Throwing & Handbuilding: Forming Techniques

Throwing and handbuilding are at the core of all studio ceramics techniques. Through skill and imagination, some of the most talented artists and craftsmen can take these basic techniques and produce extremely creative works of art...(Scroll for more.)



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Softcover | 144 Pages
Order code B056 | ISBN 978-1-57498-289-3

…By learning their techniques, and a little practice, you’ll be able to create unique works of your own.

Throwing & Handbuilding: Forming Techniques is a collection of 24 carefully selected projects and techniques. Within each section of the book you’ll discover challenging, complex and unusual techniques, oftentimes extensively illustrated, by some of the foremost studio artists working today. By mastering new techniques and discovering inspirational works of contemporary masters, you’ll soon find yourself challenged to take new directions in your work.

“It happens to most folks, I suppose. I was working and thinking about clay a lot, but then I came to the point where I wondered, “Now what?” It was frustrating for me, but then I got lucky and came across a book that got my creative juices flowing again. Throwing & Handbuilding: Forming Techniques is an excellent resource for any studio because this book covers an amazingly broad range of techniques. The variety of work left me inspired. The step-by-step instructions accompanied by photographs of the processes make the projects easy to understand. I’m ready to get back into the studio and try something new.” —Rikki G. (Ohio)

Making Large Jars

Karen Terpstra came rather late to ceramics and her work focused on handbuilding. When she decided she needed larger surfaces to work on, she turned to using flat coils and began creating forms that defied gravity and would normally collapse if wheel thrown. One big advantage with her method is that you can change directions rather drastically by allowing the flat coils to become leather hard and you can also apply her technique to a variety of sculptural forms.

Throwing Large Platters

Ceramic platters are some of the most functionally useful forms you can make, and they provide wonderful surfaces for artistic expression and creativity. However, creating large platters presents many challenges in the throwing, finishing and firing stages that require a few different techniques than making bowls or cylinders. Sam Hoffman demonstrates every single step in the making of these magnificent forms, from centering large amounts of clay to trimming the piece to a perfect finish, in 42 step-by-step photos.

Throwing Tall Narrow Forms

Annie Robbins loves tall and narrow forms and tried hard to get something that rose above 18 to 20 inches above the wheelhead. Then a few years ago, she sprained her right wrist and thumb in a car accident and didn’t work for a while in order to give her hand a rest. Fearing the worst, she went to a hand specialist and broke into tears. He explained that hand injuries were sometimes worse for artists because we use our hands to express ourselves, and he encouraged her to “find a new way” and inspired her to challenge herself. Baffled, Annie set about to find a solution and here she reveals her secrets on how to make forms up to three feet high!


Tony Clennell tells about Bruce Cochrane: Up in Canada. Bruce uses thrown parts to create some of his elegant serving pieces, including 20-inch long narrow covered dish made from thrown parts and slabs. Fong Choo creates amazing Teapot Gems, and he provides clear instruction on creating these small jewels. The secret to the gem-like look is in using cone 6 glazes covered by cone 06 glazes and fired to cone 6. If you’ve ever tried to work with porcelain, you know the challenges. Antoinette Badenhorst demonstrates some helpful techniques for Working with Porcelain from throwing basic forms through trimming work inside and out. Rebecca Coffman’s Spirited Vessels bring out the characteristics of unfired moist clay in the glaze-fired ware. In developing this work, she found the whole process from clay preparation through final firing both humbling and exhilarating.

Using a combination of throwing and handbuilding, Annie Chrietzberg is able to say ‘Down with Round Brown’. With her Ewer Bizarre piece, she ably demonstrates altering a thrown ring and applying textured slabs. Gabriel Brubacher has his students at Notre Dame do an assignment making Altered Shapes. If you follow the instructions, you’ll see why this is an effective assignment for experimentation and expressing yourself. Doug Gray teaches his students how to throw jars with No-Measure Lids. His assignment teaches students how to throw and trim but it also requires a degree of control and skill. Craftsmanship is immediately revealed when a lid is cut into a closed form.

Working on large forms is something like Taming the Dragon. Alan Frewin makes large garden pots and decorates them with ornate dragons using a sprigging technique. He describes each step of both techniques. Kathy Chamberlin finds that Pulling Long Handles, along with decorative knots, adds a unique personal style to her baskets. Inspired by Chinese and Japanese woven baskets, her demonstration will help you improve your handles. If you’d like to tackle making pieces that fill the kiln, here’s help. Kirk Mangus updates an ancient form by Making Tall Amphoras, which he does in sections. There are five pieces altogether, and the final form begs for your surface treatment of choice. Jim Connell uses unusually shaped plywood forms for his Asymmetrical Handbuilding. By using a thick wall construction method, he’s able to heavily contour the surface with Surform tools. Certainly a break from the limitations of the wheel. Your kiln is capable of more than you think. With Cheryl Tall’s process for Making Large Sculptures with Small Kilns. Her technique allows you to make sculptures as tall as you wish-and hers even goes as high as six feet! When Scott Dooley was in graduate school, he developed a method for Handbuilding with Slabs, Cones and Cylinders. Using a set of templates, he makes a variety of forms then cuts and assembles them to create bizarre forms. Dong Hee Suh takes a block of clay and makes A Slice of Paradise. Uninhibited by a conventional knowledge of modeling, carving and assemblage, she simply applies a basic tool to slice the clay in a way that makes sense to her.

Nancy Jurs can be found Turning to Ancient Wisdom in the way she constructs large sculptures, a recent one that’s 16 feet tall and made from 12,000 pounds of clay. Her story and technique are both informational and inspiring.

When you look at Tom Bartel’s work, you can tell he’s Challenging Beauty. He’s taken the basic pinch and coil method to a strange level, and his thought-provoking and interesting work from low-tech techniques are sure to subvert.

A fractal is a geometric pattern that’s replaced at an ever smaller scale producing irregular shapes and surfaces. This was the inspiration for Elina Brandt-Hansen making Fractals Wrapped in Clay, which are built up piece by piece.

Porcelain is challenging to work with but it has properties not found in any other clay. Elizabeth Kendall details how to make a soft-slab porcelain pitcher that’s Pitcher Perfect.

Thin, light and voluptuous, her technique tells it all. Marc Leuthold creates An Illusion of Motion by carving into clay. His undulating swirls successfully mesmerize and draw you in, illustrating how important it is to have an attitude of flexibility and persistence so you can create work that engages.

Jennifer Lee prefers to focus on pots that evolve slowly in the small studio at the rear of her house. She’s not in a hurry and the work shows it. Building from coils or strips of clay, then painstakingly abraded and burnished, the finished pieces have a geologic look.

Jan Schachter excels at Melding Form and Function elevating functional ware to pure art. She describes her method for making stamped slab plates illustrating once again that elegance can be achieved in the simplest of forms.

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