What is a Pinch Pot?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pinch pot is a type of hand-formed pot. Pinch pots have been produced for centuries, and they are among the easiest types of pottery to create. For this reason, archaeologists suspect that pinch pots are probably one of the oldest forms of pottery, and ample evidence at historical sites supports this theory. Pinch pots continue to be produced today by potters at all levels of skill, from beginners who are just starting to explore clay to experienced professionals who like to play around with the form and style of pinch pots.

Woman painting
Woman painting

To make a pinch pot, all that is required is a ball of clay and a kiln to fire it in. The first step in making a pinch pot is preparing the clay for working, which is done by kneading it in a process called wedging to eliminate air pockets. The clay must also be moist, so it may be worked with water or slip to ensure that the clay will not become dry and crumbly while the pinch pot is being worked.

Once a ball of clay has been worked and formed, the potter pushes a finger into the middle of the ball, forming a small opening. Then, he or she pinches around the sides, constantly rotating the ball, to widen the opening, thin the sides, and slowly create a pot. Many potters like to push their pinch pots against a flat surface while working them, to ensure that the pot will have an even, level bottom so that it will not be unstable. Talented pinch potters can create a very uniform, smooth pot with sides which may even flare back in at the top.

Once a pinch pot has been formed, it can be further burnished and shaped with tools, if desired, or it can be bisqued before being glazed and fired. Pinch pots can vary in size and function widely, from tiny delicate ceremonial pots to massive pots designed for the storage of water or grain. Depending on how the pinch pot is formed, it can become a deep bowl, a wide plate, a fluted vase, or anything in between, and the pinch pot may be decorated with engraved or chased designs or painted patterns.

In addition to being formed in a regular shape, pinch pots can also be manipulated into the shapes of animals, musical instruments, and other forms. Ocarinas, for example, are often formed using a pinching technique, and pinch pots can also be used to make supports for drum skins or arrangements of strings to make stringed instruments.

When making pinch pots, the important thing to remember is that air pockets can cause pottery to explode when it is fired, as can extremely uneven pieces, such as very thick pots with small, delicate handles which could crack off during the firing process. For this reason, it is important to keep the piece as even as possible, and to avoid the creation of air pockets; if you suspect that a pinch pot has air pockets, they should be pierced to allow the air to escape, or you should start over again after re-wedging the clay.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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