12 Easy Hand Building Pottery Ideas & Projects For Beginners

Did you know that you don’t need to use a pottery wheel to get started with pottery?

There are many fun projects you can try by only using your hands and some basic tools. This type of pottery is called handbuilding and allows for various techniques that you can’t easily replicate on a wheel.

So here are 12 simple handbuilding pottery ideas that you can try out with little to no prior experience working with clay.

1. Mugs & cups

One of the easiest projects you can do regardless if you have a pottery wheel or not is to make mugs and cups.

A basic spherical mug can be made by rolling out a big slab of clay, cutting it in a rectangular shape, and connecting the two short sides.

Then add a handle and a bottom and your mug is done!

Making a mug that is perfectly symmetrical using handbuilding techniques is a little more tricky compared to using a wheel. But using a rolling pin to flatten the clay and a ruler to indicate where to cut the clay can help a lot.

handmade clay mug

But you don’t have to stick to the typical cylindrical shape when making mugs, so feel free to add some creativity.

For example, take a look at these cute heart-shaped mugs below.

heart shaped mugs from clay

2. Plates with faces

Another typical pottery project is to make plates. On a pottery wheel it’s relatively simple to make perfectly circular plates. But when you are using handbuilding techniques, it’s very difficult to achieve the same degree of symmetry.

You could roll out a big slab of clay and use a bowl or plate to mark where to cut. Or on the complete flip side, you can simply embrace the imperfection. Having slightly irregular shapes can add extra character to your plates.

Moreover, when using your hands, you have a lot of option to personalize or customize your places. Take a look at the plates with faces shown below as an example.

pottery plates with faces

However, if you want to clean your plates in the dishwasher, you probably don’t want any decorations that are too big, since your plates might not fit in the dishwasher anymore or pieces could break off.

3. Animal figures

If you want a challenging project, you can try to make a clay figure of your favorite animal or pet.

You can really make these figures as simple or as difficult as you want. Below you can find examples of a pretty easy to make penguin, and a more complex cat.

penguin clay figure

When sculpting your figurine, keep in mind that small and thin pieces that stick out can easily break off, and you want to avoid using them as much as possible.

So instead of attaching legs underneath your figurine, try to attach them directly to the main body. The cat shown below is a great example of this.

animal figure made form pottery clay

4. Leaves

These ceramic leaves are a lot of fun to make in fall. As soon as the leaves start falling from the trees, you can go out to find a few pretty ones and use them as a template.

Not only can you use the leaves you found to indicate what the outline of your ceramic leaf should be, if you press the leaf firmly in the clay, you often get a nice imprint of the nerves as well.

The resulting leaf look super neat and can be used to hold your keys, jewelry, soaps, etc.

5. Cute mushroom family

I’m not a huge fan of eating mushrooms. But these clay mushrooms just look super cute, so I had to include them in the list.

Since they are so easy to make, you can a complete collection of small mushrooms, big mushrooms, baby mushrooms, etc.

After firing, you can also paint them in what ever color you want. Or you could stick to the typical red with white dots.

6. Citrus juicer

If you want to make something more functional, why not try making yourself one of these citrus juicers?

They are actually a lot easier to make than you might think. And you could be using it several times per week to squeeze yourself a fresh glass of orange juice.

Just make sure you are using the right type of clay and/or glaze to make sure that the result is actually food safe.

7. Four sided vases

Vases thrown in a wheel are all symmetric. So if you have seen a few of them, you have pretty much seen all of them.

By combining some handbuilding techniques and slab pottery techniques, you can create way more interesting shapes.

This video below will show you exactly how to make a 4 sided vase that not only looks good, but is also function.

8. Ceramic chimes

Looking to decorate your house with your own creations? Then these chimes can add some much needed colors to your house.

These are super easy to make and pretty much impossible to fail at. Just keep in mind that clay is pretty heavy, even after drying and firing.

So don’t make your ceramic pieces to big or your chimes might weigh too much to hang them safely.

9. Animal bowls

These cute bowls are a great combination between handbuilding and using a wheel. The bowls can easily be made on a wheel, while the face and legs can be added by hand.

You can make these as easy or as difficult as you want. Often a highly simplified head works a lot better than adding too many details.

Just make sure that you don’t make the head or any of the legs too thin, since they might break off easily.

10. Woven flower pots

Weaving clay coils isn’t a technique you see very often, but it’s a fun approach to combine weaving with pottery.

You can use this technique for all kinds of projects, but in the example below it was used to create flower pots.

More pottery ideas!

You can never have too many new ideas. So if the 10 handbuilding pottery ideas above weren’t exactly what you were looking for, you can also check out some of our other pottery ideas such as:

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