How to Make a Pinched Vase Form from a Solid Lump of Clay

Paul Briggs explains his fascinating pinch pot process for a pedestal vase.

Pinched Vase

At first glance at Paul Briggs’ vases, you might assume that the leaf-like protuberances are attached after forming the vessel. Actually, his vase forms are pinched from one single lump of clay

In today’s post, an excerpt from the February 2021 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Paul explains his fascinating pinch pot process for a pedestal vase. Enjoy! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

P.S. See the February issue of Ceramics Monthly to learn about Paul’s career path and two distinct bodies of work.


I begin by making a sphere, but then flatten one side to create a mound, as if I was preparing to center it on the wheel (1). The primary difference in my approach to pinch forming is the start; I pinch into the center of a circle not a sphere. In the images, I am using a little less than 2 pounds of clay. For beginners of this process, I recommend 1 pound or even ½ pound.

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To begin opening the pot, pinch into the center of the circle, pinching to the bottom, and stopping short about 1/4 inch from the bottom. Then, begin pinching/pulling the clay upward (2). I have found hand turning the clay while pinching upward, overlapping every pinch, and forming a spiral pattern to be a great pinching method (3, 4).

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Periodically moisten the lip and compress it onto a flat surface (5). Continue to move the clay toward the lip by pinching and hand turning. Note: The form is not set on the bottom (trimmed) until nearly pulled and pinched up. Although it is not necessary and can add another challenge, when preparing the bottom to pinch a foot, I leave ½ inch of clay to pinch from this end as well.

If forming a foot, pinch down into the ½ inch of clay left at the bottom at the beginning of the process (6). Start the foot by slowly pinching out from the center (7). Pinch down about ¼ inch, forming the foot to the desired silhouette (8). After forming the foot, continue to thin/pinch the walls, moving clay toward the lip (9).

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On the way up, skip over a thick section of clay, leaving a ring of clay and continue pinching toward the lip. On a large form, several rings can be created (10). Compress the lip and moisten the ring of clay.

Use a hair dryer or heat gun to stiffen the foot enough to finally flip the piece right side up. With the heat gun, this takes about 1–2 minutes while turning the piece. Once the piece is flipped, I often stiffen it a bit more on the inside with the heat gun for about two minutes and re-moisten the lip with a brush.

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Expand the ring around the pot, thinning the walls between the rings (11). Make sure to expand and compress the lip (12). Apply moisture one last time to all sides of the clay ring. Pinch knobs into the ring using the side of the fingers supporting the clay from the inside (13). Pinch the knobs into a desired form (14). Continue pinching any additional rings or the lip into knobs, which can be shaped in a variety of ways (15, 16). When complete, allow the piece to slowly dry.

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17 Blossom with Pedestal Foot, 5 in. (13 cm) in height, pinch-formed mid-range PSH #519 stoneware, Vari-egated Green (Varigreen) glaze.

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