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Handbuilding is an ancient pottery-making technique that involves creating forms without a pottery wheel, using the hands, fingers, and simple tools. The most common handbuilding techniques are pinch pottery, coil building, and slab building.
To make a pinch pot, one inserts a thumb into a ball of clay and continually pinches the the clay between the thumb and fingers while rotating to thin out and raise the height of the vessel. Pinching can deliver a pleasingly organic look, but can also yield beautiful, refined results.
Coil building is a forming method that uses ropelike coils of plastic clay, assembled in successive courses to build up wall of vessel or sculpture.
The slab technique starts with smooth slabs of clay that are then formed around molds or shaped by hand. Although it can be used to create many of the same shapes that are achievable on a wheel, slab building also allows the potter to create more angular shapes that are more challenging to make on a wheel.
All handbuilding techniques can be used on one piece, such as using a slab to form the sides of a vessel, and then using coils and pinching to create an interesting rim or handles. Handbuilding techniques can also be used to alter and enhance a form thrown on a wheel.
Handbuilding techniques allow for a wide range of creativity. Here, we’ll share with you some of the most inventive handbuilt work out there and give step-by-step instruction from the artists making it. Peruse through our archive of articles and videos on handbuilding techniques, whether you want to brush up on a process or start off in a new direction. And, if you haven’t already, be sure download your free copy of our Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: How to Make Pottery Using the Pinch, Coil and Slab Methods for some handbuilding project ideas!
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