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How to Make Handmade Pottery

Learn to make decorative plates, trays and bowls with air-dry clay.

By Suzonne Stirling

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Wood grain craft
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
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Handmade pottery has always been at the top of my wish list—especially decorative plates, trays and bowls with motifs inspired by nature. Since most are off the charts price-wise, I decided to make look-alikes using air-dry clay. I played around with shapes and imprinted patterns with leaves, texture wheels, even vinyl placemats. Admittedly, my faux versions don't have the same level of craftsmanship as porcelain or stoneware ceramics—and you can't serve food on them—but they can be gifted or used as pretty catchalls on a dresser or desk for keys, rings and other small items.

Tip: Textured mats create dramatic effects, like this wood grain look.

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CHECKLIST

  • White air-dry clay
  • Clay mat
  • Rolling pin or acrylic clay roller
  • Clay knife or other cutting tool
  • Fine-grain sanding sponge
  • Acrylic craft paint (optional)
  • Glazing medium (optional)
  • Interior craft varnish in a satin finish

Step 1: Knead some white air-dry clay on a clay mat until soft. The amount used depends on desired results—a baseball-size piece for something large, walnut-size for small. Roll flat with a rolling pin or acrylic clay roller, to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Tip: Sturdy, heavily veined leaves work well for imprints.

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Step 2: Create imprints with objects of your choice; press into clay with a rolling pin or hands. Lift off. Place a bowl, plate or tray—in desired shape and size—upside down on top of clay as a template. Trim around with clay knife.

Step 3: To make a shallow bowl or tray, gently place clay shape inside the dish used in Step 2. No pressing needed—gravity will create a concave shape.

Tip: A wax foundation from a beehive supply company makes a honeycomb pattern.

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Step 4: Let dry overnight. When the edge feels stiff to the touch, carefully remove piece from mold and turn it upside down to thoroughly dry and harden. Sand any rough edges using a fine-grain sanding sponge.

Step 5: If you want a color, mix acrylic craft paint into glazing medium. Wipe on one or two thin coats of colored glaze with a damp natural sponge. When dry, seal with one to two thin coats of craft varnish, using a foam paintbrush. If no color is desired, just seal with craft varnish.

Tip: A ball of clay pressed between two cookie molds yields a walnut.

Originally published in the July 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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