5 Techniques to Boost Your Ceramic Handbuilding
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Coil building technique
  2. Pinching technique
  3. Slab construction technique
  4. Slump molding technique
  5. Hump molding technique

Getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques isn't just about creativity—it's also about mastering the right skills. If you've been exploring the world of ceramics and want to level up your game, you're in the right place. We're about to dive into five tried-and-true techniques that can give your ceramic handbuilding a significant boost. So, grab your apron, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to reshape your clay skills!

Coil building technique

Coil building is a classic method that has been around for centuries, and it's still a favorite among ceramic artists today. It's a fantastic technique to start getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques as it's relatively simple to pick up, yet offers a world of possibilities.

Understanding the Basics of Coil Building

The coil building technique involves rolling out long, snake-like pieces of clay—these are your coils. These coils are then stacked and joined together to form the desired shape. Here's a quick step-by-step guide:

  • Start by kneading your clay to remove air pockets—this helps prevent cracking later on.
  • Roll out your clay into long, thin coils. Aim for a consistent thickness throughout.
  • Begin to stack the coils, one on top of the other, joining them together as you go.
  • Use a pottery tool or your fingers to smooth the joints between the coils, blending them together.
  • Continue this process until you've achieved your desired shape. Remember, patience is key!

Getting Creative with Coils

Coil building doesn't limit you to simple pots and vessels; you can create all sorts of intricate designs! By twisting, braiding, or looping your coils before attaching them, you can add a unique touch to your ceramic pieces. And remember—practice makes perfect. The more you work on your coil building skills, the more confident and creative you'll become.

Benefits of Coil Building

Why should you invest time in mastering the coil building technique? First of all, it's an excellent way to get a feel for the clay. You'll learn how it behaves, which is a vital step towards becoming a skilled ceramic artist. Secondly, coil building allows for a lot of flexibility—you can build any shape, whether symmetrical or asymmetrical, large or small. It's a technique that truly lets your creativity shine!

To conclude, coil building is a fantastic starting point for anyone keen on getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques. It's simple, versatile, and an exciting way to create unique ceramic pieces. So, why not give it a try?

Pinching technique

Another technique that can take your ceramic handbuilding to the next level is pinching. It's one of the most fundamental pottery techniques, and it's perfect for making small, personalized pots or bowls. If you're all about hands-on creativity, then this technique is a must-try!

The Art of Pinching

As the name suggests, the pinching technique involves using your fingers to shape your clay. Here's how you can create a simple pinched pot:

  1. Start with a ball of clay, not too large to comfortably hold in your hand.
  2. Push your thumb into the center of the ball to create a hole, but be sure not to go all the way through!
  3. Use your thumb on the inside and your fingers on the outside to pinch and shape your pot. Remember to keep the base a little thicker than the walls to ensure stability.
  4. Once you're happy with the shape, smooth the surface with a damp sponge or your fingers.
  5. Let your creation dry slowly to avoid cracking.

Exploring with Pinching

One of the great things about the pinching technique is that it allows for a lot of personal expression. You can make your pinched pots as smooth or as textured as you like. Want to add some embellishments? Feel free to carve designs into your pot or add small clay elements for a unique touch. With pinching, the possibilities are endless!

Why Pinching Matters

So why should you bother with the pinching technique when there are other methods to explore? Well, pinching is a fantastic way to improve your hand-eye coordination and develop a keen sense of form and symmetry. It's also a very meditative and relaxing process, which can make your ceramic handbuilding experience even more enjoyable.

In summary, the pinching technique is a simple yet expressive way to boost your ceramic skills. It offers a direct connection between your hands and the clay, allowing you to create truly unique pieces. So why not pinch your way to pottery perfection?

Slab Construction Technique

Slab construction is another fantastic method for getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques. It's a bit more technical than pinching, but don't let that intimidate you. With a little patience and practice, you'll soon find it's a versatile and rewarding technique.

The Basics of Slab Construction

Here's a straightforward guide to help you get started with slab construction:

  1. Begin by rolling out your clay into a flat slab using a rolling pin or a slab roller. Aim for a consistent thickness throughout.
  2. Once your slab is ready, you can cut out shapes using a knife or a clay cutter. These shapes will become the sides of your object.
  3. Join the cut out clay pieces by scoring the edges and applying slip—a mixture of clay and water—then press the pieces together.
  4. Smooth out the joints with a clay tool or your fingers. Remember, a strong joint is key to a durable piece.
  5. Allow it to dry slowly and evenly to prevent warping or cracking.

Unlocking Your Creativity with Slabs

Slab construction is like playing with building blocks; it opens up a world of geometric forms. You can create anything from plates and vases to intricate sculptures. You can even add texture to your slab pieces before joining them together by pressing objects into the clay or carving designs into it.

Why Slab Construction is Worth Mastering

Aside from the versatility it provides, slab construction also helps refine your precision and attention to detail. It's a great way to understand structure and form. Plus, it's a technique that allows for larger, more complex projects. So, if you're thinking of going big or intricate in your next project, mastering slab construction is the way to go!

In the end, the slab construction technique could be the key to unlocking new levels of creativity and precision in your ceramic handbuilding journey. It's a method that can truly stretch your skills and open up new possibilities for your pottery projects.

Slump Molding Technique

Another technique that can take your ceramic handbuilding skills to the next level is the slump molding technique. This technique is all about using molds to shape your pottery, and it's easier than you might think!

Getting Started with Slump Molding

Here are some easy steps to begin with slump molding:

  1. Begin with a clay slab. Just like in the slab construction technique, roll out your clay until it's of even thickness.
  2. Find a mold. This could be anything from a bowl to a plaster mold you've made yourself. Just make sure it's the shape you want your final piece to be.
  3. Lay your clay slab over your mold. Remember to press gently so that the clay takes on the shape of the mold.
  4. Allow the clay to dry a bit until it's leather hard, then remove it from the mold.
  5. Finally, smooth out any rough edges, and you've got yourself a piece!

Slump Molding: A Technique of Many Faces

What's so great about slump molding is the variety it offers. You can use this technique with any mold—commercial or found objects around your home. It's a great way to experiment with different shapes and styles.

Why Slump Molding is Your Next Step in Ceramic Handbuilding

Slump molding is a technique that can give you consistency in your work, especially when you need to create multiple pieces of the same shape. It's also a great way to create hollow pieces without having to worry about the clay collapsing. So, if you're looking to make a set of matching bowls or a hollow sculpture, slump molding could be the perfect technique for you!

Remember, getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques is all about practice and experimentation. So, don't be afraid to try something new like slump molding. You might be surprised at what you can create!

Hump Molding Technique

There's a fun and intriguing technique that you might not have tried yet in your ceramic handbuilding journey: the hump molding technique. This method involves shaping clay over a mound or "hump", hence the name. Let's dive into it.

How to Start with Hump Molding

Ready to give hump molding a whirl? Here's how you can get started:

  1. First, you need a hump mold. You can purchase one or simply use a round object from around your house.
  2. Next, roll out a slab of clay. The thickness should be consistent, similar to the slab you would use for slump molding.
  3. Place the slab on top of your mold, making sure to press gently to mold the clay to the shape of the hump.
  4. Let it dry until it's leather hard, then carefully remove it from the mold.
  5. Smooth any rough edges, and voila, you have your hump molded piece!

The Benefits of Hump Molding

Hump molding is a handy technique for creating concave shapes like bowls, plates, or even curved wall hangings. The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity and versatility. It's a great way to add some depth to your ceramic handbuilding repertoire and create pieces with a unique personality.

Moving Forward with Hump Molding

As you continue to explore the world of ceramic handbuilding techniques, hump molding could be a great next step. It's an excellent way to experiment with different forms and shapes. Plus, with practice, you'll find that it can be a quick and efficient way to produce consistently shaped pieces.

As you know, getting better at ceramic handbuilding techniques is a journey, not a destination. So, keep exploring, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep having fun with it. Who knows? Hump molding may just become your new favorite technique!

If you enjoyed learning about these ceramic handbuilding techniques and want to expand your pottery knowledge even further, check out the workshop 'Pottery Basics: Everything You Need To Know' by Meghan Yarnell. This workshop covers essential pottery techniques and tips that will help you create beautiful, functional pieces and enhance your ceramic handbuilding skills.