Friday, August 26, 2011

Making Ceramic Pottery: Handbuilding


Handbuilding is a very versatile technique that includes coiling and slab building. Coiling is a technique frequently used by school children in their first exposure to pottery, starting with a pinch pot and adding coils of clay to build a bowl. This technique involves rolling “snakes” of clay and building snake upon snake, or coils in a circle, one upon the other, and smoothing them over until you can’t see the individual snakes. The stacked and smoothed coils create the wall of a vessel. This technique is ancient, used for making wine vessels and urns.  Vessels and sculptures of immense size can be created by starting with simple coils.
Slab building is another handbuilding technique that I often use when I want to make objects that are angular, like a cube. Clay is rolled out with a rolling pin, like you are baking, and slabs of clay are cut into the shapes desired depending on what you are making. In this example pictured below, I wanted to make a square shaped vase, so I cut out four sides and a bottom.  Each piece is joined together using ‘slip’ (clay in a liquid form), which acts as a mortar. A wet sponge is used to smooth out the edges and hide the joints. I further decorated the vase with slip squeezed out of a tiny nozzle, kind of like decorating a cake. There are a lot of parallels between baking and pottery!
Here are some slabs of clay that I've cut to make a vase.

The two rectangular vases in the top, right were hand built using the slab technique.

 Tune in next time for my favorite technique, wheel throwing!

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