Quilting with Clay: A Handbuilt Soft Slab Ceramic Wall Art Project


With Mother’s Day approaching, I thought it would be nice to share this post from one of my favorite clay mamas, Amy Sanders. This project is kind of a tribute to Amy’s mother and grandmother. Amy grew up watching her mother and grandmother sew and quilt. So it’s no surprise that her clay work, which includes functional pottery as well as decorative wall pieces, has the appearance of soft quilted fabric. I love that Amy took this influence from her mom and grandma and translated it so beautifully into clay.

In today’s post, you’ll learn how Amy constructs her quilt-like ceramic wall pieces. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. If you have a favorite clay mom, now is a great time to treat her to some inspiration from the CAD Shop. We’re having our Mother’s Day Sale early this year so any gifts can make it in time for Mom’s big day! Use promo code CLAYMAMA and get 25% off anything in the shop! But hurry…the sale ends 5-3-17 at 7:00 EDT!

A Handbuilt Ceramic “Quilt”

by Amy Sanders

Begin with a relatively thin slab of fresh clay; if it is really soft, allow it to dry a little to the point that the corner will stand up when bent (this entire process will be done with soft clay with no drying in between). Compress and smooth with a metal rib. Cut out desired shape for the wall piece, a square or rectangle works best, and start small for the first try (about 5″ x 5″ will do). These pieces look nice hung in multiples, so I often create a template out of scrap card stock (old exhibition post cards work nicely) that I can use over and over again. This will become the design inside the border of the piece.

This article is one of the many great technique articles in Studio Ceramics: Advanced Techniques, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Daily Shop!

Cut the square into sections similar to piecing a quilt. Impress textures in the individual sections with handmade stamps, marks from tools or other items around your studio.


Turn sections upside down. To protect the textures, I often lay the clay on a piece of foam. Carefully bend up the edges that will become the inside seams.


Pinch together seams (no need to score at this point). Start with the shorter seams first, then connect the longer ones.


Bend all outside edges up to prepare for the border. Turn down any inner seams first. If your clay seems to be getting dry, run a damp sponge over the edges.


Cut out 4 long pieces for a border (they must be long enough to extend past the inner design on both sides). Turn up border edges and pinch together. For the last piece of border, bend the long and short edge that meet the corner and pinch together.


Carefully roll one of the border slabs around to meet the ridges of the inside seams. Do this on all four sides.


Cut out a slab that extends over half of the border. Wet and score both the border and back of slab.


Cut 2 holes into backing slab that will eventually receive a wire for hanging. Attach back and compress carefully with finger.



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

**First published in 2009
  • This is fantastic. I’ve wanted to quilt with clay and now You’ve given me a good foundation. Thank you. this is great. your work is beautiful.
    cape coral

  • What fun and clever pieces you’ve created! I do have a question though. In photo #8 where you are attaching a slab to the back of the quilt square, does the slab cover the entire back of the quilt square? If so, I am wondering how you keep from trapping air pockets where the ‘seams’ of the pieces protrude.

    Thank you!

  • Amy, I LOVE your technique and can’t wait to try it!!! I even bought the stationary from Clay Council with the photo of some of your handiwork. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂
    Bev Haas

  • Like Amy, I would love to have more details about attaching the back. I also wonder if running a wire in and out of the two holes can be difficult? This looks like fun!

  • Thanks for all the kind responses! To answer a couple of the questions:

    -Amy M.: no air will be trapped. There are two holes in the back piece to receive wire (as the hanging mechanism) after glaze firing. That would release any air trapped.

    -Janet A.: I typically keep my holes relatively close together and just loop the wire through. The only time there are issues with this is if there is a quilting seam between those two holes that could potentially block the wire. I will usually just plan my design ahead of time to avoid this or just lay that seam down before attaching the back piece.

    Hope this helps!

  • As a pottery instructor I am always looking for new slab projects for those of my students that do not have the strength to throw on the wheel. It looks like you have provided us with another winner!
    Thanks Gene in Amarillo

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