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How To Make Pinch Pots With Air Dry Clay

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at pottery but felt intimidated by the complicated and traditional clay techniques? Don’t worry! You can still use clay without a kiln. Building a pinch pot with air dry clay allows kids and adults to express their creativity and imagination in a hands-on way.

children's hands creating pinch pots out of air dry clay on a green table.

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What is air dry clay?

Air dry clay may also be called air drying clay, self-hardening clay or no-bake clay. It is a popular medium for sculpting, hand-building, and other clay projects, particularly for those who do not have access to special pottery equipment. Unlike regular clay, it does not require a kiln to harden.

air-dry clay in bucket with hands molding it in the background.

While it is not as strong as fired clay, it is still a great material to work with to get a ceramic experience.

Recommended Supplies

  • Air Dry Clay: In the images, we are using Crayola, but this brand is best for more advanced builders.
  • Skewer
  • Acrylic Paint or Watercolor Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Varnish or Clear Coat: Use this if you need extra protection if your pot will come into contact with water.

How To Make A Pinch Pot With Air Dry Clay

Before You Begin

If making a pinch pot for the first time, start with a small amount of clay. A good idea is to use an amount that easily fits in your palm or your child’s hand.

Step 1: Roll A Ball

Roll the clay ball in your hands until it’s smooth and round.

child rolling clay into a ball.

Step 2: Push Down With Thumbs In The Center

Using their thumbs, kids should push a hole into the center of the clay ball, making sure not to push all the way through to the bottom. The hole should be as deep as possible. This will be the starting point for the pinch pot.

child's hand pushing thumbs into air dry clay ball.

Step 3: Pinch The Clay Walls

Rotate the pot and continue pinching around the edges to create an even shape. Encourage your child to hold their index fingers and thumbs like they are driving a car, instead of pulling the walls and ending up with a plate.

hand pinch walls of clay to make pinch pot.

Step 4: Flip Over To Make A Smooth Edge

Flip the pot over on a flat surface and lightly tap the rim to make it even. You can also use clay tools to trim the excess clay.

Step 5: Smooth Out Bumps Or Cracks

Smooth out any bumps or cracks with your fingers or a small clay tool. Your child can use a finger dipped in water to help smooth the surface.

child's hand using finger to add water to air dry clay pot.

Just note that pinch pots are supposed to be more organic-looking and you do not want to overwork the clay.

Step 6: Add Extra Details (optional)

If desired, create a coil of clay and add a foot ring to the bottom of the pot. Score marks on both pieces and add water to create slip.

You can also carefully draw into the surface of the clay to create designs. Kids will love to personalize their pinch pots. You just want to encourage them not to poke all the way through the clay when drawing.

wooden skewer in front of clay pot with heart drawn in the bottom.

Step 7: Add Name On The Bottom

Flip the pot over and write your name or initials on the project.

Step 8: Let Clay Dry

Let the pot dry completely. You can tell if it’s dry by touching it. It should not feel cold at all.

No need for a kiln! Air dry clay dries on its own and will harden over time.

Step 9: Add Color

Use paint or other techniques to add color to your air dry clay project.

brush on clay pinch pot adding red and orange paint on green table.

Acrylic paint is probably our favorite material to paint air dry clay with.

Tips For Beginners

  • Check The Thickness Of Your Walls When Pinching: It is important to make sure that the walls of your pinch pot are thick enough to hold their shape. If they are too thin, they may collapse or crack.
  • Compressing the Clay: It is important to compress the clay as you pinch and shape it, to ensure that it is even and free of air pockets. You can also wedge your clay before beginning.
  • Make A Solid Base: The base of your pinch pot should be thick enough to provide stability and support for the walls. If it is too thin, the pot may wobble or tip over.
  • Don’t Overwork The Clay: Air dry and regular clay can start to dry out when you over touch it. Remember pinch pots are meant to be simple and organic in shape.
  • Allowing Enough Drying Time: Make sure to let your pinch pot dry completely before firing it. Rushing this step can result in cracking or warping of the clay.
  • Don’t Add Water Once Dry: You can use watercolor paint on air-dried clay, but you don’t want to try to resoak the clay to fix or change anything. You will most likely end up with a crumbly mess.
kid hands playing with air dry clay on green table.

Air Dry Clay FAQs

How long does it take for the clay to dry?

The drying time for air dry clay can vary depending on the humidity and thickness of the clay. Typically, it takes about 24-48 hours for a small pinch pot to dry completely.

Can I make a pinch pot with air dry clay if I’ve never worked with clay before?

Yes, air dry clay is a great material for beginners to work with, as it is easy to shape and does not require a kiln or other specialized equipment. Just start with a small amount of clay and make sure to let your project fully dry before adding paint or color.

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How To Make A Pinch Pot With Air Dry Clay

Learn how to make a pinch pot with air dry clay, a popular and easy-to-use medium for sculpting and hand-building, without the need for a kiln.
Print Tutorial
clay pinch pots on table.
Prep:5 minutes
Creating:5 minutes
Dry Time:1 day
Total Time:1 day 10 minutes

Equipment

  • Small container of water
  • Skewer or Needle Tool

Supplies

Instructions

  • Roll a ball of air dry clay in your hands until it's smooth and round.
  • Use your thumbs to push a hole into the center of the clay ball, making sure not to push all the way through to the bottom. The hole should be as deep as possible. This will be the starting point for the pinch pot.
  • Pinch the clay walls to create an even shape, rotating the pot and continuing to pinch around the edges. Be sure to hold your index fingers and thumbs like you're driving a car to maintain the shape.
  • Flip the pot over on a flat surface and lightly tap the rim to make it even. You can also use clay tools to trim the excess clay.
  • Smooth out any bumps or cracks with your fingers or a small clay tool. If needed, dip your fingers in water to help smooth the surface.
  • (Optional) Add extra details, such as a coil of clay for a foot ring or designs on the surface. Be sure not to poke all the way through the clay when drawing.
  • Flip the pot over and write your name or initials on the bottom.
  • Let the pot dry completely.
  • (Optional) Add color to your pinch pot using paint or other techniques. Acrylic paint is a good option for painting air dry clay.

Notes

  • The drying time for air dry clay can vary depending on the humidity and thickness of the clay. Typically, it takes about 24-48 hours for a small pinch pot to dry completely.
  • Apply a varnish or clear coat for extra protection if your pot will come into contact with water.
Author: Erin
Cost: under $5

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