Pottery Methods

Pottery Methods

This history of pottery goes way back, around 24,000 B.C. I can’t tell you any more about the history of pottery that hasn’t already been researched or written about on the number of sites online that have done all the work, so why re-invent the wheel? If you want to learn more about the history, Google History of Pottery and you will find a number of articles on the subject.

Ceramics are those things made from materials which are permanently changed when heated, such as clay pulled from the ground and water added to it.

But a brief history of what I found.

  • Around 24,000 B.C. ceramic figurines — made from clay pulled from the ground, water was added to it and then they were fired in partially dug pits — were used in ceremonies.
  • Ceramic tiles were made around 14, 000 B.C.
  • The beginning of Pottery –  was around 10,000 B.C.
  • Around 8,000 B.C. glazes were discovered in Egypt.

Pottery is the craft of making ceramic material into pots or pottery wares — plates, bowls, cups, tea pots — using clay.

Pottery is what we are all about and potters are who we are. Since we don’t use the wheel at Deer Ridge Studio, we teach the following methods that were used before the wheel was discovered.

  • Coil
  • Pinch Pot
  • Slab

Coil Method

The coil method is said to be one of the easiest methods to use when hand building a pot or large vessel.

I’m always looking for inspiration and during my search, I found Jomon Pottery. also the History of Jomon Pottery. Check it out! The photos will give you ideas on how this method was used to make some very detailed pots or vessels.

Coiled pots are constructed by stacking and joining — meaning to score and use either clay slip or just water and some artist use vinegar — coils of clay one on top of the other. You can leave the coils visible or you can smooth them out. By offsetting the coils you can make different shapes of pots or bowls.

You can roll up the coils and then attach each rolled coil together to form the walls of a pot or create a platter. Again, you can leave the coils visible or smooth them out depending on the desired look you are after.  Make sure your coils are well joined to avoid separating or cracking during the drying and firing process.

Using this technique you can build thicker walls and make taller vessels.  If the walls are too thin, they will collapse. [See sidebar for an example]

Pinch Pot Method

Using the Pinch Pot Method you have a ball of clay and using your thumb you push into the center and by turning the clay and pinching with your thumb and forefinger, you can create a bowl or cup. Depending on how much clay you can hold, you can make various sizes. To form the base you simple push the pot down on a flat surface.

You can use this method as a base as well and then add coils to make a taller pot.

Slab Method

Using the slab method you start with rolling out the clay to about 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch thick. You can form the slab around molds, or cut and attach to make walls or use your hands to build up the slab into a bowl. Slabs can be used to make book ends, vases, building structures, and angular shapes that are a challenge to make on a wheel.

If you are building a vase or other structure that requires the structure to stand up on its own, you will need to make sure the slab is leather hard. If the slab is too soft, it will collapse on itself. [See sidebar for an example]

Happy Pottering!


“Never never never give up.” — Winston Churchill
“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” — Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) Greek Philosopher