Happy Potters’ pots don’t hurt when pinched

The stages of a pinch pot: raw clay, bisque, glaze

The stages of a pinch pot: raw clay, bisque, glaze

Jan Marx

We use slabs of clay to build pieces. We use lumps of clay to “throw” pots on the wheel, and some of us form objects with our fingers. For many years Happy Potters avoided making pinch pots. They thought it would hurt the clay, but through research we found that “pinching” balls of clay doesn’t even make them cry out in agony. As a matter of fact “to pinch” in terms of making an item is not a violent act. The process requires more forming with one’s thumb and palm of hand than anything vicious.

Truth be told if anyone, and I mean anyone, actually pinches a piece of clay the material will end up with a hole in it—not what one wants. The proper way to pinch, for instance a bowl from clay, is to make a ball and then insert one thumb into the sphere about three-quarters through. Keeping the ball in one palm the potter pulls gently upwards toward the opening. As the thumb, like a sleepy ballerina, curves at the top, the ball turns slightly and the action is repeated. The sides begin to form from the inside. The ball-erina becomes a swan.

Rushing the process results in a lumpy, rather unpleasant bowl that is heavy and awkward. The crafter who takes time to smooth the ball both inside and out can expect to enjoy his/her finished object for years to come. No longer do we gloss over the pinch pot as an ugly vessel. The technique provides versatility for the potter who can use it to form a multitude of shapes.