Making Pottery Without a Wheel

Clay is a wonderful malleable material that can be formed not only into sculptures but into functional and decorative ceramics. It is the feeling of the clay and the oneness with it that not only produces objects but also leads to a relaxing meditative experience.

Birds and mushroom house built with pinch pots. the sun is made from a slab.

When we think of pottery, working with a pottery wheel springs to mind. There are, however, three hand-building techniques that can be learned without investing in a pottery wheel. Practising these, you can create beautiful vessels and objects at home.

The first technique is the pinch pot. A piece of clay is formed into a ball. The thumb is pressed through the centre of the ball and the ball is evenly and gently worked into a vessel. Pinching away from the centre opens the vessel. Pinching towards the centre closes it. Two pinch-pots joined together make a ball that can be the basis of an animal or perhaps a garden gnome. (This was a challenge in a recent episode of the Great Pottery Throw Down.)

The second technique is building with coils. Coils are rolled and progressively built up. This technique lends itself to more functional objects such as cups, bowls, jugs, vases, etc.

Sugar bowl and milk jug made with coils.

The third technique uses slabs. The clay is rolled out similarly to rolling dough. This rolled out clay is a starting point for making cylinders and boxes. It can also be draped onto or placed into certain forms which provide a quick and easy way to get a bit of structure.

Slab building with modelled Chicken.

All of the techniques are a starting point. Once learned and perfected, there are endless possibilities to explore.

If you want to learn the basics of hand building pottery why not take a course at Studio @ 55.

Find out about the Pottery without a Wheel course …
View gallery …