Capturing the Exuberance of Nature in a Wheel Thrown and Altered Pottery Form


The perky tail and plump belly on this pitcher were inspired by the wrens that used to sing to Charlie Tefft in his North Carolina studio.

It’s one thing to be inspired by something in your work. It’s another to actually make something that transforms that inspiration into a piece that is all your own. Greensboro, North Carolina, potter Charlie Tefft once shared a studio with a family of Carolina Wrens. He pays homage to those wrens through one of his signature forms: the wren pitcher (shown at left).


As we can all imagine, getting the perky tail and plump, speckled body so “right on” took some patience and practice. Charlie says he crafted and recrafted the piece before getting it just right. In today’s post, Tefft shares the steps in his careful construction.




I throw the pitchers using a white stoneware pull the spouts before placing them in the damp closet to slowly dry. The damp closet dries the pots more evenly than setting them out in the studio to air dry.


Once the surface of the clay is no longer tacky and the pot is still soft and malleable, I start the process of cutting, folding and paddling.




Inspirational Shapes.

Deb Schwartzkoph shows you how to create complex forms with handbuilt and wheel thrown parts in her 2-hour DVD Pieces and Patterns.

Watch a clip here!




When cutting a V, I make sure the sides are equal lengths. This ensures that the lip will meet up once the top is folded together. After the seam is worked together, I use a metal rib to smooth the rough area so that the incision is hidden. Where the lip is joined together, there is a sharp angle that will tend to crack in the drying and firing. To reinforce the lip, I add clay and blend it into the lip.


Once reinforced, I can start paddling to reshape the seam and soften the two pointed areas created by the fold. Now, I can shape the spout and pouring area. Once the reshaping of the body is done, I put the pitcher(s) back in the damp closet to stiffen up before I add the handle and cut the foot into a triangular shape.



  • Subscriber T.

    Thanks for all the knowledge of what one can do with clay. I have always sculpted in wax in the past for detailed and realistic figures and animals which were cast in bronze. Too expensive and time consuming for a retiree like me. Hope find someone in the Davidson, N.C. area (Cabarrus County) who will share their kiln with me. Am inspired by articles such as these. Carol Ann Minor

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