How to Incorporate Colored Clay into Delicate Pinched Coil Vases

pinchedvasesWith their delicate undulating rims, Cheryl Malone’s seemingly paper-thin vases bear a striking resemblance to flower petals. No surprise since Cheryl is inspired by the growth patterns of plants and their similarities to the coil building process.   To pull off such petal thin work through the coil/pinch process takes practice, and in an excerpt from our new release Handbuilding Techniques, Cheryl shares her secrets to making it happen. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Click to enlarge!

Click image to enlarge!

Deliberate Forming

The working process begins by continuously rotating and pinching while opening out a wedged 200-gram porcelain ball that fits into your palm. Be sure that the base remains thick enough to anchor the pinched form (figure 1). After pressing the pinched pot down on to a banding wheel, use a metal kidney rib to open out the form further and smooth the outside (figure 2). Additional coils are added and simultaneously pinched and folded onto the inside surface of the vessel (figure 3). Using the left hand to pinch the coil up and the right hand to fold it down, attach the coil to the exterior wall surface (figure 4).


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5-6The wall surfaces are again smoothed and the vessel is pinched upwards with the thumb and forefinger using both hands simultaneously until the vessel gains height (figure 5) and the coil becomes integrated (figure 6). My intention here is to achieve an even wall thickness throughout the form and to unify the coils making up the piece. Again, use the metal kidney rib to smooth out the form. The more the walls are stretched and smoothed, the more translucent the final vessel will be. Each coiled layer should dry sufficiently (not quite to leather hard) but still be slightly plastic before the next coiling cycle begins. This allows the vessel to be strong enough to hold each successive layer. I often work on two or more pieces simultaneously (figure 7). I choose to work on a form from my Petal Sequence Vessel series while also working on one from the Foliated Vessel series. Although each series is quite different, an interesting dialog and subtle resonance evolves between the vessels by working in this way, which would otherwise not occur.


7-8Incorporating Colored Layers

The stratified colored layers (figures 7 and 8), are made visible by wedging dry measures of oxides (or commercial body stains) into the porcelain clay body prior to coiling. The color of the green band is achieved by adding a quarter teaspoon of chrome oxide and half a teaspoon of tin oxide to 400 grams of porcelain body. Wearing gloves and a mask, the two are wedged until fully integrated and plastic (makes about 4–5 coils). For the rim, 1/8 teaspoon of black iron oxide is wedged into 200 grams of porcelain body (makes 3 coils) The colored coils are added to the vessel and incorporated just like the previous porcelain coils were added. Keeping layers visible and separate takes practice and patience (figure 9).

pinched_9To remove unwanted smudges or fingerprints of colored clay from the white areas of the vessel, use a sharp metal kidney rib to scrape the colored clay off of the surface, then use the same rib or a rubber rib to smooth the surface. After the last coil is added, smooth the rim to remove any sharp areas but leave the contour so it remains naturally undulating.



With the building process complete, the pieces are left to completely dry. I then bisque fire the pieces to 1832°F (1000°C) in an electric kiln, after which the vessels are lightly sanded with silicon carbide sandpaper or fine sandpaper, to remove any roughness to make them ready for decorating and glazing.

For more fabulous forming techniques, be sure to download your free copy of Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery.

  • Jonathan B.

    Great work and very delicate.

  • Subscriber H.

    Fyi: As of July 21, 2015, the images don’t show in the article, but if you click on them, they do enlarge normally. Close the enlargements, and they disappear again.

  • Christine G.

    Thanks for a great explanation, I am also interested in how you make the really fine lines on hte finished piece especially how you manage to get them on the inside of the pot!

  • Ginny C.

    Lovely, Cheryl!! But please explain how you made the black lines!! They are beautifully done. Are they really added after bisqueing? Can you give us a little description of your technique for them?
    Ginny Clark

  • Pauline P.

    could not see pictures yesterday, today all are visible.

  • Loretta B.

    I’m not having any problem with the photos. On a PC using Firefox browser.

  • Ryan S.

    Hi all, how are we looking now with the images? Everyone should be able to see them now. Please let us know if you are still having trouble.

    Thank you for you patience,


  • George O.

    I see the photos just fine I have a Mac Laptop using Yosemite operating system and Safari for browsing.

  • Pamela B.

    Hi, I’m having problems similar to others and I am using an Ipad Air and a PC with Windows 7.

  • Harriet H.

    Unable to see photos. Using a Mac desktop with Chrome.

  • Kaaren B.

    Hi Jennifer,

    I use a MacBook Pro, & just updated to latest update for OS X Mountain Lion, thinking that that may fix the “no images” glitch. No access to images on peripheral devices either. I keep a pretty “clean – lean” computer…not a lot of stored “garbage”. Seeing that there are numerous discussions about this issue involving a variety of computers, devices, programs, etc., leads me to believe the glitch is in the data transmission, not reception. I have been experiencing this problem for about a week. There is a question mark in the middle of a blank frame where the image is supposed to be. Thanks for great articles though.

  • Vadie B.

    i use windows and chrome browser, for some time i have had troubles with viewing your emails.they always show brokens files where the pictures should be so i closed the window and did not bother.
    but today i tried clicking for the image pic #1 & 3 do not come up the images between do.
    And yes my cache is cleared

  • Julian X.

    One thing more – this is a recent problem, so there may be something different in how the images are encoded in older articles. I’m going to pull some of them up and investigate the code further.

  • oleksii b.

    I can`t see images too. I`m using Firefox on Ubuntu desktop. I see them, when browser open link first time, but after refreshing page they disappear.

    P.S.: This article is very helpful. Thank You!

  • Julian X.

    If it is working for Jennifer but not for the rest of us, it could be a problem with how the images are saved from Photoshop – are they CMYK (won’t display) or RGB (should display) – or with the image filesize (below 100 mb should display). It could also be a discrepancy with your image file naming conventions and how they are accessed in the html. If you’ve already eliminated these as issues, use or another web debugger to emulate entering the website from a different domain and use in-browser dev tools to diagnose the problem. I’ve tried the basic web debugging options available in Chrome myself and they’re not telling me anything useful, for what it’s worth.

    Looking at the site on a Mac OSX 10.10.3:

    Chrome 42.0.2311.90 – I don’t see the article images on the page, but I do see them (except the first one, pinchcoil_620) when I click to enlarge. I do see all the images in the right side column. 1 px outlined div containers are visible where all article images should appear. Alt image text is visible, left aligned in the containers.

    Firefox 37.0.1 – I see the first article image on the page, but not when I click it to enlarge. The remaining images do not appear on the page. I don’t see the 1px silver outline where the images should appear in the article body (which I do see in Chrome). Alt image text is visible, but centered in the spaces where images should be. There is extra space where the images should appear, but not as much as Chrome or Safari. Image 2 (figures 1-4) doesn’t load when I click to enlarge, but Image 3 does. Clicking the Prev button in photogallery mode does not load figures 1-4 or pinchcoil_620, but I can view figures 5 and 6, 7 and 8, and 9 in the gallery. Like Chrome, I can see all the images in the right side column.

    Safari 8.0.5 – virtually identical to Chrome experience.

    I have a Windows 8.1 machine available to me with previous Windows versions for further debugging if you like. Please contact me directly at vikingsoprano at gmail dot com so I can send you screenshots.

  • Diana S.

    Hi Jennifer. I think the problem is your end as so many of us are having problems. The little icon I get in top left corner is different from the usual one. The photos are not revealed when I click on it. Haven’t noticed having aproblem with any other site. I use desktop computer, PC, google chrome.

  • Leslie W.

    No photos. On a Mac – desktop.

  • Christine D.

    I have Windows and have always been able to print the Freebies – until this one. Something is not working on your end.

  • Debi L.

    I use Chrome and I’ve been having this issue for about a week now. Thought it was my internet connection till I read the comments. Sometimes I can refresh a few times and get one or two photos to pull up sometimes not. The video’s I have been able to watch normally. Can’t view pics even when I click to enlarge though.

  • Lori G.

    @ Jennifer – I tried it first on a Mac desktop with Chrome. Clicking to enlarge the image resulted in nothing. Then I tried it on my mobile device (Android). Still no images. Clicking to enlarge an image gave me a Page Not Found error. Then I went back and tried it through Safari. One image loaded and the others showed up in the expanded view, but not when embedded in the article.

  • Ceramics Enthusiast C.

    You can’t view the pictures on a windows computer either. What have they broken on their website and is anybody reading these that might be able to fix it?

  • Peggy B.

    Been having the same issues for the last week or so….on a laptop Mac using Safari.

  • Albert G.

    there has been a change in the way the photos are displayed. It looks like I’m not the only one with the problem.

  • Jenny R.

    Beautiful pots, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing them with us and for reminding us of this ancient, simple and obviously very effective potting technique.

  • Jennifer H.

    Hi All! So sorry about this image issue. It has been really hard to figure out because it is not happening for us! One question for all of you: are you on a mobile device or a desktop computer? If desktop, is it Mac or PC? What browser are you using? Thanks for your help and patience. Hopefully we will get this solved soon!

  • Linda A.

    I haven’t been able to load photos for about a week. Did something change in the production process? I am able to see them, sometimes, when I click in the space, but not embedded in the article.

  • Barbara W.


  • Jennifer K.

    I can’t get the pictures either.

  • Lori G.

    I’ve cleared my cache and restarted my browser (Google Chrome) and I’m still not able to see the images.

  • Renee S.

    I’m not getting them either.

  • Jennifer H.

    @ Laurie Hoen, please try clearing your cache and see if that helps. We are still working to discover the cause of this problem, and suspect it might have to do with caching. Let us know if that doesn’t do the trick. Thanks!

  • laurie h.

    Many of the pictures are not loading…is this a problem with the article or my computer?

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