Topic: Articles

In the Studio: Flip Your Lid

Glazed oval jar with fitted lid, porcelain, with slip-trailed design and clear glaze.


When handbuilding covered jars, it can be difficult to make a lid that fits well. Over the years I’ve devised a few ways to make handbuilt lids with flanges that fit snugly into the opening of an oval jar, or any other pot that has an oval opening with a lid such as a teapot or casserole.

Making an Oval Jar

Cut out a basic jar shape using the “F” semi-circular template from the CircleMatic Formfinder Template Set* (figure 1). Form the oval for the bottom of the jar, then let the base stiffen up to leather hard. Divide the base into four sections, draw and cut arcs on all sides leaving at least an inch of space between each arc to create feet (figure 2). Flip the base over, then score and add slip to the entire cut area (figure 3).

Roll out a slab that’s larger than the base and place it over the scored and slipped area, then cut it flush with the edge of the arches (figure 4). Smooth out the cut edge with a pony roller and a sponge, pressing down to seal the attachment (figure 5).

1 Cut out the base of the jar using a Circle-Matic Form Finder template.

2 Create feet by cutting out an arched form on each side.

3 Refine the cuts so the feet are level and score and slip the edges.


Fitting an Oval Lid

Flip the base over onto its feet and put a piece of tracing paper over the opening. Trace the inside and outer edges of the opening with a water-based marker (figure 6).

On a small board have a soft slab ready that is at least one inch larger than your jar opening. Center the tracing paper drawing, ink-side down, on the slab and lightly run your finger over the drawing. The moisture in the clay will absorb the ink from the water-based marker, creating a print of the jar’s opening onto the clay (figure 7). Using a sharp knife, cut the slab about ³⁄8 to ½ inch larger than outside printed edge (figure 8). Refine and smooth the edges of the cut as these will be the outer rim of the lid.

4 Place a slab over the scored base, trim it flush to the sides and attach it.

5 Use a pony roller to create a good join and define the pot’s edges.

6 Flip the base over, add tracing paper, and trace the edges with a water-based marker.

7 Remove the tracing paper to reveal the printed lines from the marker.

8 Cut a slightly larger oval around the lines into a lid shape and refine the edges.

9 Position the rim of the pot over the printed lines on the lid slab.


Position the rim of the jar over the printed lines on the lid slab (figure 9), put another small board on top of the base then flip the two over together. Using the rim of the jar as a slump mold for the lid, roll a small wooden or Styrofoam ball around on the soft clay with slight pressure to create an even, concave shape (figure 10).

Cut a ½-inch-thick clay strip longer than you’ll need to fit inside the edge of your pushed-in lid. Place the strip at the point where the slope begins. Overlap the ends of the strip and cut the overlap at an angle so the ends fit together (figure 11). Score and slip the edges of the strip and attach them together. Let the ring flange stiffen up inside the lid, but don’t attach it to the lid yet. When the flange has stiffened up enough to hold its shape, score both the flange and the inside of the lid (figure 12). Tip: When scoring the flange, angle your scoring tool to create a bit of a curve so it matches the curve inside the pushed-in lid. Slip the scored parts and attach  them. Flip your lid over and you have a finished jar with a puffed lid (figure 13).

10 Flip both over. Roll a ball around to de-fine the rim and create a concave shape.

11 Cut a strip of clay for the flange, trim it at an angle, and join the two ends.

12 When the flange has stiffened, score the flange and the inside of the lid.

13 Flip the lid over and check the fit. Adjust the flange if needed.

*The CircleMatic Form Finder Template Set, a set of 24 flexible, durable templates to create circular and conical forms is available at

the author Sandi Pierantozzi is a nationally recognized potter and has been handbuilding pots for 30 years. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and books on ceramics. She has presented many workshops across the country, and has exhibited her work nationally and abroad. Her work is in both museum and private collections. She and her husband, Neil Patterson, maintain a private studio, Neighborhood Potters, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To see and learn more, visit


Comments are closed.

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend