Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Pinch Pot Possibilities

Deborah Walther
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students create round pinch pots with lids that have uniform shape and overall surface designs that emphasize line.


The student uses two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, techniques, tools, and processes to communicate an idea or concept based on research, environment, personal experience, observation, or imagination.

The student uses tools, media, processes, and techniques proficiently, knowledgeably, and in a safe and responsible manner.

The student knows how the elements of art and the principles of design can be used to solve specific art problems.

The student uses effective control of media, techniques, and tools when communicating an idea in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of art.


-Examples of pots that have been made by the pinch method of handbuilding. Pots may or may not have lids.
-Clay enough for each student to have two tennis ball forms of clay. Any type of earthenware or stoneware clay which requires a kiln may be used, however, if a kiln is not available, you may use a self-hardening clay found in most art supply catalogs such as Sax Arts and Crafts or Dick Blick.
-Modeling tools, sgraffito tools, or anything else that will impress or carve lines into the surface
-Damp paper towels
-Water bowls
-Finishing materials such as glazes or paints will do
-Art Production Criteria, Evaluation Checklist (all located in the Associated File)


1. Gather information about the pinch method of hand building in Ceramics and find examples. Have a teacher made example if possible.
2. Have clay, tools, and materials available (see materials list).
3. Download and preview the Art Production Criteria and the Evaluation Checklist located in the Associated File. Make a copy for each student or have available for students to copy from overhead or board.


1. Have a tennis ball size lump of clay and begin rolling it in your hand to make a nice round shape. Then proceed to stick your thumb into the ball of clay while you are pinching and creating a round hollow ball. Explain to the students that the pinch method is one of the simplest methods of hand building in clay. Demonstrate the correct way to make a pinch pot.

2. Ask the students to try this for themselves and allow them time for practice.

3. Students create a ball shape with their clay and insert their thumbs while they are turning the ball of clay and pressing down with the thumb to within ˝ inch of the bottom. Rotate while pinching the sides with the thumb. Work from the bottom up until you have a bowl shape. As the clay dries, it may crack so keep the clay moist by using water.

4. Walk around and monitor their progress, making suggestions where needed.

5. Encourage students to keep the shape uniform and to have consistent thickness in the walls of their pinch pots. At this point, it will resemble a bowl shape. Stress that the walls of the pot should not be pinched too thin, as this will make it difficult to join together.

6. Next, have students to repeat this by building a second pinch pot and loosely wrap the two halves in plastic and then put away. Students then clean up their work areas.

7. Write the Art Production Criteria Checklist on the board and ask students what problems may arise in working on this project and how they might solve them. Review the elements and principles of design and ask that they emphasize the element line in creating the principle of pattern on the surface of their pinch pot. The checklist is located in the Associated File. The students should join the two halves to form a hollow sphere being careful not to crush it. Newspaper may be balled up and placed inside the two halves to help it not crush in. Score and slip the two pots together, rubbing the ball smooth so that it appears to be one piece.

8. Have the students label their pots on the bottoms and place on a shelf to get leather hard.

9. Show examples of finished pinch pots with or without lids that have surface decoration. You may use pictures or slides. Ask the students to define PATTERN. Write responses on the board. Responses may include a motif repeated over and over, a design that has lines, shapes, or textures. Ask the students to sketch a circle onto a sheet of paper with a pencil to represent their pinch pots and to create a pattern on the circle that can be used as a guide to create an overall pattern on their pinch pots. Their patterns may be representational or non-representational meaning they may be outlines of familiar things or abstract shapes only.

10. Students then use various tools to carve or impress their design onto their leather hard pinch pots.

11. Students then use a needle tool or cutting tool to cut a wavy line into the top of their pinch pots that is continuous and joins together. This will create a lid that will fit like a piece of a puzzle into their pinch pots. Cutting the lid in a wavy and not straight line will enable the lid to fit tightly without having to have a lip added.

12. Pinch pots are allowed to dry with their lids in place. (You may wish to insert a small piece of plastic wrap between the two pieces so they will not stick together while drying.)

13. Bisque fire the pots with lids in place.

14. Students will then finish their pinch pots with the media of their choice. They may use engobes on their piece and then wipe off the excess to accentuate the linear pattern and then clear glaze over the engobe, or they may elect not to glaze but have it fired again to make the engobe permanent. This results in a matte finish. They may also choose to glaze it with a colored glaze, which must be fired again. Acrylic paints may be used to finish the project. Shoe polish applied with a stiff brush and then buffed with a soft cloth works well, too.

15. Students assess their finished projects using the Art Production Criteria located in the Associated File.


Each student should participate in the class discussion of the definition of pattern and how potters use elements of design.

Each student should show mastery of the use of tools, techniques, and materials as noted by teacher observation.

Each student should have completed the construction of a lidded pinch pot in accordance to the art production criteria and have completed a self-evaluation based upon the Criteria Checklist located in the Associated File.

Students may also participate in critiquing each other's finished projects using the Criteria Checklist located in the Associated File.


This lesson can be modified to emphasize a particular element or principle such as texture or negative and positive space. In this case the emphasis in on the element LINE to create the principle of PATTERN as a surface decoration for the pinch pot with lid.

Web Links

Web supplement for Pinch Pot Possibilities
Pinch Pots

Make a pinch pot
Making Pinch Pots

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