Hand Building Pottery Ideas

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Hand-building pottery is a technique that’s been around for thousands of years, but what’s actually quite cool about this one, is that you can create some amazing items regardless of how old it is. How do you do so? Well, we are going to explore some techniques, and some cool ideas for you to try out in terms of hand-building pottery, and these hand-building pottery ideas will kickstart your desire to learn this ancient technique


Different types of techniques

First, let’s talk about technique. You’ve got a couple of different ones to try out, and they are the following:

  • Pinching

  • Slabbing

  • Coiling


Now any hand-built pottery piece doesn’t involve the wheel, so typically these aren’t completely circular. You can utilize all of these techniques on a singular piece, or even use just one technique on a couple of different pieces. You can also utilize these on the wheel.


Now, to pinch, you do the following:

  • Insert your thumb into the center of the clay, and then pinch it

  • Rotate your fingers and thumbs to thin it out

  • Try to be as even as possible to create an organic look


Coil boiling involves the following:

  • Using rope-like coils to build the clay in successive corners

  • Move your hands up to create the sculpture


Slabbing truly does involve the following:

  • Taking clay that’s formed around molds

  • Start to slowly build on this

  • You can also use a rolling pin to thin this out

  • You can angle these together in order to build up the sides


Hand-building is super popular simply because of the creativity that comes with it, and here, we’ll even tell you of how to build some interesting ornamental pieces with each of these techniques, and from there, you’ll be able to take your hand-building experience to a whole new level.


Slab plates Made by Hand Building



First, let’s talk about this idea. This one is perfect for beginners because of the following:

  • It’s simple

  • The materials aren’t as expansive

  • It creates a fresh new style of plates

  • The materials don’t cost a ton


The biggest thing that you’re going to need to learn, is how to create a good slab. You may need to work with this a little bit and try to really get good at building plate-based off-molds and the like. You can create wonderful surfaces that can be glazed, finished, or embellished with stencils. But, let’s begin with how to do this.


  • First, you need a rolling pin, some wire, a sponge, 25 pounds of clay with grog or sand, a fettling knife or a needle tool, and some paper plates, ideally Chinet since they don’t have a plastic coating to absorb the clay moisture
  • Next, roll out the slab to the thickness you desire, throwing it first in certain directions, and then using a rolling pin or a slab roller to continue this, rolling it out on one side
  • If you’re on canvas, work it till the clay stops stretching
  • Lift the slab to create the most surface area possible, and then let it stiffen to the leather hard stage so that you can bend this without cracking
  • Grab your plates, and then put them upside down as a template to cut, keeping the fettling knife perpendicular to the work surface
  • Take off the excess clay and make the rims smoother
  • Slick the finger across the edge with consistent pressure, to soften without flattening the edge
  • Take a damp sponge to do this, and then, you can sign and stamp your underside
  • To form the plates, slip the slab, smooth the top edge, and then put it into the paper plate
  • Press the clay into the paper plate, and then make the design that works
  • Let it dry to leather-hard in the bottom plate, removing to check to see if they’re stacked nicely, and look at the rim, shaping as needed
  • Slip decorate the plates as you desire, and you can put this into there to create a bold, graphic set of your choice
  • If you really want to add extra pizazz to this, take some clay, roll it out, and then grab some cookie cutters, and create shapes using that, from there putting it on the side
  • Let all of this dry, and then glaze and fire as needed to create a wonderful set of plates
If you’re looking for a simple hand-building project, this is the way to go, because it’s so simple, yet effective that you’ll know immediately how you can create the best plates that you can, that you’ll enjoy nonetheless.


Creating Huge Slab Forms


If you want to create some amazing pottery, one way to do it is to master slab forms. Large slab forms allow you to create some wonderful items, including the following:

  • Vases

  • Containers

  • Planters

  • Casserole Dishes

  • Little Boxes

However, mastering this is important, to begin with, and you’ll learn how to do this here.


First, you need materials, which are essentially the following:

  • Clay

  • Template

  • Some paper

  • Any extra decorations


At this point, you can begin working with this:

  • Take your clay and roll it out, smoothing each side

  • Take your template and from there, start t cut it out into the paper as needed

  • Outline the clay into the template, cut the slab, and then measuring for each template piece

  • Make sure all connection points are 45 degrees mitered, and they can be scored and applied for magic water


Don’t use slip, since it might separate when drying and firing. Bevel the edges, score them, use the magic water, and then slip

  • Use a coil to hold the joints together so that they’re squeezed. Use a thin one, put it on the seam, blend this, and then compress and smooth this

  • Repeat this with the corners, but then smooth and compress each of these do this until all four sides are made

  • Measure and mark the bottom, beveling the bottom slab edges. From there, check the firmness, paddle it, and then put a coil on the bottom and then smooth it

  • Paddle the bottom of it, and make sure to paddle each side to make it nice and slim

  • Cut the strips for the rim, then cut the ankles and then connect them. Put it together, smooth it out, and put a small coil around the bottom edge of it, smoothing it out

  • You can then underglaze any shapes that you want on this


Now, with this one, in particular, you want to make sure that you don’t just high-fire right away. Literally, let it sit for a week, and if you’re adding any underglaze onto this, do this. You can bisque fire and then glaze it. From there, you want to kiln program the bisque fire for 10 hours at 180 for start to 1828 degrees Fahrenheit. For glaze firing, keep it at cone six. You should make sure to use the computerized cooling feature, and don’t open the kiln until the temperature is about 120 degrees or lower, to prevent cooling cracks.


These slab pots look amazing, and if you’re looking to create a beautiful piece of pottery that works well, you’ll be able to do this easily.


Ceramic Shoe


This is one that I highly recommend if you want to give this to someone, especially a daughter or a female friend who loves shoes. They are a bit more intricate than your average pottery piece, but let’s be real, it’s quite cool how much you can make. You need scissors, a slab roller or a rolling pin, a miter tool or bevel, basic wood tools, a clay knife for cutting, a sponge and flexible rib, and a pin tool. Of course, you need clay too.


To begin, you’ll want to design your shoe on a paper template. Do this first before you begin. Then, you can begin the following:

  • Roll out the clay to a ¼ inch slab and then cut out these shapes there
  • Miter join the parts to 45 degrees and look at the beveled edges
  • Cut the hole in the middle and then score every part. Magic water or slip the edges, and bring it to shape. You can use slip here since it’s not a large piece
  • Connect each of these and then blend from the heel to the shoe, using a core to help solidify the connection
  • Blend and smooth the coil and other areas
  • Since you want a soft rib, propping this with extra height will create the best base. Use a template for this, cut it to size, score, and then attach it, marking the location on the back of this
  • Slip and score to attach each of these, and from there, you’ll see it looks a little short. You can use a small slab for the post of the shell, cutting to size
  • Roll the heel post into shape, attaching to the base, roll it, and then cut it into the height
  • For the toe pieces, connect these together, mark the excess clay and then cut it off. Slip and score all of the edges
You will want to make sure that you have a small hole piercing within the heel because this allows for the air to escape at this point
  • From here, connect all of the parts, smooth it, using a thinner slab, decorate each of the edges, and from there, you can let these sit to dry, and then fire as needed. You can always add some stains and glazing at the end of this to create a wonderful decorative shoe


This is a bit of a harder one if you’re not used to creating templates, but this gives you a good lesson in slab pottery, which I can’t complain about because it helped me master this art readily.


Pinch Pot Animal

Do you like hedgehogs or other small animals? Did you know you can make these in a pot with some pinching? That’s right, you totally can, and here, we’ll tell you how to make some amazing animals that look really cool.

  • Take two balls of clay, about ½ a pound each, and at the same size

  • With the ball in the left hand, push your right thumb towards the middle, making it about half an inch thick at the bottom

  • Pinch the clay evenly, starting with the bottom, and rotate it, with ¼ inch thickness at the edge

  • Once both are created, score with the pin tool, and then apply a lot of slip to this pot

  • Join them, and slide the back of one thumb over the pot seam to the neck, sealing this and keeping the air trapped in there. You can always alter it to the right shape by pressing and rolling

  • To make the head of this, take a smaller pinch pot and put it onto the body with slip and score

  • Add the appendages, slipping and scoring everything

  • For the spines, roll a small amount of clay in coils, folding in half, and pressing into the body, smearing it and also smoothing as you go along

  • Cut a hole near the bottom for the air to leave while you dry and fire, and to create a good air passage between each part

  • Dry this slowly and cover the finished work for a long time

  • High fire this once you have everything put together, and make sure that you have an appropriate place for air to escape. Make sure the spines are not fragile with this product as well

  • Glaze and decorate as needed


This is a fun one cause it gives you the creativity to make animals you enjoy, which is something that lots of people like about this one.


Clay Starfish

A clay starfish is a fun little project that you can utilize if you’re wanting to create an adorable little box for someone else. You essentially need clay, a cutting knife, a rolling pin, and a template to do this.


  • First, roll out the clay, smooth and compress this, and use the template you have for the clay slabs

  • From there, cut out the starfish pattern and then put a lump of clay over a mold, pushing it into shape, pushing it to a smaller hump mold, defining the arms each time

  • Remove, do this with the second one, and from there, you can attach them

  • You attach by scoring all of the points of contact, slipping this, and then attaching each half, connecting and pinching the parts

  • Blend this, make a coil, flatten this, and put it around every contact point

  • From here, add coil as needed, blending this, then smoothing and using a sponge to make the shape more refined

  • When completed, create the arm extensions, score them, and make a hole for the release. You HAVE to make the hole

  • Connect every single extension, blend, and add a coil. Blend this, and shape every single arm into a coiled shape

  • Put more definition, improve the texture, and from there add the bottom feet. The starfish is done


As a bonus, you can create a box lid in virtually the same way, but what you do, is remove the top part in a pentagon shape, add a small coil for decoration in the shape of a seashell, and then slip and score the top of this to create a wonderful star shape for the top of it as well


And there you have it! If you’re looking to make a wonderful little box for someone that you care about, this is how, and it showcases the importance of templates as well.


Slab Vase

Finally, let’s talk about this slab vase. This is a great one if you want to create a vaselike structure, but you don’t want to get a wheel for this. You essentially will need your clay creation tools, a template, and some clay. Here, we’ll tell you how to make this.

  • First, use the template to cut each slab to size
  • Smooth this out with a red rib, and then use a round hump model, pushing and turning on this. You can from there, do this with a smaller mold, creating a deeper shape, and from there, grab your paddle to smooth the edges of this
  • Get a miter to smooth the edges, and from there, score and slip everything that is mitered from there, roll over the rolling pin for an extra little shape
  • Take your stand slab, and from there attach this, blending in the seam with scoring and slipping
  • Add the coil in to keep it strong, blending this one in as well, doing this on the outside
  • From here, smooth each edge to create the correct size, and put the top of the vase on top of it, and from there give it a fit check
  • Slip and score the two areas, move it together to attach, and then add a coil to blend this in. You will notice at this point, that this is a super smooth shape
  • From here, blend the inside seam and then adjust the shape of this. If you need to fix it, now is the time.
  • Cut an opening at the top, and from there, with a very narrow slab going out, you create the rim. You can use the slip-and-score method to attach all of this together.
  • For the bottom, create a thin piece of slab clay, cut it to shape, and then slip and score the bottom, as done before
  • At this point, you have the vase in place. You can add textures, whether they be small pieces of clay that you cut out, score, and then attach, or something based on a template that you slip and score onto the final piece


At this point, since it is a larger object, I do suggest letting it air dry for a little while, covered obviously, and then firing this to cone six. With the bottom, you should always make sure that you have a hole poked through the bottom to let air pass through, which is a big part of this because if you don’t want cracks in the vase, you should make sure to always have a small hole in order to let the air escape. It can be something the size of a paperclip, or even smaller, just enough for air to pass.
You can at this point decorate it with glazes and stains, whatever you feel is important.


Now, I do suggest with any of the more complex pieces, always have a template. Templates are the best because they allow the following:

  • Less stress on how to put it together

  • Easier assembly

  • Accurate measurements


If you feel like you are having issues with the sizes of your pieces, consider putting together a template, and from there, add it to the pieces as needed. It does help you and it can make hand-building pottery easier to face


Here, you learned all about the power of hand-building pottery. It makes a huge difference in the overall success of your pottery if you implement this, and you can, as a result of this, really figure out what you feel is right for you. You’ll be able to use these basic techniques as a means to really make it work for you, and in turn, you’ll be able to make wonderful pieces that span so many different types of pottery, and over time, you’ll be able to create even more items as well.

Latest posts

  • Will a Marker Burn off in the kiln?

    Will a Marker Burn off in the kiln?

    Are you considering using markers on your ceramic or pottery projects but wondering if they will withstand the high temperatures of a kiln? While markers are a popular choice for decorating ceramics, their heat resistance […]

    Read more