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Three Methods of Making Pottery

by Anthonio Akkermans
(Page 1 of 2)

Though I will only be making one pot during this tutorial, I will be explaining three methods.

The pot I am making is going to be in the style of "Borger Cordmarked" earthenware. It involves using a paddle wrapped with cord (natural, hand-made of course). This leaves distinctive marks. Pottery was made using this method because it produced lighter, yet stronger pottery. Because of the cordage marks, it was also easy to handle, even when slippery from cooking-grease etc.

I am going to start by making a base for my pot (the pot will ultimately be about a foot and a half high). I am going to make this base using a method often referred to as "pinching a pot" (method one).

First I get a golf-ball size bal of clay, which I knead and knead, until I am certain there are no air bubbles left in the ball of clay. Then I shape it into a nice round ball.

I start the shaping of the pot, by careful pressing my thumb into one side of the ball. As soon as I make a minor indent, I remove my thumb, spin the ball slightly, and press again in exactly the same spot.

While I am doing this, I make sure to apply more pressure downward then towards the sides for now. it is also very important to keep the clay moist, especially the rim. If you don't, the clay will crack, rendering it useless.

I keep going around and around, pressing my thumb in the ball, until I am about a quarter of an inch away from the bottom of the pot. Then I start pressing towards the sides.
I want the whole pot to have an even thickness, otherwise I may have problems when firing the pot (such as cracks or explosions). This means that in my case, the sides of my pot are going to be a quarter of an inch, just like the bottom.
When I am nearly there, I place the pot on some sort of surface. I covered the surface with baking paper to stop the pot from sticking to the table I am working on. Once it's on the table, I can concentrate on perfecting the sides, as well as making sure the walls are of equal height.
Now I let the pot dry in front of the warm fire place (it's a cold morning here in County Down (Ireland)!) for a while, so that the next layers will not be too heavy a burden to carry for the bottom. At this stage, I could stop and let the pot dry completely and fire it. It will make a nice wee bowl. This is then the first method of making a pot completed.
Now, I will continue my pot using a different method that allows me to make bigger pots without a potters wheel. I will start to "coil-build" the pot.

It is important to ensure that the rim of the pot is wet in order to receive the coil that goes on top of it.
I also make sure that the coil is wet and sticky. I am using a brush, because it helps to create tiny scrapes in the coil, which will make it easier to adhere to the moist rim.
The next step is to lay the coil on top of the rim and lightly press it into place. Because I am going outward with the walls of the pot, I am placing the coil exactly on top of the rim.
Once I reach the beginning of my coil, I just continue on top of it.
I keep on going with this coil until I have been around the entire rim twice. Then I stop. I don't want to make the new clay too heavy for the bottom to bear without drying it further.
Now I use my fingers to smooth out the coils, and make the walls of the basket nice and even once again.
At this point, my description of the second method is finished. I could just keep going with this method until my bowl reaches the size I am happy with. Then dry and fire the pot. However, it will be quite a heavy pot if I want to have a decent sized pot, and therefore not very mobile. I want to show you a method next, which makes the walls a lot thinner as well as stronger.

Now I need a paddle, with some natural cordage wrapped around it. The fibres of the Nettle work rather well. I also need a nice round stone, which will be used as an anvil.

Putting the anvil inside the pot, I hit the pot lightly from the outside with the paddle. Not only will it make the walls thinner and stronger, it will also smash those coils even tighter together and get rid of any air bubbles that may inadvertently have been trapped inside the clay.


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