Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (2024)


Pottery Basics


Beth Peterson

Beth Peterson

Beth Peterson is a pottery expert, sharing her knowledge about producing pottery on the wheel, as well as handbuilt ceramic sculpture, and the Raku firing technique of pottery making. She also teaches mask making to children and adults. Beth has over 30 years of experience crafting with clay.

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Updated on 11/10/19

Coiling clay pots is a simple process of layering coils or other shapes, one at a time, then welding the layers together to create a solid form. It is an extremely versatile technique that is good for beginners but can be used for great craftsmanship and artistry. Even those who are new to clay should be able to make large and intriguing pottery using the coiling method.

  • 01 of 06

    Choosing the Right Clay for Coiling

    Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (1)

    The clay used to build coil pots must be matched to the final form, meaning larger structures need more strength and thicker walls, so choose a clay body of appropriate strength and a low coefficient of expansion.

    Clay bodies that have sand or grog in them tend to work best. Look for a shrinkage rate of 8 percent or lower. The clay should also be soft in consistency. Stiff clay won't weld together as well, which results in weaker joints that can crack apart.

    Be sure that the clay is thoroughly wedged before you use it. This will hom*ogenize it and remove air pockets that can cause blowouts in the kiln.

  • 02 of 06

    Creating the Coil Pot Floor

    Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (2)

    The floor or bottom of a coiled pot is usually a slab or patty of clay and has the same thickness as the finished pot. When rolled out, the bottom slab should be substantially larger than the piece's diameter, since it will be trimmed down later.

    Once you've made the slab, place it on a support surface that allows the piece to be moved safely. For a flat-bottomed pot, this support surface could be a bat or a disc of bisqued clay. For a pot with a curved bottom, use a puki, which is a bowl-shaped mold made of plaster, wood, or bisqueware.

    If a puki isn't available, you can use a regular bowl of the right size and slope. Line the bowl with several layers of newspaper or cloth before placing the clay slab into it.

  • 03 of 06

    Beginning to Coil

    Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (3)

    In sculptural terms, coiling is an additive process, meaning the pot is created by adding material to it. Typically, potters use coils of clay, but additions can also be made with other shapes, such as small patties.

    Working the piece on a turntable, banding wheel, or a kickwheel can make the coiling process much faster and easier.

    Coiling begins on the upper surface of the pot's floor, not at the sides. Doing it this way results in a much stronger joint. Place the first coil onto the slab floor, then trim the excess slab, and weld the outer edge of the slab upward into the coil.

  • 04 of 06

    Adding Coils to Your Pot

    Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (4)

    Soft clay can be directly welded row-into-row. The strongest joints are welded on both the interior and exterior of the wall. The standard welding technique is to use one thumb on the inner surface moving downward, while your fingers on the outer surface weld the clay in an upward motion. If the clay has stiffened at all, score each surface to be joined, brush on slurry or slip, then lay the coil row and weld it.

    When coils are welded, the wall becomes thinner and expands outward. The more aggressive the welding, the more the walls thin and expand. Coils may need to start substantially thicker than the finished wall will be. As a general guideline, smaller pots use coils 3/8 to 1 inch in diameter; large pots use coils 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below

  • 05 of 06

    Taking a Break

    Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (5)

    Coiled forms can take more time to create than you have available in one sitting. When you have to leave your work while it is in progress, place damp paper towels across the top row, then cover the entire piece with plastic.

    If you want the bottom of the pot to stiffen slightly, leave some gaps where the plastic meets the table or shelf. Otherwise, tuck the plastic under the supporting surface. If the humidity is high, add a layer of newspaper or cloth between the pot and the plastic. This will absorb any condensation, which could otherwise make your pot collapse.

  • 06 of 06

    Moving Inward

    The natural inclination of the clay is to expand and move outward. To move the wall inward, apply a coil to the inner surface of the uppermost row. To complement this directional change, it is sometimes helpful to weld the top of the applied coil inward and the interior side downward.

    As you reach the final row of your pot, you may find that the welding process has left your rim too thin. If so, simply add another coil, either to the outer or inner surface of the rim, and weld it.

    At this point, your pot's form may be completed, or you can further refine the form and thin the walls even more if desired. You can work the clay again during the soft leather-hard stage, using a paddle and anvil or rib and hand techniques.

Follow These 6 Steps for Building Clay Coil Pots (2024)


What is the coiling method of clay? ›

Coiling involves the rolling out of clay into a long thin sausage-like form that is wound round like a spring. Building a vessel with coils is accomplished by placing them around the circumference and gradually increasing the height. The diagram below shows what a coiled pot appears like before it is refined.

What is the process of making clay pots called? ›

Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other raw materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. The place where such wares are made by a potter is also called a pottery (plural potteries).

What is the process of coil building? ›

To do this, the potter takes a pliable material (usually clay) then rolls it until it forms a coil, or long pliable cylinder. By placing one coil on top of another, different shapes can be formed.

What are the steps in pottery production? ›

Here is an overview of some of the processes so you have a bit more grasp on some of the technical stuff!
  1. Step One – Design. ...
  2. Step Two – Making. ...
  3. Step Three – Drying. ...
  4. Step Four – Trimming and Cleaning Up. ...
  5. Step Five – Bisque Firing. ...
  6. Step Six – Glazing. ...
  7. Step Seven – Glaze (Gloss or sometimes called “Glost”) Firing.

What is the best clay for coil pots? ›

If you have a limited choice of kilns available to you, then earthenware clay might be the best option as it is a low fire clay. It is also easier to shape and more malleable because it has a plastic base. This also means that it will hold its shape really well after you have formed it.

How old is the technique of making coil pots? ›

Coil pottery originated in Central Mexico nearly 4000 years ago and slowly spread north, and I mean slooooooowly. It took nearly 2000 years for coil pottery technology to travel to the area around Tucson, Arizona where the earliest pottery in the United States has been found.

What are the 4 basic techniques for forming clay? ›

Forming Clay
  • Hand-building. Handbuilding is exactly what it sounds like; using your hands to form an object out of clay. ...
  • Slab Building. ...
  • Coiling. ...
  • Throwing. ...
  • Extruding. ...
  • Slip Casting.

What are the 5 techniques in pottery making? ›

5 Ceramic Techniques You Need to Know
  • Handbuilding.
  • Pinching.
  • Slab Construction (Soft Slab, Hard Slab)
  • Coil Construction.
  • Wheel Throwing / Hand Throwing.
  • Slip Casting.
Dec 5, 2018

How are clay plant pots made? ›

The craftsman uses their hands and special tools to press the clay into the mold and to finish the inner part of the pot. Then you need to wait for the mold to absorb the water contained in the clay to allow the pot to contract and to become separated from the mold.

How are clay pots made for kids? ›

One of the most popular ways to make pottery is with a potter's wheel. The potter first puts a chunk of clay on the wheel, which is a round, flat surface that spins around. The potter then shapes the spinning mass of clay into a pot. Because the wheel spins, it is easy for the potter to keep the sides of the pot even.

What are the six steps to prepare for using clay? ›

The 6 different stages of clay
  • 1. ) Slip. Slip is clay with added water to make it into a paste or liquid. ...
  • 2.) Wet clay. Wet clay is used by many Potters to produce their work. ...
  • 3.) Leather-hard clay. When wet clay has dried slightly but is not fully dry it is known as 'leather-hard'. ...
  • 4.) Dry clay. ...
  • 5.) Bisque. ...
  • 6.) Glaze ware.
Nov 14, 2020

What is the coiling process in ceramics? ›

Coil pottery is a method of handbuilding pottery where a potter forms a base, walls, and style by combining clay coils (or cylinders). The potter rolls the clay into coils, stacks the coils together, and joins the coils through pressure creating a vessel.

What are coil pots made of? ›

Coil pottery is one of the earliest techniques for making pots from clay.

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