Coil building is a great way to build pots, sculptures, and just about anything. You can build all kinds of shapes, from structured "perfect-looking" pieces to very organic pieces. But as anyone who has tried to roll coils can attest, it is not as easy as it looks!

Beginner's coils tend to flatten, get hollow on the ends, be lumpy, or break into pieces. This tip will focus on how to roll nice, straight, even coils. And next time we will talk about using the coils to build beautiful and interesting objects.

Start by squeezing the clay into a sausage, and taper the ends slightly.

Some people do the first rolls of the coil in their hands, then lay on the canvas.


  • Use clay that is soft enough.
  • Hard clay tends to go hollow on the edges, although starting with tapered ends and keeping the canvas moist will help.
  • The heat from your hand can also dry out coils.
  • Soft coils are better anyway for joining, and slip is not needed.
  • But if clay is TOO wet, it can cause problems too. If rolling on a canvas, dampen it slightly. Otherwise the canvas will dry out the clay.

There are two approaches to rolling:

  1. Use your whole hand (palm + fingers, fingers spread wide).
  2. Use just the outstretched fingers.



Different methods work for different people, and sometimes a certain type of imagery will click with a specific person. So rather than a "how-to," here is a list of ideas to experiment with, and trying imagining as you roll.

  • Keep an even pressure.
  • Move back and forth (side-to-side) across the coil, do not stay in one place.
  • Move quickly out from the center.
  • Let the coil roll free for a bit after you've made a rolling pass.
  • Stand up while you roll.
  • Keep it loose.
  • Use very little pressure, but think of stretching the coil.
  • Sudden pressure causes the coil to flatten. Keep the pressure light and even.
  • Roll at a slight diagonal.
  • Make sure you roll the coil through more than it's circumference each time. Stopping after one revolution makes it flatten out.
  • Flat coils tend to result from too much forward pressure on the clay. Focus on stretching the clay outward instead, moving your hands sideways along the length of the clay.


  • If all else fails, don't roll your coils at all. Some people squeeze their coils. Grab a handful of clay, squeeze it into a sausage, double it over, squeeze again. Even it out as much as possible and stick it onto your pot.
  • You can coil build with strips. Roll out a slab, and cut the slab into strips. Use like coils.
  • And of course, you can always use an extruder, although most people don't think it's worth it for a small amount of coiling, since you have to clean the extruder. If you're making a lot of coils the extruder is definitely a time saver!
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