Monday, November 7, 2011

Handbuilder Extraordinaire - Vince Pitelka - MISSA Part IV

The second week was handbuilding with Vince Pitelka and learning all sorts of new techniques. I have never been a fan of coiling as I find it too slow for my impatient personality. However Vince's technique for making large storage jars that he learned years ago from a Nigerian student made for a much faster and satisfying experience as well as resulting in a very strong pot. All of us in the workshop managed to make these very large jars by the end of the week. You do have to leave time for drying as there was only so much height that can be accomplished each day.

Detail of the tethered bird

My large coiled jar
In between coiling sessions we were shown his system of building boxes using a template system of squares, rectangles and triangles of graduated sizes. His method of making templates for flaring tumblers was new to me - using two different lengths of radii - by using a very large homemade protractor.

Two of his best tips - spray the table top with water, smooth on your canvas and you have a ready made working surface. If the canvas moves, just respray. Now there is no need to carry around a thick sheet of canvas covered board - just the canvas. 

My handbuilt mug with paddled rim
And the second tip was the best, at least for me. Slab built vases, cups, etc. I  always felt had a weakness - their rims. It is very difficult to thicken the rim evenly and effectively. Vince's method is simple and results in a very nice rim that can compete with any wheel thrown one in terms of adding that finishing touch to the pot. Once the clay is leatherhard, he paddles the rim using a wooden paddle - I use a wooden spoon - using a circular motion and stroking down on the clay rim and going back up to start again. By going around slowly one can build up quite a substantial lip that looks totally natural.

Vince (seated) - with his large coiled jar and working on his signature oil can teapot.


  1. Wish I was there, what a great workshop that sounds to be, thanks for sharing the tip on the rims.

  2. I love getting to tag along behind you at all these great workshops! Thanks for shariing. Love YOUR work, too, and wish you'd show more and talk about your process.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Having trouble with this new format which at times won't let me view my blog or add to it. Hope to write some more about new things that I have been working on.