Hand building is the earliest method of forming clay into shapes and objects.
Hand building techniques include coiling, pinching, modelling and combining flat slabs, sometimes called slab building. Hand building techniques are slower than throwing clay on a wheel but can offer the artist greater control over their material.
Coiling has been used for thousands of years to build tall vessels that can bulge outwards and narrow inwards without collapsing.
Ropes of clay, either hand rolled or made using an extruder, are placed on top of each other and joined by scoring and adding slip, a suspension of clay and water, until the desired height is reached. The outsides of the coils are then blended together.
The pinching method begins with a ball of clay. By pushing the thumbs into the centre of the ball and pinching and turning the clay, the walls of the pot gradually thin. Larger pieces are made by pinching the clay between fists.
Slab building can be used to make anything from simple tiles and boxes to complex vessels and sculptures with delicate rims and edges. Surfaces can be decorated using carved paddles or by rolling and pressing objects into the slabs.
Contemporary craft makers often combine traditional hand building methods with slip casting and throwing techniques to create inventive, one-off pieces.
This informative film made in the US in the 1960s demonstrates a variety of hand building techniques.
Watch Scottish ceramicist, Lorna Fraser, hand building pieces inspired by nature in this Craft Scotland video.
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