Tips for mastering pottery with your bare hands

July 29, 2015

Pinch potting needs two things: your hands. Follow this advice to help your best tools make beautiful pottery crafts.

Tips for mastering pottery with your bare hands

What is pinch potting?

  • Pinch potting, or hand building, is a simple and direct method of making a pot or bowl.
  • The clay should be soft and not too crumbly.
  • Pinch pots are generally small and are particularly suited to sawdust firing.
  • This technique is probably the way the earliest pottery was made, cradled in the palm and gently pinched out to form a simple bowl.

Why pinch pot?

  • Making a pinch pot is the best way to become familiar with clay and its special qualities. This is because the clay is held in the hands throughout the forming process.
  • With pinch potting, you can develop the links between pottery, clay and your mind and fingers.

Familiarize yourself

  • When you first try this technique, concentrate on the texture of the clay and the way it responds to the position and pressure of your fingers.
  • Have a damp sponge nearby to lightly dampen your hands and stop the clay drying out and cracking.

Your finished product

Use the tips below to navigate the decorative element of your project.

  • Pinch pots are more likely to be asymmetrical, which can give them a unique character that's more appealing than the perfect shape.
  • When starting out, choose a shape based on a natural object. Seed pods, stones, or even a bud or a fruit all make great base shapes.
  • Decorative finishes should emphasize the asymmetry of the finished product.
  • Once the pot becomes stiff but is not fully dry (this is called "leather hard"), the surface can be carved with a design.
  • Deep carving looks particularly good when combined with burnishing (polishing the clay without using glaze).

While pinch potting is the simplest form of pottery, it can also be the most satisfying. With practice, you can produce results to be proud of.

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