Above is a picture of a pinch pot which is an example of why learning how to make slab pots is useful for many things not least any angular features or designs. You join your jigsaw of clay pieces in much the same way as pinch pots with one notable addition. You add a small thread of clay rolled out, as if preparing to make a coil pot (next week) and add a little water before sticking it to both sides of the join and blending it in. You can do this for any method of pot making but it is vital for slab pots as they need all the help they can get for angles in particular.

I think coil pots were next on the 5 week cours, but possibly not as slab techniques are so useful. The final week was dedicated to decorating with glazes and final firings as by now things were starting to get their first firing. More on firings in two weeks time to give beginner’s a bit of time to source access to or buy a kiln of their own. When I started some pottery suppliers offered kiln firings but I have no idea if that’s still the case. More recently, there was a teashop chain called ‘The Kiln’ which allowed you to pick a variety of bisque fired pits to decorate and get fired but they seem to have disappeared. A shame as it was a great activity to do as a birthday treat etc in a group. A bit pricey if you got hooked on it though. Maybe a local school would be willing to help in order to raise funds. So there are options to explore.

To make a slab pot we first had to draw a design. Then from that work out all the pieces required to make full scale templates in card to cut out our slabs of clay. Card is preferable as you can tape it together beforehand to check that the dimensions were right and that everything fitted snuggly. Also it enables you to write on the card to label which piece fits where otherwise for complicated forms you will end up with a jigsaw on you hands. You can mark the play instead but in either case allow for the thickness of the clay beforehand which you can also mark on your card templates.

Next you cut out your pieces and leave to go leather hard by just letting it dry out. This is because for two reasons, the first is that the clay at the bottom of structures as you build them has a tendency to buckle under the weight of all the clay above it if there’s too much. To avoid that you build tall structures in stages covering the top with a damp cloth and plastic bag between building it up further. Then you can go as tall as you like so long as it fits in a kiln.

The second is because that soft clay will not stay perfectly straight for even a small box shape until it is leatherhard so that’s why we join slab pots together at that stage. You can speed that up by using a hairdryer or using slightly drier clay but the drier the clay the more prone it is to cracking when rolling it out.