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6-8: Becoming One with Clay: Pinch Pots

by Renee Miller, Learn NC

This lesson will provide students with an initial, successful experience with clay. They will begin with a small, palm-size piece of soft clay, mold it into a ball, and then create a small rounded pot.

A lesson plan for Grade 6 Visual Arts Education

Students will

  • 1. learn how to be sensitive to the nuances of shaping clay with just their hands.
  • 2. learn how to create a three-dimensional, rounded pot-form from clay.
  • 3. learn how to use clay in an appropriate manner.
  • 4. have an enjoyable, successful review of hand-built clay work, and demonstrate their skill level if experienced with working with clay prior to this lesson.
  • 5. demonstrate their skills in creating and finishing a three-dimensional pot out of clay.

Time required for lesson: 1.5 hours


  • -25 pounds of soft, low-fire clay
  • -paper towels
  • -sponges, sink, or buckets of water for clean-up

Technology resources

Computer with Internet access (optional)


  • 1. Discuss with students where clay is found, and its molecular structure (pertinent to wedging clay to create a smooth consistency).
  • 2. Discuss with students the need to prevent trapping air bubbles into the clay body, as it will create pockets which will expand in the kiln and cause pieces to blow up.
  • 3. Discuss how using too much water to smooth exterior surfaces will weaken the clay body, causing potential cracks in the pot.
  • 4. Students will need to understand that the clay must not get on floor or other surfaces, since it creates a somewhat hazardous dust in large quantities.


1. Students will all have a small piece of semi-soft clay which will fit into their hands comfortably. If it is too large or small, students will have difficulty managing to work with the piece.

2. Students will now mold the piece of clay into a ball; teacher can demonstrate as they work together, offering tips as to how to quickly get a rounded ball.

3. Students will gently press thumb into ball, stopping about 1/2 inch before reaching bottom. They will then begin to pinch with thumb inside, fingers outside, in a spiral fashion, from bottom to top. The spiral motion should be continued, beginning to end, several times until a rounded pot form begins to shape.

4. As the pot form is generated, students should be cautioned to continue gentle pressure, and press outward with thumb to maintain the rounded form. If not, the pot will begin to flop outward and lose its “pinchpot” form.

5. Students will continue to pinch pot, smoothing surfaces with thumb (inside) and fingers (outside), and maintaining an even lip or top edge.


  • -The finished pot will be rounded in form, bowling out in the center and coming in at the top and bottom.
  • -The walls of the pot will be even in width throughout the entire pot.
  • -The surface of the pot will be smooth, both inside and out. Decorative designs are allowed, but they must be neatly etched into the surface.
  • -The lip or edge of the pot should be even.

Related websites

Hoboken Pottery (includes an explanation of the molecular structure of clay)

Pottery Tutorial: Pinch Pot Construction

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