Besides being adorable and practical, I had the most fun working out the match-striker design. I had a picture in my head: the perfect match striker. I sat down to make my vision, and it totally didn’t work. This is something I am always trying to get my students to understand: our first idea is most likely not our best idea and most definitely not our last idea. What comes out in the making are the realities of the object, what will work and what won’t, and new ideas.

In the development of this little match striker, I started playing with several ideas after my imagining didn’t pan out. When one prototypes a new object, it is important to lay out the needed components. The elements of a match striker are: 

  • Someplace to strike a match (an unglazed clay surface)
  • Someplace to store fresh matches
  • Someplace to deposit the hot used matchstick

I always recommend sketching out some possible ideas with a pen and paper, but often times that doesn’t feel right or translate into a 3D form, and it is necessary to sketch with clay. Seeing things in three dimensions is sometimes how our brains need to process these kinds of objects.

When sketching with clay, I try to work quickly and make several very different iterations of a form. Often I’ll set a goal—say five iterations in an hour. This makes sure I’m not focusing on craftsmanship but more on the design and the overall feel of the object. Craftsmanship will come later, when I decide on a direction to investigate. Sometimes how an object comes together initially can be very clumsy, but after I have the idea and form developed, I will reverse engineer a better/cleaner way for the object to be built. What was surprising on the development of this object was how different each match striker was in overall feeling and appearance. I knew immediately which one spoke to me and felt like “the one.”

A quick side note on the other failed match strikers. I didn’t toss these into the recycle bin, but cleaned them up and thought I’d use them for some glaze testers and to possibly share as the prototyping process. After they came through the process, I realized there was another gem in there that interested me and will be an avenue that is ripe for exploration. Don’t be quick to toss aside all your experiments—sometimes there is a diamond in the rough that doesn’t spark your interest immediately, but you will warm to over time and contemplation. Let’s get making!

Roll out a ¼-inch (0.6 cm)-thick slab. (If you want to roll two slabs, the bottom footprint can be thicker, but for the walls I recommend the ¼-inch (0.6 cm) thickness for the slab.) Using the paper templates, cut out the pieces, five in total, and let them firm up to leather hard (1).

1 Cut the five template pieces out of a leather-hard slab. 2 Mark and score a line 2½ inches from the curved edge of the largest piece.

Assembling the Pieces

You are now ready to assemble the pieces. On your working surface, place the footprint (the largest piece). Measure 2½ inches (6.3 cm) from the curved edge, making a straight line with your needle tool. Score along this line (2). Take the largest square slab and score the bottom edge. (You can hold it up to the footprint to double-check whether it fits.) Attach the pieces (3).

Find the two matching side pieces (they have the sloped cut). Score the long edge and the bottom, score the wall and the footprint, wet one side of the attachment, and assemble. Clean up and make sure the pieces are vertical and even with the footprint (4).

Using the last template piece, cut it down to fit in between the two side pieces (5). Assemble on the diagonal, bevel the bottom edge to rest against the wall, and line up the slab to reach just past the corners of the sloped pieces. Use your needle tool to trace where you need to score. Score, attach, and clean up the seams (6).

3 Use slip to attach the large rectangular piece to the scored line. 4 Attach the sloped side pieces, making sure they are vertical and even.5 Attach the smaller rectangular piece diagonally between the side walls. 6 Clean up the attachment points and edge of the structure.

Roll out a fresh slab that is ¼ inch (0.6 cm) thick, 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide, and roughly 6 inches to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 cm) long. Bevel the curved edge of the footprint. Bevel the bottom edge of the slab to match. Score both sides and up the front outside edge of the wall. Cut the slab to fit, score the edges, and attach to the footprint and wall. Clean up the interior and exterior seams, using a rib and wooden knife (7).

Using a scalpel, find the center of the dish and make a ½ inch (1.3 cm) cut straight down. Cut from there to the top of the slab attachment at an angle, and repeat for the other side. This will create a roughly symmetrical sloped wall. Use your knife or Surform to even this if it is way off (this takes a bit of practice) (8).

7 Along the back side, fit a fresh slab around the perimeter of the base. 8 Create a symmetrical slope in the slab, cutting up from the center to the corners.

Take a serrated rib and texture the match-strike area. This area will remain unglazed and needs to be rough enough to light a strike-anywhere type of match. After you have applied the texture, finish the edge. I made a quick paper cutout of a scalloped shape that fit the strike plate and used a scalpel to cut the edge, rolling the edges to soften the cut.

9 Finish and soften the slab edges by pinching with your fingers.

Finishing Touches

Use your fingers to gently pinch all the edges of the pot to soften those lines. (This may be difficult if your pieces are getting closer to a bone-dry state. You want there to be a little bit of give to the wall edge.) Finishing an edge is the last personal touch, so play around and see what works for you (9).

Excerpted from The Beginner’s Guide to Hand Building: Functional and Sculptural Projects for the Home Potter by Sunshine Cobb and published by Quarry Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2022. To learn more, visit, See more of Sunshine Cobb’s work online at or on Instagram @shinygbird.