5 DIY Pinch Pot Ideas for Beginners

Not ready for the wheel? Try pinch pottery! Use your fingers to create artisanal pots, mugs, and cups that are both beautiful and functional.

Creativity 7 min read Sep 04, 2022

In case you don’t know it yet, you can do pottery without a wheel! And we don’t mean kiddie pots or rudimentary receptacles that literally won’t hold water; we’re talking about real, functional, beautiful pieces you’ll be proud to display at home or gift to a loved one. The method is called pinch pottery.

The pinch method has been around for ages; in fact, some of the oldest ceramics were made with it. First used in China, the pinch pottery style later spread to Japan, and is the ancestor of the mug-type porcelain wares produced in Tokoname, which is said to be the oldest of the country’s ancient kilns.

What is the Pinch Pot Technique?

Pinching is often practiced in ceramics and is similar to cobbling in metalwork. As the name implies, pinching involves pressing the edge of a piece of clay or other material, moving them around in order to widen, lengthen, shape, or otherwise form a ridge. Using your thumb and fingers or tools such as tweezers or other preferred implements, in effect, you are sculpting a pot or vessel using squeezing motions.

Pinching is a very simple technique to learn, if you want to add dimension or interesting textures to any piece of clay. If you want to do pinch pottery like a pro, you can learn quickly from experienced artisans and start creating a variety of objects. We list some pinch pot ideas here!

5 Pinch Pot Ideas for Beginners

Creating with clay opens a world of possibilities. And because pottery is a craft in which you can create from scratch and customise as you please – from choosing what type of clay to use to deciding between a glossy or colourful finish, or perhaps something more understated – your clay pieces can be the perfect medium for your artsy expression.

And where better to find creative pinch pot designs for your first project than on Instagram?

Thumb pots

Thumb pots are about the size of a kiwi fruit but can go as large as a mug. Since they are typically made of clay, these small pots are best kept in a dry place.

Usually found in a kitchen, these small pots are traditionally used to grow seeds, until the seedling is ready for transplanting to a more suitable size pot. Despite its utilitarian origins, thumb pots are also used as an item for decoration. When adorned, they are useful for storing small items such as buttons, earrings, candles, or your go-to lipstick.

Serving ware

A unique platter or salad bowl can liven up any meal, as well as turn into a conversation piece if you’re hosting. Bragging rights for making the pieces yourself are a bonus!

But don’t make just one. Keep a stash on hand for determined guests who might want to buy the pretty pinch pot centerpiece off your own dinner table. Pro tip: When setting your table, place your best pinch pot on a plate and then, surround it with some dried flowers, fruit or other décor as desired. An instant ice breaker, at the very least.


In many countries, beadmaking presents a thriving cottage industry for local communities. Making your own beads to personalise your accessories or for use as supplies for your own beading hobby can be a rewarding venture, both creatively and financially.

Needless to say, you don’t have to buy beads, you can make them yourself with a bit of clay and supplies. You get to make and use the exact types of bead you want for your design. Remember, though, that you can charge a premium for handmade beads; they exude a charm you won’t find in the machine-cut kind!

Ceramic pets

Kawaii is the culture of cuteness in Japan, which has taken over global merchandise. Because who can turn away from round little figures with large eyes and small mouths, begging for you to pick them up?

While these clay cuties here are not necessarily Japanese, you do get the same feel-good vibe. This is a great way to add little clay characters to your home or office. They will brighten up your spaces and add smiles to the people around you!

Mugs and cups

Starting your own coffee shop? How cute would these quirky beverage holders look to your patrons? A little bit of whimsy never hurt anyone; it can even be your shop’s trademark characteristic. No store-bought cups and mugs here!

Drinking from a mug that doesn’t look like a dozen others in the cupboard can give your customers the extra kick no coffee buzz can match. You can make your cups as tall or wide or curvy as you want, fashion a handle tailored to your grip, and paint them in the colours that you or the people you want to give them to will absolutely adore.

Some Tips for Perfecting Your Pinch Pot Skills

Designing a pinch pot is simple and straightforward and easy to understand. Even children can uncover the connection between form and function (maybe even some math).

Ready to start working on your pinch pot ideas? Here are some tips on how to improve your pottery skills.

Experiment with different shapes and sizes

In pinch pottery, you create a curved shape by forming a hollow piece of clay or porcelain around a core, to shape into a mug, bowl, vase, or plate. What’s great about this pottery technique is you have the flexibility to configure it into anything that satisfies your curiosity.

Want to make a miniature decorative piece? You can vary the size of the pinch pot simply by changing how much clay is used. Or how about making them in the form of animals like a pig, chicken or cat, such as in the kawaii tradition?

Find the right consistency of clay

To improve your pottery hand-building skills, first you need to find the right consistency of your basic material: clay. Experienced potters say the ideal consistency is about 3 parts clay to 1 part water. This ratio ensures that you are able to knead your clay and make sure it is soft enough so that it can be worked with your fingers.

Use simple tools to create texture

Some pinch pottery designs involve applying patterns to the surface of the clay for a more aesthetic appeal. This is less complicated than it sounds! You can take the simplest tools and create sophisticated textured effects.

For example, you can tap your clay with a fork. Or you can employ mixing and kneading techniques to add a more interesting and unique quality. You can even use small fibers, mixing a thicker base in a bit of water. Using a larger base and adding sand or gravel will give you a different texture.

Keep your pieces dry until they’re fired

While you are assembling it, keep your pinch pot wet; the more water content your clay has, the more likely it is that it will have a pliable consistency later. Once you’re done, remember to let your piece dry until it is fired. Should you want to brush or wipe off some excess clay before firing, that’s fine, as long as you don’t use your fingers to touch it. Or else, you might create unwanted air bubbles and uneven surfaces on the clay piece.

Polish your pots for a finished look

After firing your pinch pot, you can then polish it, to achieve a more finished, professional look. Just pour a small amount of oil in and wipe the pot with a cloth as you turn it. This is an easy and effective way to bring out the natural beauty of your pinch pot. It’s important to use a soft cloth and do not use too much pressure, so as not to mar your pot.

And voila, just like that, your pinch pot is done! Will your creation be the next #ceramicsofinstagram hotshot? Perhaps, just a handmade little treasure you’d rather just share with close friends and family? The only limit is your imagination. Whatever it is, we hope your new skill will adorn your life in unexpected ways.

There’s so much more to pinch pottery, beyond this starter list. Bring your pinch pot ideas to life today in one of our fantastic pottery classes!

Not ready for the pottery wheel? Try pinch pottery!
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