Prepping Coils For The Coiling Technique

Let's talk about sausages, snakes, ropes or coils as they are more commonly known. Coiling is one of the F U N D A M E N T A L building techniques in ceramics, so it’s worth spending a bit of time getting good at this first step in the process. After a bit of practice you will be able to make them pretty quickly and with ease. Making a batch of say three or four to start with will also speed up your building a bit, so thats nice isn’t it.

There are two main techniques to get yourself going. You can see an image of each below. Bench rolling is the more profesh way of making them but does that really matter? nope it don’t.

Personal preference. I am a big fan of Hand Coiling (,on the right,) as I don’t mind an uneven coil. It adds a certain wobble to whatever I am making and that’s what I like for my clay children. If you prefer a more symmetrical looking pot or are trying to build a bit more precisely, I would go to bench rolling as your process because it will help you create much more even looking sausages and that will inevitably lead to more even pot building.

In bench rolling you use your hands with the fingers splayed out to carefully roll your clay into long sausages. Roll slowly and try to keep the coils the same thickness all along, and ensure that you don’t accidentally fold the coil over itself coz it’s easy to do.

In hand coiling it’s all about squishing baby. You will want to start by tearing or cutting a hunk of clay off of your main blob and compressing it between your fingers and palm until it is the desired thickness. just keep squeezing and elongating the sausage until it is the desired length.

A few of my top tips BB

Don’t make too many at a time, I would say 4 nice long clay coils is enough. The longer they sit there on the table the more moisture will disappear from the clay and you don’t want to be building with crispy coils.

You shouldn’t really need to add water to your clay unless you start to see cracks appear. People make this mistake all the time. I think because we are so used to seeing lots of water used in throwing pots on the wheel. It’s actually the opposite for hand building. The more water you add to your clay the less structural integrity it is going to have, so the harder it will be to get your pots form to hold. If your using fresh clay it should be pretty sticky and malleable anyways so just work with what you have and add water only when it is absolutely necessary.

The base is the place, to start

Once you have your sweet lil sausages all prepped and ready for building, you can put these to the side for a sec and start on yah base. The start of any great pot is a great base baby.

There’s a really common mistake people make straight off the batt with this, and I’ll explain why its a big no no for the future stability of your pot. I think because you are already in the mindset of “Ok so I am building this pot with the coiling technique, I will use my coils to build!” lots of people start off by creating a spiral with one of their coils, blending it together and they use that for the base of their pot. This is baddd guys, it’s doomed to fail. I mean it may not, you may have blended it like a pro and it makes it through firing fine - in which case congrats - but there’s quite a few things that could go wrong here.

Any place a coil is blended to another coil there is a weak point in your work. Your aim through the blending together of your coils is to remove that weak point. Essentially when you make your base with a spiral, straight away there are so many weak points in what is essentially just a flat old slab of clay. Like why bother, just roll out a slab of clay - because in a slab of clay there are no weak points. 💪🏻Like what if you forget to blend one side of your spiral - the bit that is resting on the table - this could mean that the blending isn’t strong enough to hold and when it goes into the kiln it cracks. Sadness, despair. Start off as strong as possible, roll a wee slab instead!