Slab Pottery Building Basics

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.

Nothing can be more fun than pottery building, as it comes with various techniques that are enticing to unleash. While we think about pottery building, the first image of the technique that comes to our mind is pottery’s wheel building technique. But the reality is, there is no limit of methods for pottery building despite wheel throwing.


Slab pottery building is one of those fantastic pottery building techniques, which is quite popular among potters due to its ease in building and creating unique shapes. If you are a beginner in the world of pottery building, then starting with the slab pottery technique will be an easier one for you.


Here we will discuss the basics of the slab pottery building, which you can follow to finish off with a master-piece. So, let’s start with it, without buzzing around anymore.


What is the slab building technique in pottery?

The slab pottery technique refers to the one where you need to start with smooth slabs of clay to form the various pottery shapes through molding. The slab technique includes the rolling out of the clay to achieve an even thickness all over. Then the process proceeds by the cutting of the shapes, folding of the clay slab. The technique also includes bending and manipulating the clay to join the two slabs to get the finely finished end project.


The hand-building technique of the pottery uses the slabs of clay instead of the potter’s wheel. Compared to the wheel building technique, hand-building pottery processing is way easier for a beginner. The uniqueness of the process lies in the creator’s hand artistry with the clay to build the various marvelous shapes.


The history of the slab building technique dates back to the Mesoamerican Pre- Columbian age. Though the slab building technique was not that popular in the old dates, the new age slab building is much more modernized and is in extensive practice among the potters.


The basics of slab building:

Slabs are the base for hand-building pottery. Before starting with the slab pottery building technique, you need to know what a slab is in pottery? What slab is the right one for your project? And how can you make it?



Slabs are made using a variety of processes. The very well-known process for slab building is the method of rolling out the slab through hands using a rolling pin or any rolling equipment.


You can also efficiently process the slabs out of clay using your hand, by tossing it, or with the help of extruders. However, the rolling process using a slab roller is the most convenient one as it provides the clay slab with an even and uniform thickness from everywhere of the clay.


Also, you can easily toss the clay against the hard surface from an angle. However, the result is not going to give you a uniform thickness from everywhere. But you can use this technique easily if you want to create a handmade feel with your slabs.


Here are the two types of slab construction that you can pick to create your slab pottery building. Let’s have a look:

Slab construction type

How is it made?

Soft-slab construction The soft slab construction refers to the processing using the fresh and slightly damp clay used to roll out to prepare the structure. The end structure gets a leathery feel. The soft slabs go better with the slump molds or draping over the hump molds to create various forms. It is useful for creating a more surface texture with detailed design and decorations and firing effects.
Stiff slab construction The stiff slab construction includes the process of rolling out of the clay, and the theme is slowly dried to acquire the leather-hard stage. It offers the best use in architectural and geometric construction.  The slab is cut and joined with another slab to create the various forms of the pottery. It is much easier to work with the stiff slab clays while joining it with another soft clay as it is less messy.



How to start with the basics of pottery building with clay slab?

 Once you are done gathering the proper knowledge about the clay slabs, you need to proceed with how you can build pottery shapes out of them. Here are the basics of how you can create pottery out of the clay slab step by step. Let’s have a look at how you can build full pottery from a clay slab:


Step 1: Form a slab for your project:

Before starting with the slab pot, you need to begin creating a thick slurry slab at the beginning. To start with, take some clay scraps and let them become completely dry for some days. After that, you need to drop them in a container with the proper amount of water to cover the clay. The clay is going to get dissolved with the water to create a very quick slurry consistency. You can use the slurry clay instead of water to make the joints in your slab way more effective and stronger.


For creating the slab, compress the lump of clay into a ball. Flatten the ball as much as you can to create an even shape. You can place the clay on a canvas surface to flatten it. Proceed with flattening by pressing it against the surface along with your palm or using a rolling pin. The final result should be of even thickness from everywhere. Once you are done, lift the slab slowly from the surface.


Step 2: Start with creating the base for your slab pottery:

It is the second step of your pottery building process, where you need to start with the trimming of your pottery slab using a potter’s needle. You can easily create any shape and size for your pottery to give it the desired look for your project. It is easy to start with a square base with two inches of width and two inches of length if you are trying to create a small pot.


Now, you need to smooth the edge of the cut clay by tapping the edges using your fingers against the working surface. Use the potter’s needle to score the upper area of the slab surface from each edge. It is recommended to score up to ¼ inches wide and ⅙ inches deep.


Step 3: Build the sides of your slab:

During this step, you need to trim your slab’s edges into a straight line using a scale and your potter’s wheel. Lay the slab on your working surface and start with marking the areas to trim it away to render the same width to the slab. Start with trimming the upper edge of the clay slab that you will use as the upper area of your finished pot.


Just like this way, you need to create the second slab by trimming it up to the same dimension as the first side of the slab. Start with scoring the bottom edge properly from the edge of the side slab.


Your clay side that you will use as the interior for your pottery should be scored evenly on the surface along the two side edges. Use a brush to lightly apply the slurry mixture of clay on the edge of the slab’s base. Then firmly set the side of the upright slab to the scorched slab that you have brushed with the slur.


Make sure that the size of the side slab can hold itself upright. However, if you want to slump, you can use any other handy object to support it.


Now you need to roll out a tiny coil with a thin diameter and position it along with the interior corner to form the base of the side slab. Utilize the rounded end of a wooden tool, firmly press and coil to make it stick to both sides of the slab, and remove the extras.


Again, start with trimming the other edges of the slab into a straight line using your potter’s needle. Mark the size of the slab, which is going to offer a proper fit to the edge of the base. Mark accordingly and trim it away to ensure that the new slab piece fits appropriately between the clay interior surface. Trim more, if necessary, to make it have the right fit.


Step 4: Attach the other two sides of the slab pot:

To attach the other two sides of the slab pot, you need to opt for scoring the bottom and the side edges of one side of the slab. Use a brush to apply a bit of slurry mixture on the edges while scoring. You can use Creative Mark Hake Paintbrush Set to apply the mix with ease. Gently put the slab at the place and set it with care into the upright of the slot that you have created earlier with the first two sides of the slab.


Take another coil to position it properly to allow the proper attachment with the first two slabs to create a robust joint. Take an appropriate length of the clay that can cover the entire area in one go. Use the rounded end of your wooden tool to lightly press the coil to the slab to both sides to make the joint stronger. Follow a similar step to set the last side slab in the right place by properly scoring it.


Step 5: Finish off with the slab pot:

It is time to give your slab pot the proper finishing. Increase the strength of your slab pot to make it withstand cracking and breaking.  Start with blending the outer joints of each of the sides. Use a wooden tool to carve out the outer joints with proper strength. Give support to one angle on your pottery piece to the work surface and firmly tap the bottom edges against the pot to make the joints look smooth.


You can also make the upper edge of the pottery more even using your potter’s needle by cutting away the excess of the slab. Ensure that you are supporting the pot properly with your fingers while applying the pressure to cut the excess. You can use a bit more slurry paste to gently run your fingers along those areas to make it smoother. Weld and smooth the joints properly using your fingers to give the clay support and superior finishing.


Step 6: Dry the slab pottery:

Before opting for firing our clay, you need to make sure that you have dried it to a bone-dry consistency.  Leave your pottery piece for one or two weeks at room temperature to allow it to become bone dry. Keep checking to make sure if it feels cold to touch. If so, then let it sit for some more time to become completely dry.


If the pottery dries too fast, then it can lead to the cracking of the pot. Cover it using a plastic wrap to allow it to dry slowly.  As you are done with drying your pottery, bisque fire it, then you can glaze it as per your choice to create a unique look:


Tools that you are going to need for making slab pottery:

As compared to any other type of pottery, the number of equipment you need to use here is minimal. You are only going to need two or three tools to give your pottery the right shape.



Let’s have a quick look at the tools required for slab pottery:



Rolling pin or a slab roller  To achieve the flattened slab with even thickness
Potter’s needle  To cut a score on the slab
Wooden tool  To blend the joints of the sides
brush  To apply the slurry mixture
Scoring tool  To score the edges of the slabs




Creating slab pottery is way much easier than any other technique of pottery building. All you need to have is a good quality of clay and lots of enthusiasm to give your creativity the shape of reality. Start with building slab pottery to unleash the beautiful ways of pottery building. We hope this article will help you if you are thinking of starting with trying your hands in slab pottery building.


Happy sculpting!

Previous post :

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