I enjoy making containers. My kitchen counter is lined with jars filled with different items such as tea, coffee, spices, and of course one for garlic and shallots. As someone who enjoys cooking, I keep common ingredients close at hand. This is a form you can easily adjust the amount of clay you start with to make a container that might only hold two heads of garlic to one that may hold multiple heads of garlic and several shallots. Enjoy playing around with this form and making one perfectly suited to your cooking needs. 

Throwing and Shaping 

Start with 2½ pounds (1 kg) of clay. Making a final form that is approximately 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, I center my clay to 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. You can easily adjust this to suit the final shape and height you are making. When opening, use your fingers to create a wider bottom (1), this will help in tapering the cylinder as you pull. 

Throw a cylinder that is pretty thick and about 7 inches (17.8 cm) tall. As you are throwing the cylinder, taper the top, this will make closing the top easier (2). On the next pull, push out the bottom several inches and strongly collar the top several inches. Next, using a metal rib and sponge, clean up the inside and outside walls, making sure there is no water on the inside of the cylinder. 

1 Center clay ball. When opening, use your fingers to create a wider base. 2 Throw a tall and tapered cylinder. Clean up the inside and outside walls.

You will then begin to close in the top of the form (3). Leaving the walls a little thicker gives you some wiggle room to push the clay inward creating a flatter top. Continue narrowing the opening until you can pinch the top closed (4). Using your metal rib, remove the slip from the sides and top of your form. You can also adjust the exterior shape, creating a flatter top with straighter sides. Straight sides will make trimming the lid easier (5). 

Allow the form to dry to leather hard. As the piece begins to dry (and shrink) you will need to put a small needle opening about where you will create the lid. 

3 Continue tapering in the top creating a rounded flat shoulder area. 4 Continue tapering in the top until you can pinch the top closed.

5 With air trapped inside, use a rib to can clean off the slip then refine the shape.


When the piece is leather hard, use a trimming tool with a straight end. While holding your hand very steady, trim into the side of the piece leaving at least ½ inch (1.3 cm) of wall above where you begin to trim (6)—this will be the part of the lid that fits down onto the base of the container. Trim into the side approximately ¼ inch to ⅛ inch (0.6–0.3 cm). This will vary based on the thickness of your walls. 

Once you have created that gallery, use your sharpest studio knife to separate the lid from the base (7). Hold your knife at the top of the inset trimmed area and spin the wheel slowly, separating the lid from the base. 

6 Use a narrow, straight-sided tool, trim the gallery and flange into the side wall. 7 Using a sharp knife, cut off the lid at the top of your trimmed edge.

At this point, you may need to let the pieces dry a little more. When you are able, test the lid on top of the bottom. This will give you an idea of how much trimming you will need to do on the lid so that it will fit the bottom. 

In the next step, you will invert the lid onto the bottom, so the flange you created sets up enough to support the weight of the lid (8). Add a small ball of clay to the inside center of the lid (where you closed the form). This area is difficult to compress and it can often develop an S-crack during firing. I find adding a small ball of clay helps prevent this crack and creates a more pleasing look to the inside of the lid. Trim the lid while it is centered on the bottom section. Begin trimming the inside edge of the lid, while also trimming down the inside edge of the lid about ⅓ to ½ inch (0.8 to 1.3 cm). Do this to thin the wall of the inside of the lid to that thickness, not trim the height. Make sure to flip the lid to check for how nicely it fits on the bottom, you may need to do this a couple of times. 

Once the lid has been trimmed, set it aside and clean up the bottom. You may want to trim the flange of the bottom to create a flatter surface for the lid to fit (9). Check how well the lid fits on the bottom and trim the two pieces while they are together for a smooth and even fit (10). I like to trim a little on the top of the piece, creating an edge right at the top where the dome of the lid begins. This is the area where I add carving or decoration to the final piece. 

8 Invert the top onto the bottom, then trim inside rim of the lid to fit the bottom. 9 Remove the lid and trim the gallery on the bottom of the pot.

10 Fit the top to the bottom, then trim the outside to remove any unevenness.

Next, release the bottom from the bat with your wire tool. Once the bottom is dry enough, trim it to create a nice smooth surface. I also create a bevel at the edge of the base for ease of glazing and the visual lift that it gives the piece when sitting on the counter. 

Adding Holes and Finishing Touches 

Now, use a hole cutter to add holes in the side of the garlic keeper (11). This allows gases to escape, keeping the garlic fresh longer. Have fun with the pattern and size of the holes on the side. I only add holes on the bottom section but if there is ample space you could add holes to the lid as well. 

If you created the edge on the lid of the piece, this is a great place for carving (12), decorating, or a second glaze color. It reminds me of bamboo steamer baskets that have a woven top. Make sure you dry the finished piece with the top in place so both sections can dry together. 

11 Pierce holes on the bottom section of the pot. 12 Carve or otherwise decorate the center space on the lid.

Wendy Wrenn Werstlein is a potter living and working in Floyd, Virginia. She left a career as a high school science teacher to be a potter. She attended Haywood Community College for an associate’s degree in professional crafts and completed a two-year apprenticeship with Silvie Granatelli. She is a member of the 16 Hands Studio Tour as well as art guilds in the region. For more information, visit Instagram and Facebook @wrennpottery, wrennpottery.com, and 16hands.com.