[Clayart] [Norton AntiSpam]Re: hand building

Robert Santerre rfsanterre at gwi.net
Wed Jan 19 19:19:53 UTC 2022

Snail, this is one of the best, most concise discussions of the value of handbuilding skills as a fundamental basis for all clay work that I've ever read.  Thank you for this.  Wish I had spent some time in your course.

Bob Santerre
Arrowsic Island Pottery


-----Original Message-----
From: Clayart [mailto:clayart-bounces at lists.clayartworld.com] On Behalf Of Snail Scott
Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2022 12:46 PM
To: Clayart international pottery discussion forum
Subject: [Norton AntiSpam]Re: [Clayart] hand building

> On Jan 16, 2022, at 10:29 AM, mel jacobson <melpots at mail.com> wrote:
> my discussion on hand building was, and is a reaction
> to those that work at home, small kiln, and hand build their work
> in clay. It is often overlooked.  Hobby potter sort of thing…

Most of my students had their first and last experience with handbuilding in the third grade, or so, making pinch pots. They imbibe the notion that the wheel is for the big kids, and handbuilding gets set aside forever as a lesser form, because they never learned its true potential.

I start my intro college course with pinching, and I can see the immediate reaction…'Oh, I know this, it’s kid stuff.' It’s not. Kids are actually really bad at it, as they lack the manual dexterity and finger strength to make proper use of it. Pinch pots are all simple squishing between thumb and finger. Easy - pressure makes things thinner and wider. I call it the ‘Road Kill Effect: the more it gets squished, the thinner it gets and the further it spreads. Icky but memorable. 

"Now, control for consistent thickness and curvature; make a hemisphere." ("Why does it keep getting too thin and floppy?" "Road Kill Effect!”)  “Now, take that hemisphere, and make it a sphere. Bring that rim back inward, keeping a consistent thickness and curvature.”  How to make it thicker and shorter, instead of wider and thinner? 'Why does it keep folding?!?’  (Now reality sets in!) “Now, pinch a cube. Make sure the walls are the same thickness right to the corners.”  "Make it low and wide…now make it tall; reverse the proportions without rotating the form or cutting and attaching. Move without removal.”   Not kid stuff after all. Very few only-wheel-throwers, even with a lifetime of experience with clay, are any good at it. 

I start the course with pinching, not as an end in itself, but because it teaches how the material responds to the maker. It’s fundamental. Teach your fingers physics. Pinching is its own technique, but also the means to augment every other technique: coiling, slab, and wheel. Students who get good at pinching will learn every other method faster, and use it with more versatility; even the wheel. The wheel is just a tool for bringing the clay to your hands, instead of moving your hands to the clay. Squeezing perpendicular to the plane makes the clay thin and/or wide; compression along the plane brings it in. ‘Pulling' a wall combines both.  Bellying; collaring; all just pinching, with a power assist. 


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