• Cone in studio

    Cone in studio

Hand building techniques

Much of my ceramic output to date has been hand built. More specifically, I have been exploring the hand building technique of coiling.


Coiling is an ancient technique of simply taking some wet clay, rolling it with flattened hands into long coils and then building these up on top of one another to make a form. When I first learnt this practice I feel in love with it and spent a great deal of time researching and developing my technique to respect and maintain the joins between each coil – a contemporary take on an old practice.

Bunya Nut Cones

Interested in the lines and forms between each piece of clay used in the building of a form has evolved into some experimentation with torn clay. This experimentation was inspired by the very geometric line work found on the heavy cones of the Bunya Nut Tree. Bunya cones are made up of individual segments that house a smooth single nut while the surface of the larger cone is very rough and spiky. Using pieces of torn clay to systematically build up a form has resulted in a beautiful spiralling effect when used to create spherical forms.


This new technique of ‘tearing’ is quite exciting in that it is giving me a rough surface in contrast to the smoothness of my coiled surfaces but the actual technique of hand building requires quite a different sort of attitude to the one I usually use when coiling. The way I normally hand build involves gently coaxing wet clay from a slab and then rolling it. ’Tearing’ is a much more assertive and physical technique that can be quite hard on the hands and fingers over time.

What I am enjoying about this tearing technique is actually its limitations. May hand, my fingers, can only ‘tear’ a certain amount of moist clay. To achieve the segmented form I desire I must ‘tear’ in a certain direction and release my finger pressure at a precise moment in the action of ripping the clay to begin making the shape I need. It takes time for my hands to ‘remember’ the sequence of actions and it takes considerable time to build the final form. Part of the clay carries a line from the fold in my fingers and each individual piece must be applied over the one before it at just the right angle and at just the right pressure to finally create the shape I need. Requiring practice and concentration this technique is then repeated literally hundreds of time over to complete a final form. This is a slow technique.