Hand-building pottery projects

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Hand-building is a method of pottery making that is easy to start, even for the complete beginner. Unlike other pottery techniques, such as throwing, which require days or even years of practice, hand-building does not require special skills to begin and succeed with a project. The number of hand-building projects available is only limited by your imagination.

"Log cabin" coil box

This simple coil formed box is reminiscent of a log cabin because the coils are not smoothed but left intact on the outside. Start with a rectangular slab base and build four walls with coils of clay. Smooth the coils together on the inside to create stronger connections and a smooth inside finish. Cut another rectangular slab and attach a single coil layer on the bottom side to fit snugly inside the top of the box. Attach a knob on top of the lid for easy lifting, perhaps in the form of a chimney or perching bird. Decorate the walls by adding clay to represent doors and windows.

Mini pinch pot vase

Little vases make the perfect holding place for a child's picked flowers. The pinch pot technique is a quick way to make small pots such as mini vases. Start with a small ball of clay and push your thumb into the centre, about 6 mm (1/4 inch) shy of breaking through the other side. Starting at the bottom, with your thumb inside and fingers on the outside, pinch the walls of the pot to thin and shape them. Work slowly around the pot, supporting it with your other hand. The key to making a vase shape is to keep it from becoming too wide. Pinch in such a way to move the clay up rather than out.

Wall sconce

This is a simple slab hand-building project. Roll out a slab of clay 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick, about 30 cm by 45 cm (12 inches by 18 inches). For decoration, make impressions in the clay with objects such as sea shells or plants. Let it rest for several minutes to become firm. Now cut out the pieces for the sconce: one 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) diameter circle and one half-circle, 2.5 cm (1 inch) larger in diameter. Slip and score a 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) band on the edge of the circle, on the decorated side. Turn the half-circle over and slip and score another 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) wide band around the curved edge of the undecorated side. Turn the half-circle back over and, with the circle flat on the work table, align the scored bands. You will have to bow out the half-circle for the scored bands to align -- remember it is a little bit bigger. Press the pieces together firmly to join. Finally, cut out a small hole for a nail at the top of the piece.

Carved rattle

Clay rattles are fun to make and display, but they are not suitable for young children. Wrap a few marble-sized balls of clay in newspaper. Then wrap these in a fist-sized ball of newspaper and use masking tape to hold the ball together. Wrap the newspaper ball with a clay slab, about 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Work the clay until it is a smooth ball. Then let the piece dry until leather hard. Use clay carving tools to carve designs out of the rattle wall, making sure that any holes are not large enough for the small balls to escape. When the piece is fired, the paper will burn out leaving just the rattle.

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