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Pottery making methods (Part 2) - Wheelthrowing and Slipcast

Hand building remains the general basis of pottery making and is definitely the easiest and most fun method to learn (if you haven't read our part 1 on hand building, click here). But there are two other main methods for pottery making - the famed wheel-throwing and slipcast.

Wheel Throwing

Wheel throwing is probably the only method that needs no introduction as it's the first thing that usually comes to mind when you mention pottery. It typically involves shaping clay on an electric or manual 'wheel'. The wheel’s centrifugal force allows potters to create vessels with precision and quality, allowing for a more refined and thinner vessels than the other hand building techniques.

Handmade tableware shop Singapore - Eat & SipMy attempt at a wheel-throwing course. A 'not-so-refined' vessel - not something I'm proud of, but we did end up using these vessels in the studio. 

The clay is left to dry for a few days after the throwing process. When it becomes drier, it can then be trimmed to remove the excess clay. Any modifications such as pattern-carving or the attaching of handles is done at this stage as well to produce the final refined form.

Handmade ceramic tableware shop Singapore - Eat & SipThe making stages of a juicer by Dot & Co.

Handmade ceramics tableware shop in Singapore - Eat & SipNobuhito Nishigiwara's mugs before and after trimming 

Helen Levi handmade tableware in Singapore - Eat & Sip
Helen Levi mixes various coloured clay together, throws them and then trims them to reveal a unique marbling pattern beneath.

Depending on the preferences of the maker, a footing is sometimes added to the bottom of the ceramic piece while trimming. This can be for aesthetic purposes, as it enhances the overall shape of the piece, or functional purposes - to prevent the glaze from sticking to the kiln during firing. 

Handmade ceramic tableware shop in Singapore - Eat & SipOmelettress Studio's bowls given a visual lift after footings are added to the bowls

Florian Gadsby | Handmade ceramic tableware shop Singapore - Eat & SipHere, London potter Florian Gadsby is throwing yunomi teacups off the hump, and the second picture shows his cups waiting to be bone dry.

To read more on the wheel throwing process, Florian Gadsby usually writes very detailed captions for his Instagram photos, documenting his making and thought-process.


Slip cast

For the last pottery method, liquid clay, also know as slip, is poured into a mould to take its shape. The excess slip will then be poured out - the longer you leave it in, the thicker the wall of your product would be. It can be a simple one-part mould, or a few-parts mould depending on the complexity of the shape.  

Sculpture in Design |  handmade ceramics in SingaporeDima and Nadya Gurevich are removing the 'Cute boy' mug and 'Helping hand'  from their mould

Slip casting has its obvious advantages. First, using a mould allows you to cast any shape you like easily. Despite the perception of some that slip casting = cheating/not handmade as it's deemed as a technique of mass-production, this method has generated many unique forms and ideas to develop which may not have been possible with the conventional hand building or wheel throwing. 

Bomi Lee | Handmade tableware in SingaporeSlip casted vessels by Bomi Lee 

Second, slip casting also allows you to cast shapes with thinner walls as compared to the other methods and it gives the potter a smoother surface as well. 

Handmade ceramics in SingaporeWhen they're semi-dry, Bomi cuts them and joins it up.

Bomi Lee | Handmade porcelain ceramics in SingaporeThe slip casting method has also allowed her to explore having inlaid porcelain strips in her pieces

Handmade tableware in Singapore

Sean Forest Roberts slipcasts layers of coloured porcelain before he carves on it to achieve the rainbow effect above. His current record is 29 layers!
Handmade tableware in Singapore | Helen Levi
Helen Levi marbles her slip inside the mould

Eliana Bernard | Handmade marbled porcelain in SingaporeEliana Bernard swirls the surface of the slip by hand to create a different kind of marbled effect.


So there you have it - hand building, wheel-throwing and slip-casting creates the different forms and shapes of the tableware that you see. Of course, potters have their own preferences and some even use a blend of the methods.

Disclaimer: There are other pottery shaping methods that weren't covered in our two-part article such as the newer 3D printing process and other mass produced methods.  

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