How to close a shape, but more importantly why!

While writing last weeks blog post on double wall vessels and how to close them, it occurred to me that I should also show how to make a single wall closed form vessel.

If closing the double wall vessel was troubling for you, this is a good way to practice closing a form and working on bringing the clay inward. Incidentally, this is the same process to make bottles and pitchers. I’ll get into that subject in the near future.

Before getting into how to do this, I’d like to spend a few moments on why, specifically the advantages of making pieces this way and the kinds of pieces that can be made.

So the advantage of closing a form is that after you’ve thrown it, the piece will now have air pressure inside of it. Something that I mentioned last week. Air pressure will allow you to manipulate the shape a little further than you could if it were a standard mug, vase or bottle. Essentially, it allows you to play more.

Another advantage (and this crosses into products) is that it makes precise jars. By that I mean if you cut the top portion off of the piece and open it, you have an instantaneous and perfect fitting top to a jar.

If you ever made or attempted to make a jar, you know that one of the annoyances is throwing a lid for it. Now, its not really that hard to throw a lid, it just requires measuring and patience, however not all potters are as patient as others. Here are a couple of  examples:

Another example of a product is the salt cellar:


So there in lies the why, now to move on to the how.

First, you should know that making a closed form will require more clay than you think. You want to have a little wiggle room when it comes to bringing the clay in. You’ll most likely need to trim off a portion of the clay as you get close to closing it, but I’d rather have the clay, not need it and discard it later than not have enough clay. You can always take away in wheel throwing, but you can never add once the wheel starts spinning.

Second, you should have an  idea of the shape you want to make if it is going to be a regular product you are working on. So if you want to make a jar or a salt cellar, know that ahead of time and plan out a shape.

That being said, closed form vessels are great for playing around. So if you know that’s what you want to work on I encourage you to play around with different heights, widths and shapes.

Now down to the nitty gritty. How to do it.

The key to bringing any form inward is your hand positioning. If you are right handed you want to have your outside right hand pushing inward with your inside left hand slightly above it. Applying pressure with your right hand you are steadying it with the left. The next, almost as important point, is to bring the form inward gradually. Remember, the wheel wants to push the clay outward. So by going inward you’re bucking centrifugal force.

This might make the clay twist and buckle.

So do this gradually. You may need to smooth out the transition from time to time with your rib and that’s fine. Just keep a slow and steady pace focusing on bringing it in and you’ll do fine.

Once it starts getting close you’ll want to trim off the excess at the top. This should give you a clear picture on what it left to bring together.

Now read this carefully, because this is the only situation in which I will recommend this technique.  When the clay is 1 inch or less apart, the best way to bring it together is through collaring the top. The means you take both hands and slowly push the top together from the outside of the piece. I don’t think it is a good technique at any other time to try to create a neck to a piece. Your hands must work independently of each other and there is no way to steady/brace them against any other part of your body, but in this instance it works well.

Once the piece is closed, its then up to you to have fun and play around with it. You can shape it on the wheel. You can let it harden a bit and hit it with paddles or other texture. Finally you can just carve it and make it into whatever you want it to be. I’ll get more into that next time.

Either way the key is to take it slow and easy and enjoy yourself. The point of working this way is to be playful and have fun. Its also great to have the shape in your repertoire for when you get bored of mugs or bowls.

Hope this helps and is a fun project for you.

Till next week, go to the studio and make something.

Questions on the technique, email me at, like what I’m doing feel free to shop my Etsy store


One Response to “How to close a shape, but more importantly why!”
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  1. […] last week’s post, I discussed making a closed form vessel and gave some reasons why you’d make one and what […]


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