Pottery for Beginners

Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions and has been around since before the late Stone Age. It is the process of transforming a ceramic (such as clay) into various shaped objects.

There are many methods for shaping pottery, including :

  • Hand-Building
  • The Potter’s Wheel
  • Injection Moulding
  • Granulate Pressing
  • Pressure Casting
  • Ram Pressing
  • Slip Casting

We are going to look at the Hand-Building method and in particular the Pinch Pot

So lets get into it……

These little pots are created from one single lump of clay. They are popular with those of us that are really just getting started with pottery. Although simple, they are extremely fun to make and you’ll end up with a pretty cool looking cup or bowl.

Ok so lets look at How to make your pinch pot

  1. Roll a tennis ball sized lump of clay into a smooth ball, either between your hands or against a hard surface. Be sure not to make any indents with your fingers.
  2. Cup the ball in your hand and use your other hand to press your thumb gently into the centre of the ball. Your aim is to create an opening. But be sure to stop about one centimetre before the bottom to allow for the base of the pot.
  3. Now its time to shape the walls of the pot. So decide if you want a square pot or a circular one etc, and shape it accordingly. Do this by gently pinching the walls to thin them out. Work in circles to ensure they remain a consistent thickness, and make sure they are no thinner than one centimetre as you don’t want your pot to collapse.
  4. Wait for your pot to become “leather hard” by setting it to one side and covering it with a light weight hand towel. It will take a few hours to dry and you’ll know when its ready as it will be cool to the touch and firm like a block of cheese. Check up on it regularly to make sure it doesn’t start looking chalky as that indicates that it is too dry.
  5. Now you’re going to want to smooth over your pot and/or carve pattens of your choosing with either your fingers or pottery ribs if you have them. (Go crazy, its your pot so put your stamp on it).
  6. The next step is to allow the pot to dry completely (bone dry), but be very carful when handling your pot as it will be very brittle and can easily break. If you’re using Polymer clay or Pottery clay then you must ensure it is definitely bone dry before you bake or fire it.

Hardening The Clay

Ok so now its time to harden your pot so the way you do this will depend on which type of clay you are using. Here is a quick rundown of the appropriate methods for the possible types of clay you could use.

Cure Oven Baked Clay: Preheat your oven at the appropriate temperature as disclosed on the clay manufacturers packet. Do the same for cooking time, and note any safety tips. (Note that Polymer clay is not food safe, so you can not eat or drink from any pot you make from this clay)

Dry Out Air-Drying Clay: As you might have guessed, this clay doesn’t need to me kiln or oven dried. Instead cover it with a lightweight towel and leave to harden for five to seven days. Remember only to decorate once it is completely dry. (Note that you can varnish this clay to make it safe for dry foods, however you should not fill it with liquid as it will ruin your pot)

Need some more clay? Get it here!

Fire Pottery Clay in a Kiln: Once the pot is completely dry, you can take it to your nearest pottery supply shop and have it cured and hardened in a kiln. It shouldn’t cost much to use their firing service but remember to let them know the name of the clay you’ve used as they will fire it to a different temperature depending on the type. (As with Air Drying clay, any pot you make with this will have to be varnished to make it food safe)

Decorating Your Pot

Decorating your pot is the last stage of crating your personalised piece of art, and is a lot of fun. Just like hardening it, there are slightly different approaches to doing this. This depends on the type of clay that you’re working with.

Oven Baked Polymer Clay : Add a splash of colour to your pot using water based paints, chalk paints, metallic pastes and mic powders. Once you’ve decorated it, its a good idea to give it a coat of sealing varnish to hold the paint on the surface of the pot.

Air Dried Clay:  Liven up your pot with colourful latex and acrylic paints and then once dry don’t forget to varnish it. Of course if it’s going to be used to hold dried food then its going to need food safe varnish.

Pottery Clay: Decorate your pot with acrylic, latex, and oil based paints if you’re not planning on using it for food and drink. If you are however, then you’re going to want to mention it to whoever is firing your pot for you as it will need glazing to make it safe for food and drink, as well as another firing in the kiln.


So there it is, We hope you find this information useful and would love to see pictures of anything you make and are particularly proud of.

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