Coiled pottery

Being frustrated at my poor throwing on the wheel that seemed to produce thick heavy pots, I decided to coil my pots back in 1998. I made myself an extruder to produce uniform coils and my pottery improved greatly. Pots were better shaped, lighter, and problems I had with cracking disappeared.

I have become very good at coiling and can make an eight inch high vessel in two hours. I do this by using a hair dryer to lightly dry the surface of each coil after it has been added. This creates a thin ‘skin’ of clay that supports the soft inside of the coils and allows me to coil to completion without the pot sagging under its own weight.

Most of my coils are 6mm thick. After the pot is made I scrape the surface of the pot very gently with a steel kidney. I smooth each coil as it is applied inside and out so scraping removes only the surplus slip, leaving me with a pot thickness of about 5.5mm. This sounds rather thin but the coating of white earthenware slip brings the thickness back up to about 6.5mm.

For pots over 8" high I use 8mm coils for thicker walls.

The Process

This slideshow explains the refining of clay and my own method of coiling it into a beautiful pot.

The idea to make a photographic record came to me as I was digging a hole in which to set a gate post in concrete. We lived in West Sussex at the time. The soil there is part of the Weald Clay deposit which runs through Sussex and Kent. There are many brickworks in the two counties that quarry the clay and our house was situated less than 100 yards from an old clay pit. As my hole became deeper I was struck by the quality of the clay, which was mustard coloured and had the texture of soft soap. Clay for brickmaking comes from much deeper than my 30 inch hole but I was sure that I would be able to make a pot from the clay I was squeezing between my fingers.