Pottery: working from a flat slab of clay

Pottery: working from a flat slab of clay

Starting with a flat slab of clay can seem daunting if you are a beginner potter, but it doesn't have to be. These tips will help you master the craft.

Pottery: working from a flat slab of clay

1. What to make

  • The most obvious use of slabs is for tiles, which are easy to make (use a coarse clay so they dry flat) and fun to decorate. Slab tiles are attractive when used indoors and outdoors on walls, floors and tabletops.
  • Made from a rolled sheet or slab of clay, a slab pot can take many forms and sizes. A slab pot can have coils added to modify or extend the shape. For instance, the bottle form has a narrow neck made of coils added to a cylindrical slab body.
  • Slab pots can vary from a precise, symmetrical box shape to a softly formed dish.

2. Making a slab pot

  1. To prepare a slab of clay, roll it out with a rolling pin. To ensure even thickness, rest the rolling pin on two pieces of dowel and roll the clay between them. Turn the clay over to stretch both sides of the slab. Alternatively, throw the piece of clay repeatedly on the bench top, rotating and turning it to stretch it evenly.
  2. A stack of clay slabs (such as might be prepared when making tiles) can be cut to the desired width and length using a cutting wire. Place narrow boards tightly up against either side of the slabs to act as guides for the wire. With practise, you can slice through six or seven layers at once.
  3. For a cylindrical shape, use a piece of pipe or wood. Wrap the shaping object in newspaper to stop the clay sticking to it. Cut a straight edge along the clay for the base (the surface could be textured now, before assembling­). Place the wrapped cylinder on the edge of the clay and roll the clay around it.
  4. Complete the shape by overlapping the clay and then cut through it at an angle of 45 degrees. Remove the excess clay and carefully roughen the edges with a toothbrush and a little water. Press the edges together to form a join. The join can be smoothed or left uneven, depending on the look you want.
  5. With the cylinder base overlapping a small prepared slab, cut around the base, leaving a four millimetre (1/8 inch) excess around the cylinder. Cut out this shape and roughen it for joining to the cylinder. With fingers or a wooden tool, smooth the clay from the base onto the cylinder, ensuring it is well joined.
  6. Use a knife or cutting wire to trim the top, if desired. Carefully slide out the cylindrical shaping object before removing the newspaper­. Do not be tempted to leave the object in place; if it is not removed at this stage, the pot will crack during the substantial shrinkage that the clay undergoes during the drying process.

3. Using a slab with a mold

A clay slab is a versatile piece of raw material and can be molded into other curved shapes besides the cylindrical. In fact, it is possible to place a slab of clay over almost any shape found in the home.

  • Always cover the mold with thin plastic or fine cloth first so that the clay does not stick to it.
  • Once the shape is made, leave the clay on the mold to stiffen before removing it.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu