Workshop Handbook: Making Clay Tools

Learn techniques from the pros in this FREE PDF!

Welcome to your workshop! Whether you enjoy throwing, handbuilding, glaze testing or all of the above, we’ve pulled together tool tips and techniques for you to try out once you get back to your studio.

If you’re familiar with Pottery Making Illustrated and Ceramics Monthly, then you already know they’re packed full of practical information, projects, and techniques you can use. The articles in this Clay Workshop Handbook provide a sampling of some of the great content you’ll discover in each issue.

Enjoy your workshop!

Check out this excerpt:

Unifying Form, Texture, and Surface

by Joyce St. Clair Voltz

The evolution of my sprigged jars illustrates that form, surface, and texture have been very meaningful to my artistic development and research. While exploring robust femininity in porcelain and how celebratory utilitarian forms relate to those ideas, the jar form has really stood out for me. A jar can have beautiful anthropomorphic qualities, an alluring potential for volume and containment, and a wonderful blend of utilitarian and sculptural elements. As I work, my goal is to find a place where form, texture, and surface all play an important role in expressing my ideas. It’s important for texture and surface to work to build the form as opposed to simply laying upon it. These relationships constantly challenge and excite me as I look for new balances between strength, beauty, and celebration.

Constructing the Parts

The body of the jar starts as a cylinder made from an 8–9 pound ball of clay. The form is proportioned like a bottom-heavy hourglass, with the collar located 2 inches below the rim (1). I leave the walls thick so that the form remains strong while I stamp the clay when it’s still fairly wet. The rim is left about ½ inch thick so that I can press stamps and waves into it. 

I throw a hollow bulb as an armature to support the sprigs on the lid knob (2). The armature size depends on the size of the jar body, since I want the final height of the sprigged knob to be about ⅔ the height of the body. The armature keeps the sprigs from shifting or slumping. The walls of the armature should be fairly thin to avoid adding too much extra weight. The lid needs to be heavy enough to support the weight of the sprigs.

1 Leave the rim about ½ inch thick, so that stamps can be pressed into it.

2 Throw the hollow armature for the sprigged lid off the hump.

3 Throw the gallery before the lid. The gallery will be attached later.

4 Throw the lid form off the hump. Throw it upside down as a shallow bowl.

Since the jar gallery and lid are thrown separately, I measure the inside of the jar body, ½ inch below the rim, then throw the gallery to match that diameter (3). The gallery will be attached after I have stamped the jar body. I’ve found that stamping all the way up to the rim of the body isn’t possible if the gallery is built in because it prevents applying pressure to the inside of the body to successfully manipulate the rim. 

The lid is also thrown off the hump (4). I want the lid to sit high on the form and for the dome of the lid to be fully visible.

Unifying Form, Texture, and Surface

by Joyce St. Clair Voltz

Joyce St. Clair Voltz layers painterly, colorful glazes over areas of deep, ornate texture in striking but functional porcelain vessels.

Standing Test Tiles

by Don Clark

Incorporate two DIY racks into your glaze room to manage glazing and firing batches of test tiles.

Archive Glaze Tests

by Alisa Liskin Clausen

Alisa Lisken Clausen revives several archived Ceramics Monthly glaze recipes to run new tests of the base glaze as well as col or variations.

Dots Galore

by Melissa Mytty

Melissa Mytty layers commercial underglazes and glazes to create dot patterns on her colorful tumblers.

Guest Potter Tips

by Lisa York

Get more out of group firings by being flexible and having plenty of work to fit various spaces in the kiln.

Exploring the Tulipiere

by Andrea Denniston

Andrea Denniston explores using cutouts on the necks of her vases to create more complex forms and expand their function.

Fab Lab Sponges

by Paul Wisotzky

This potter makes use of high-tech equipment to create numerous custom-cut sponge stamps.

Soft Bricks

by Catie Miller

Avoid unsightly stands when documenting plates and platters by employing this cheap and easy solution.

Applying Newsprint Transfers

by Arthur Halvorsen

Arthur Halvorsen’s colorful terra-cotta pots feature layers of monoprinted newsprint stickers that relay a personal and humorous narrative style.

X-Acto Knife Hacks

illustrated by Robin Ouellette

Try modifying your X-Acto knife by turning it into a carving, trimming, or scoring tool.

An Easy Introduction to Coil Buckets

by Melissa Weiss

Use thick coils to build a large bucket form, then refine it with a scraped surface and thoughtful handles.


Download the free guide right now, and become a better ceramic artist tomorrow. That’s our promise to you from Ceramic Arts Network!

Best regards,

Jennifer Poellot Harnetty
Editor, Ceramic Arts Daily

PS: Remember, the artists featured on Ceramic Arts Network are among the top ceramic artists in the world today, who excel in everything from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. When you download one of our free guides, you get the best possible advice available and you become a part of our community – enjoying our artists’ stories, gaining inspiration from their work and finding confidence to try new techniques every day!

PPS: Even if you’re not brand new to clay, this guide is bound to have some tips in it that you’ve never heard before – and remember, it’s absolutely FREE, so why wouldn’t you read it today?

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