Rustic Handbuilt Work Blurs the Lines Between Functional Pottery and Ceramic Sculpture

Having blacksmiths, farmers, and painters in his ancestry, ceramic artist Joseph Pintz has always had an appreciation for those who make things with their hands. So it is no surprise that he now makes a living making things with his hands and teaching others to do so. Drawing from a Shaker sensibility, his work is not ornate or intricate, but rather understated and direct like the objects his ancestors may have used in their given trades (and kitchens). But, while those objects may have been used for utilitarian purposes only, Joseph’s bowls, toolboxes, and cooking implements straddle the line between functional pottery and nonfunctional ceramic sculpture and examine our physical and emotional connection to our domestic objects. Today, Joseph shares his clay body and glaze recipe he uses to give his work that vintage, rustic look. Plus he talks about the process behind his rough-hewn, handbuilt pottery. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.



During graduate school, I began experimenting with clay from a local brick manufacturer (Endicott Clay Products, Fairbury, Nebraska). Their “potting clay” has great working characteristics – plasticity, density and a rich color. It also has the benefit of not being over-processed. With a few minor alterations, the clay that was sent down the conveyor belt to make bricks has become the backbone of my clay body.

I employ a handful of rudimentary handbuilding techniques to create my forms. I pound soft clay over bisque molds with a mallet to establish basic shapes, such as bowls. Paper patterns are used to create more delicate forms, such as cups, and thicker forms (toolboxes and plates) are carved from a solid block. Although working reductively is not always practical, it allows me to find the form more intuitively. Once the clay stiffens to a leather-hard stage, forms are trimmed and refined further. This dredges up the coarse grog within the clay and creates a unique texture. Once the clay dries to a bone-dry state, I brush on several layers of slip or terra sigillata. After bisque firing, I apply glazes to create subtle, weathered surfaces that suggest a history of use. The work is then fired in an electric kiln to cone 02.

Raw Earthenware Clay Body Cone 04-02
Raw Material
Wollastonite 5%
Cedar Heights Redart 12.5%
Carbondale Red 12.5%
Endicott Potting Clay 70%
Total 100%
Grog (coarse and fine) 15-25%
Add 1/4 cup barium carbonate to a 100 lb batch of this clay body to prevent scumming.
Hirsh Satin Matt Base Glaze Cone 04-02
Raw Material
Gerstley Borate 32%
Lithium Carbonate 9%
Whiting 17%
Nepheline Syenite 4%
EPK Kaolin 4%
Silica 35%
Total 100%
Bentonite 2%
For green, add:
Chrome Oxide
For yellow, add: 1%
Yellow Stain 8%
For light blue, add:
Copper Carbonate 1.5%

Joseph Pintz teaches ceramics at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and is represented by Turman Larison Contemporary ( in Helena, Montana. To see more of Pintz’ work, visit



  • Carving a plate? This I need to know more about. I’ll be looking for a website, but in the meantime, fascinating introduction! –Sue

  • Chelsea L.

    I am currently one of Joe’s students and get to see his work up close and personal on a regular basis. The textures he creates are wonderful and intriguing.
    I’m a pretty big fan! Sue, I know how easy it is to get caught up in it all!

  • Carole G.

    i really like style look and colors of this work terrific

  • OK. You just cost me four hours. I dug (haha) around to find your website and four hours later, I was still following your work around the internet.

    Fellow readers, do yourself a favor and take a look. You’ll see how his extraordinary work can/will free you from what a friend said…”I favor wheel work because I want my handwork to look like it came from a machine!” (huh?)

    Just go take a look.


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