Search the Daily

Published Oct 13, 2023

Pottery Design IdeasFor me, one of the most challenging aspects of slab building is envisioning a 3D form when staring at a flat slab. So I am always on the lookout for inspiration for new pottery design ideas. Pinterest and the internet in general can be great sources of handbuilt pottery ideas, but sometimes figuring out how to arrive at a shape from a flat slab is difficult.

If you have ever felt this frustration, today’s video clip will be just what you need. In this excerpt from her video Sewing Clay: Slab Building & Slip-Transferred Patterns, Lauren Karle shows how she uses craft paper to “sketch” out new ceramic design ideas. This exercise will be a great tool for developing pottery ideas for beginners, as well as those who feel stuck in a rut. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor


This clip was excerpted from Sewing Clay: Slab Building & Slip-Transferred Patterns, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop!

Pottery Design IdeasTo learn more about Lauren Karle or to see more images of her work, please visit

Plus, How to Use Paper Templates to Create an Oval Jar

by Sandi Pierantozzi

Cut out a basic jar shape using the “F” semi-circular template from the CircleMatic Formfinder Template Set* (figure 1). Form the oval for the bottom of the jar, then let the base stiffen up to leather hard. Divide the base into four sections, draw and cut arcs on all sides leaving at least an inch of space between each arc to create feet (figure 2). Flip the base over, then score and add slip to the entire cut area (figure 3).

Roll out a slab that’s larger than the base and place it over the scored and slipped area, then cut it flush with the edge of the arches (figure 4). Smooth out the cut edge with a pony roller and a sponge, pressing down to seal the attachment (figure 5).

1 Cut out the base of the jar using a Circle-Matic Form Finder template.2 Create feet by cutting out an arched form on each side.3 Refine the cuts so the feet are level and score and slip the edges.
Fitting an Oval Lid

Flip the base over onto its feet and put a piece of tracing paper over the opening. Trace the inside and outer edges of the opening with a water-based marker (figure 6).

On a small board have a soft slab ready that is at least one inch larger than your jar opening. Center the tracing paper drawing, ink-side down, on the slab and lightly run your finger over the drawing. The moisture in the clay will absorb the ink from the water-based marker, creating a print of the jar’s opening onto the clay (figure 7). Using a sharp knife, cut the slab about ³⁄8 to ½ inch larger than outside printed edge (figure 8). Refine and smooth the edges of the cut as these will be the outer rim of the lid.

4 Place a slab over the scored base, trim it flush to the sides and attach it.5 Use a pony roller to create a good join and define the pot’s edges.6 Flip the base over, add tracing paper, and trace the edges with a water-based marker.

Position the rim of the pot over the printed lines on the lid slab (figure 9), put another small board on top of the base then flip the two over together. Using the rim of the pot as a slump mold for the lid, roll a small wooden or Styrofoam ball around on the soft clay with slight pressure to create an even, concave shape (figure 10).

Cut a ½-inch-thick clay strip longer than you’ll need to fit inside the edge of your pushed-in lid. Place the strip at the point where the slope begins. Overlap the ends of the strip and cut the overlap at an angle so the ends fit together ( figure 11). Score and slip the edges of the strip and attach them together. Let the ring flange stiffen up inside the lid, but don’t attach it to the lid yet. When the flange has stiffened up enough to hold its shape, score both the flange and the inside of the lid (figure 12).

7 Remove the tracing paper to reveal the printed lines from the marker.8 Cut a slightly larger oval around the lines into a lid shape and refine the edges.9 Position the rim of the pot over the printed lines on the lid slab.

Tip: When scoring the flange, angle your scoring tool to create a bit of a curve so it matches the curve inside the pushed-in lid. Slip the scored parts and attach  them. Flip your lid over and you have a finished jar with a puffed lid (figure 13).

10 Flip both over. Roll a ball around to de-fine the rim and create a concave shape.11 Cut a strip of clay for the flange, trim it at an angle, and join the two ends.12 When the flange has stiffened, score the flange and the inside of the lid.13 Flip the lid over and check the fit. Adjust the flange if needed.

*The CircleMatic Form Finder Template Set, a set of 24 flexible, durable templates to create circular and conical forms is available at

**First published in 2016