Ceramic Process: Handbuilding

Ceramic Process: Handbuilding

As some of you may already know, there’s mainly two building methods that potters and ceramicists use: handbuilding and wheel throwing.

Handbuilding involves, as its name states, building a piece with your hands. There are tools you can use to help join the clay or work on specific details, but the advantage of handbuilding is that you basically only need your hands (and clay, of course).

Wheel throwing is also a fascinating building technique, which allows different outcomes. Nevertheless, it does require training and lots of practice. You would need to really master the wheel before actually being able to make a set of pots of the same height and width. If you want to learn wheel throwing, enrolling in a class is highly recommended, although there’s also tutorials on YouTube that could help you get started. Then, it’s just a matter of spending hours on the wheel.

At Daisy Cooper Ceramics, we make nearly all our products using the handbuilding method. We like that ‘handmade’ look, the imperfection that reveals the craft involved behind each of our pieces. Each mug, plate, vase, or bowl, is made from scratch and built with our own hands. Each of them is slightly different and authentic. 

In terms of technical process, we’d like to share with you a basic description of the main three handbuilding methods we use at our studio:

  1. Pinching: it mainly consists of starting with a ball of clay, probably the size of your fist, digging your thumb into the middle, and pressing your other fingers against your thumb (same movements as you do when you grab a pinch of salt) to start pushing the clay and building your walls. This pinching movement presses the clay up and out. Rotate the clay as you keep your thumb inside and other fingers outside to ensure you maintain even thickness of the walls. Don’t press too hard. Go slowly and build that sensitivity in your hands so you know when you’ve reached the right thickness and it’s time to stop pinching.
  2. Coiling: this method is very versatile because it allows you to build a form of any design and scale. It is mainly used for sculptural pieces or to shape vessels, as by adding coils of clay you are adding height to a pot while at the same time you can widen out or narrow in the opening of the pot, with less risk of collapsing. It consists of rolling coils of clay with your hands, and adding them up the walls of your pot. Then, join and smooth the coils using your thumb. 
  3. Slab Building: this method consists of rolling slabs of clay (you can do that with a kitchen rolling pin at home), cutting straps or any shape you will use to build your pot, and joining the slabs carefully, using the ‘score and slip’ technique. You can also use slabs to press them onto moulds, and that would result in a neatly shaped plate, bowl, or tray. 

You will probably find more ways of applying these handbuilding techniques and getting various results. Do your research, have fun and play around. 

Hand building is easy to practice at home. That's why we offer ‘At Home’ kits for you to start your own relationship with clay, from the comfort of your home. We have two clay kits available on our store: Handbuilding and Modern Kintsugi. They include all the basic materials, tools and instructions to get you started. And they are delivered right to your door!

Click here to check them out 

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