Creating with Coils

Coiling is a method of creating pottery. It has been used to shape clay into vessels for many thousands of years. It ranges from Africa to Greece and from China to New Mexico. They have used this method in a variety of ways.

Using the coiling technique, it is possible to build thicker or taller walled vessels, which may not have been possible using earlier methods. The technique permits control of the walls as they are built up and allows building on top of the walls to make the vessel look bigger and bulge outward or narrow inward with less danger of collapsing.

There are many ways to build ceramic objects using the coiling technique. Coils of clay can be used to build bowls, vases and other forms in various shapes and sizes. Keeping the fingers flat, form the clay into sausage shapes, then roll into ropes 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick. Make a shallow dish with the pinch pot method and turn up-side down to serve as a foot of base. Place a coil along the edge of the foot. Dampen the fingers and join the next coil to it, with a little pressure.

Using flat coils rather than the more traditional snakelike coil. Making coil pottery with this method has several advantages, including saving time! One big advantage with this method is that you can change directions rather drastically by letting the flat coils become leather hard. Another advantage is the variety of sculptural forms you can make. This method also saves a lot of time by using 2-inch flat coils instead of small round coils. Build up three to six rows of “coils” on several ware boards at one time.


  1. The clay used to build coil pots needs to be matched to the final form, meaning larger structures will need more strength. Their walls should be thicker, so choose a clay body for strength and for a lower coefficient of expansion.

  2. In sculptural terms, coiling is an additive process as the pot is created by adding material to it. Potters do use coils of clay, but additions can be made using other shapes, such as small patties.

  3. Use clay that is soft enough.

  4. Hard clay tends to go hollow on the edges, although starting with tapered ends and keeping the canvas moist will help.

  5. The heat from your hand can also dry out coils

  6. Soft coils are better anyway for joining, and slip is not needed

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