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Read Any Good Pottery Books Lately?

Keeping your clay hand building ideas fresh is always challenging. You can get something akin to writers’ block if you do a lot of clay work. So, Hand Builders Monthly will maintain a listing of some helpful books and videos. Try a few. Use the comment section to let us know what you think. Leave us a note if you know of other books and video title to share with your fellow mudslingers.

Pinch Pottery by Susan Halls pinch pots pottery book

A terrific book for simple to complex pinching. I used her teapot process last week and I loved the results. The book is nicely illustrated with color photos. Once in a while, the author skips a step, and you have to envision it yourself. But the text is easy to read and, for the most part, easy to understand. I found one or two places that I had to read a few times to get her meaning, but face it, it’s tough to translate three dimensional work into words. Pinch Pottery offers several start-to-finish projects, with variations. Projects  include a  mug, vase, jug, bowl, teapot, and triple herb planter.  Good book for inspiring your imagination or for adapting Susan Halls’ ideas to get yourself going. The beginning chapter is a great back-to-basics for proper pinching. You’ll find advanced techniques, too.

From a Slab of Clay by Daryl E. Baird pottery books

A must-have for hand building. The author says working with clay slabs offers more opportunities than any other forming process, and we agree. From small dishes and plates to architectural installments, slabs can be used to create work of any form, any size. And I’ll add, from soft slab to soft leather to leather hard, slabs have as many uses as duct tape. The more you know about using flattened, compressed clay, the better your work will be. This is the book for any hand builder. You’ll refer to this book over and over. Daryl discusses, from a position of knowledge, everything you might ever need to know.

  • Set up an effective work space
  • Select the right tools
  • Understand your equipment
  • Complete instructions for building an affordable slab roller
  • Buying a roller
  • Make a great  slab

Once you have that perfect slab, he’ll walk with you through projects like a three-tile panel,  carving,  press-form molding, and a slump mold platter.  Buy this book and you’ll never have potters’ block again!

The Extruder Book by Daryl E. Baird extruder

So you bought an extruder and it’s sitting on the garage floor in pieces? Well fear not. This was, for me, the definitive book on what the heck to do with an extruder besides making miles of clay pipe. This book is similar to Baird’s slab book, in that it walks you from rudimentary to very sophisticated, at your own pace. Learn what to buy, how to set it up, how to make the process easy and frustration-less. Then move on to projects you can do yourself, as well as a photographic essay of work by potters and artists. Daryl covers the nuts and bolts of dies and die making. I like his writing style, which is very readable, simple to follow, and understandable. Illustrations are clear and relevant. Text is well organized. This topic will open a world of new work for you to assimilate into your repertoire.

Making Marks by Robin Hopper pottery books

Here’s a course in surface decoration—a book I love. Robin begins with a short and very do-able primer on how to draw. He makes the case that, if you can’t draw, you’ll have trouble doing clay decoration. Reading Making Marks,  I learned some pretty cool stuff about translating three-dimensions to two and vice-versa. There’s a lot of reading to this…it’s not just a flip through it paperback for casual glancing. Robin is thorough and detailed. Maybe a little too detailed sometimes, but it’s worth wading through some of the fat parts to get the kernel. Topics addressed include the meaning of symbols and how to make marks with obvious intentionality. There are great discussions about pattern and space and about adding and subtracting clay to make decorations. The title comes from the obvious reference in the art world of altering surfaces with your tools. Read this book and you’ll make more significant marks!

ART Fair Source Book,

by Greg Lawler. AFSB is an online tracking system that organizes 285,420 facts into an easy- to-use planning tool. The book is not just a directory of art fairs for the potter looking to sell work. Every page includes critiques of the show to target the best for your style of work, geographic range,  and price range. An extremely useful tool. Not exactly a book, it’s an online subscription.

Please tell us, in the comment section, about your favorite clay books.


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