I create sculptural pots inspired by chrysalides, bones, seed pods, and other small details that can be discovered while walking in rural Wisconsin. My pinch pots have a sense of accordion-like compression, enhanced by handle placement and my use of terra sigillata.

Building the Footring

To create a pinched pitcher, begin with a slightly oval-shaped piece of clay that is about 1½ pounds (0.68 kg). Using your fist or palm, gently compress the clay against a banding wheel (1). It is important to remove air pockets/gaps from the bottom of the clay by compressing well. 

Using your thumb, press the outer edge of the clay into the banding wheel all the way around. This will create a slope that will become part of the foot ring. Next, press your thumb down into the center of the clay and begin forming walls by rotating and pinching (2). Use a knife to cut the rim at an angle, this will determine the placement of the bottom of the handle as well as the based of the spout, setting up the form for its accordion-like sense of compression.

1 Compress the clay with your fist. Press the outer edge down with your thumb. 2 Pinch the wall into a concave curve. Cut an angle, the lower side is the front.

To create a varied foot edge, use a wooden rib to undercut where the clay meets the banding wheel (3). This will create a strip of clay with an irregular edge that is then gently pressed into the pot (see 10). With a wire tool, cut the piece off of the banding wheel and allow it to dry to a soft leather hard.

Once the piece is firm enough, turn it over and use a ribbon tool to trim a foot ring (4). Gently press any clay burrs back into the foot to ensure a smooth surface. 

3 Undercut the bottom edge, then press the clay up into the wall to create a foot. 4 Trim the bottom. Blend in any clay burrs for a smooth surface.

Creating the Body Layers 

For each of the next three layers of the pitcher, roll out a tapered coil with the center being thicker than the ends. The tapered shape will assist in creating a visual accordion-like form. 

Next, score only the interior edge of the lip, all the way around the piece. Place the thick center of the coil on the lowest part of the rim. Using both thumbs, pinch the coil into the first section of the pot (5). The bottom thumb pushes up while the top thumb pushes down, crimping the new clay into the old clay. Pinch the coil into the desired curve and thickness, and then use a knife to cut the rim, leaving one side higher than the other. The angle of the concave curves changes the overall sense of compression, more exaggerated curves will yield a seemingly more exaggerated form in response to the handle and spout. Pinching allows the mark of the maker to remain throughout the entire process, reminding the user of the hands that formed the clay and the once-soft and pliable nature of the material. 

5 Pinch the thick center of a tapered coil into a curve on the lowest part of the lip. 6 Use a silicone-tipped tool to blend the interior seam. Add two more layers.

With a silicone-tipped tool, compress and blend the interior seam together (6). Use a damp finger to soften any tool marks. Repeat these steps, creating each layer, until the three layers of the body of the pitcher are completed, allowing each layer to reach a soft leather-hard stage before adding the next layer. 

To complete the rim, roll out a thin coil and use your fingertips to flatten it against your work surface. Allow the marks from your fingertips to remain for consistency and compress the coil until it is only a few millimeters thick. With a ribbon tool, cut a strip of clay to attach to the rim interior (7). This strip echoes the qualities of the foot and creates a clear edge for the liner glaze to end. Score and slip the soft leather-hard rim on the body and then gently press the strip of clay into place (8). The strip should be lightly compressed without any gaps between the wall and the strip. 

7 Use a ribbon tool to cut a long, thin strip of clay from a flattened coil. 8 Attach the strip to the interior. Pinch together without blending.

Constructing the Spout 

Now it is time to begin the spout construction. The spout is created in layers, similar to the body of the pitcher. The first section of the spout is made by pinching out a small slab and cutting a U-shaped piece (9). Tip: Overestimate the size you will need as a larger piece will allow you to cut it to fit later. 

While dry fitting the first section of the spout, trace the placement to act as a guide when cutting out a section of the wall. Use a knife to remove that section (on or near the mark) and bevel the edges inward (10). Score, slip, and attach the first section of the spout. Use a silicone-tipped tool to blend the interior seam. 

Once the first section of the spout is soft leather-hard, cut the next piece of the wall out of the pitcher body, by drawing lines straight up from the first spout section. Attach a small coil that starts at the top of the third section and follows down and around the first section of the spout returning to the same height (11). Pinch the coil to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness, up and away from the pitcher. A small slab will be necessary to finish closing and shaping this second section of the spout (12). 

9 Cut a U-shaped piece from a pounded slab for the spout. 10 Trace the piece on the body and cut it out. Attach the first section of the spout.

11 Draw lines up, then cut out the next section. Attach a small coil on the cuts. 12 Use a slab to close and shape the spout. Pinch it to create a seamless spout.

Pinch a small slab, around 2×2 inches (5×5 cm) in size and ¼ inch (6 mm) in thickness. Place the small slab inside of the spout and blend together to enclose the second section of the spout. After blending together, pinch the spout thinner and shape the section. Trim the rim of the spout horizontally, allow the clay to reach soft leather hard, and attach a small coil to the second section of the spout. Pinch the coil into shape, ensuring that the top of the spout is near the height of the pitcher’s body. Use a knife to round the rim of the spout (13). 

To enclose the spout, allow this section to reach soft leather hard, pinch out a small slab, and gently press the soft slab against the top edge of the spout. This will leave a light impression on the slab to cut along. Cut out the final piece, attach it, and leave a small, rounded opening to pour from (14). 

13 Attach a coil to the spout rim. Pinch it into a curve taller than the pitcher rim. 14 To enclose the spout, pinch a slab into its rim, leaving a rounded opening.

Finishing Touches 

Roll a tapered coil that is narrow in the center and larger at the ends, about 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length. Gently pinch the coil to create a handle, with thin edges and a small ridge running vertically through the center (15). Attach the handle to the ridges between sections. Once attached, adjust the angle and curve of the handle, considering comfort and function as you finalize the shape (16). 

15 Pinch, cut, attach, and bend a tapered coil into a curve. 16 Adjust the angle and curve of the handle, considering comfort and function.

Left Petal Pink Pitcher, 7½ in. (19 cm) in height. Right Ochre Yellow Pitcher, 7¼ in. (18.4 cm) in height. Both Stoneware, terra sigillata, glaze, 2023.

Kate Marotz lives in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where she works full time in her home studio. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2015 with a BFA in studio art and a BS in art education. She can be found at www.marotzceramics.com or on Instagram @kate.marotz. You can also join her Patreon for videos and resources at www.patreon.com/katemarotzceramics