Learn 3 Fundamental Pottery Techniques

Lola Giardino teaches basic ceramics techniques so that you can start making your own creations

Lola Giardino's (@lolagiardino) relationship with pottery started in 2011 as a way to escape from digital life. She tried different crafts but soon fell in love with ceramics and developed the skill to shape incredible objects just using hand building, a technique where the beauty and uniqueness of the pieces come from little imperfections.

Lola shares the three basic modeling techniques so that you can also become an expert in hand building:

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Pinch technique

The most ancient form of hand building; it is ideal for making bowls that can be converted into cups, strainers, or pots. The secret is to have patience; It is important that the clay is not too moist so that you can make a perfect ball with it. Once done, center your thumb in the middle of the ball, and apply incremental pressure, as if you were lifting the material from the sides, pushing up, and creating a small hole in the center of the ball.

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It is important to raise everything evenly, feel the thickness of the wall and the base of the piece with your fingers, distribute the mass so that your work is in proportion. Once you have the shape, it is important that you flatten with your fingers; but always be careful not to break the clay. Ceramics have "memory", and even if a hole is patched, it could reappear later in the oven, forcing you to start all over again.

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Coil technique

If you ever did pottery in school, this is the one you probably used. It offers many possibilities and is very useful when creating vases and bowls of different shapes.

Start by making a coil with your hands, a long, tubular shape of even thickness. Don't make them too thin, because you'll have to work on the piece without breaking it. Once done, create the base with it, wrapping the coil in a spiral shape. The size will depend on how big you want your piece to be.

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Then, join everything with your fingers, erasing any lines that may be left from the spiral, and add slip (mud mixed with water), the "glue" that will allow you to join more shapes. Add more coils, not in a spiral, but to form the wall of your piece, as high as you need.

Once finished, join again with your fingers and smooth the wall using the loop tool or a wood potter rib, inside and out.

To close the piece, it is important to work everything outside and inside up until the middle of the piece. When you are ready, start adding the closing levels, using shorter coils, and forming a bottleneck. Smooth the wall as you go, first with your fingers, then with the tools.

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Plaque technique

Also known as construction technique, This technique can make a piece shine and allows you to make tables, plates, or cups without a potter's wheel.

You'll need a non-stick surface or fabric to spread the clay. Flatten it a bit with your fingers and then roll it out firmly, but gently, in one motion. It is important to stretch one side, turn it, stretch the other, and repeat, so that everything is the same thickness.

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When you get the desired thickness, cut the shape you want for your base: you can use molds or whatever you have to hand.

For the walls of your piece, cut another shape out of the rolled sheet of clay. Keep in mind that this technique allows you to add texture to the piece. You can use plastic bubbles or textured fabrics when you are rolling to imprint them and create a unique look.

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Get the base ready and apply the slip. Put the shape you just cut on top, leaving a bit of leftover material for the joint, flatten it with your fingers, and then work the outside of the joint with the potter's tool. For the inside, use your fingers. Do it slowly, making sure you don't destroy any engraving you might have made.

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Flatten the edges and smooth them with a sponge. Keep in mind that the ceramic always shrinks a little, both when it dries and when it is baked.

Lola Giardino teaches the course Creative Ceramics: Give Shape to Your Ideas with Artisanal Technique in Domestika, where you'll learn how to shape your ideas using ceramics and use your hands to create any piece that you can imagine.

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