniques and tutorials and other good stuff. Have fun.
Clay Cutters on Amazon
Handbuilding in clay can be as simple as...well...using your hands sometimes a few tools can help. Here are some neat clay cutters that are fun to use when building with clay.
I welcome your feedback. Would you like something added? Know a good link or book? Did I manage to misspell something? Did you find a dead link? Let me know, afterall this Kiln Goddess isn't all knowing ;-)