Pinch Pots 101

The potter's wheel did not appear in history until only a short 4,000 years ago. Prior to that, pinch and coil construction methods prevailed as the main ways clay was formed by man.

What is the value of creating pinch pots today? What types of pottery can pinching produce? How are pinch pots created?

  • 01 of 04

    The Value of Creating Pinch Pots

    Person creating a pinch pot.
    Creating a pinch pot is the most direct method of interacting with the clay. Beth E Peterson

    Producing pinch pots is the most direct method people have of interacting with clay. We push, and the clay responds. We pinch, and again the clay responds. We can learn a huge amount simply through the experience of directly modifying the clay's form. It is a great way to introduce a person to clay.

    Pinching clay can teach us tactile sensitivity. Through this process, we more easily learn to rely on our fingers to tell us information about the clay. We can develop a kinetic awareness of form...MORE and of the thickness of walls and floors.

    This tactile awareness will enhance our pottery skills across the board. Through creating pinch pots, we can continual refine our ability to work by touch, rather than by sight alone.

  • 02 of 04

    What Type of Pottery Can Pinching Produce?

    Greenware pinch pots, most made by children and adults working in clay for the first time.
    This plethora of greenware pinch pots are waiting for their bisque firing. Nearly all were made by children and adults working in clay for the first time. The red ones are made with terracotta clay and the gray ones are a buff mid-range stoneware clay. Beth E Peterson

    Although there are exceptions, most pinched pottery is less than six inches in diameter. Pinch pots can range from chunky, substantial pieces to very thin-walled and delicate pieces. Pinch pot vessels can be decorated in many ways, but there does seem to be an added affinity between pinch pots and burnishing, a method to bring a gloss to unglazed pieces.

    Pinching isn't just for vessel forms, however. Many clay whistles and pipes are made through the pinching method. Sculptural forms are also...MORE possible. One of my personal favorites, especially when just relaxing, is to make little pinch pot animals.

    Pinch pots may be small, but they allow our creativity full rein. Our imaginations are the limit.

  • 03 of 04

    The Physics of Pinch Pots

    Do you remember the adage from physics that goes "an action will produce an equal and opposite reaction"? In working with clay, this means that the clay will move away from pressure.

    How the pressure is applied directly affects how the clay responds to it. After opening the clay, the tip of the thumb is used on the lower part of the interior of the pot. That pushes the clay at the bottom outward, widening the pot's floor, without having the entire ball of clay flare outward.

    By working...MORE with controlled pinches, we can control the shape of the pot. If we pinch indiscriminately, without thinking about how the clay will react and where it will move, we will loose control.

  • 04 of 04

    Pinching Tips

    Here are some pointers for creating pinch pots:

    • work in a spiral from bottom to top
    • use the tip of your thumb on the interior, while supporting the exterior with your other hand
    • minor stretch cracks can be left as a textural effect, if desired
    • deep cracks should be welded immediately using a tiny amount of slurry or slip
    • rims can be left untrimmed or they can be trimmed with a potter's needle when the pot is leather-hard
    • the pot can be smoothed, or even burnished with a wooden rib, when the pot is...MORE leather-hard.

    Do you want to create your own pinch pot? Follow along with me as I Make a Basic Pinch Pot.