pinch pot planters

By Jennie Lennick

I have this thing with ceramics. 




I went to a lot of art school, and I mean a lot- a total of seven years. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, I gravitated towards drawing, painting, photography, and sewing. For whatever reason, I mostly kept out of the ceramics studio. 

 After college, when I became more engrossed in the maker scene, I gravitated towards ceramic artists. I met Sarah from SMO Ceramics, Marisa Burman, Vivi of Mud Witch, and Sarah Duyer and fell in love with their colorful pots.  

 Art has always come naturally to me, so I decided to enroll in a ceramics class at the community center in my neighborhood. Every Tuesday, I’d walk up the hill (I am in San Francisco after all) and settle in for a night of fighting with a potter’s wheel. It was so hard! I was not used to struggling when making art! After a session of throwing pots, my hands would throb. I had already developed a repetitive stress injury from sewing, and my new pottery hobby was making it worse. I had to give it up.  

I love ceramics, but it is not the most accessible craft. To practice, you need so much: a dedicated studio space and access to a kiln- not to mention clay, glazes, and tools!

This tutorial offers a more approachable entrance into the world of clay. In it, I go over how to make a pinch pot from air-dry clay, how to smooth out cracks and imperfections, sealing the clay, and painting. It’s an easy way to try out sculpting without a membership to a pottery studio.






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Step 1: Roll a Ball of Clay 

Air-dry clay is very cool! It’s easy to work with and doesn’t require oven baking or firing in a kiln. You can use it to make sculptures, planters, vessels; you name it! With a bit of care and preparation, air dry clay is a fantastic medium to make clay artwork that will last! 




Slice about two inches of air-dry clay with your knife. 


Warm the clay between your hands and knead it a little bit.


Then, roll it into a ball between your hands and on the surface of the table.  

Step 2: Pinch Your Pot


Pinch pots are super fun and easy to make! They are a great alternative to making a pot on a wheel. 


Flatten the top of your ball of clay. 


Insert your thumb into the center of the clay.


Pinch around the edges of the clay. The center hole will get bigger, and the pot will grow.


Keep pinching! Aim to have an even-sized wall throughout your pot.

Pinch until your pot reaches your desired size. I am going to plant this cactus in my pot, so I am stopping at this point.

Step 3:  Smooth it out

Carefully flip your pot over and place it on a clean surface. I am using a paper-lined table.

You will probably have several cracks and blemishes on your clay. Dip your finger in a bit of water and smooth out your clay. Don’t overdo it with too much water! You don’t want your clay to become soupy.  


Flip your pot upright, and smooth out the rim in the same manner. 


 My pot is smooth as a baby’s bottom!

Step 3:  Dry

Air-dry clay will harden within 24-48 hours, depending on your climate. In San Francisco, it’s cold and damp, so drying times are on the longer side.  

 To speed up drying, I am going to use my oven. 

Please note that this is entirely optional! If you have the time, just let your pieces dry naturally. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil and arrange your clay pieces on the tray. Place in a cold oven and turn the heat to the lowest setting- usually around 200 degrees. Allow the pieces to dry in the oven for a maximum of 20 minutes. 

Do not place your pieces in a hot oven, or they could dry too quickly and crack!

Step 5: Plan Your Painting


Spend a little time planning out what you want to paint on your pot. Then, do a few drawings in your sketchbook. 



For my first planter, I will recreate one of my favorite Jenny Lemons textile patterns. I love this strawberry print!

Step 6: Varnish 

Air-dry clay is not waterproof! If you would like to use it for a planter, you need to seal it so water won’t seep through. For best results, use your planter for a cactus or an air plant, which doesn’t require a lot of water.

With a paintbrush, paint varnish on the inside of your planter. The varnish will change the appearance of the clay. If you like a shiny look, cover the entire surface with varnish. I prefer raw clay, so I am keeping the outside of my pot unvarnished.

Step 7: Paint Your Pot

Painting is my favorite part! Air-dry clay absorbs the paint quickly, making a nice flat-looking surface.  

My strawberry pattern is composed of three parts. First, I begin with painting the pink strawberry shape. Then, I add the leaves and the seeds. 


Use a toothpick dipped in paint to make tiny dots!

Step 8: Add a Plant


I went crazy making pots and now have homes for my succulent, cactus, and air plant. 

For tips on planting succulents, check out our blog on making terrariums!

I hope you enjoyed this fun DIY! My new little green babies are joining my plant wall in my bedroom! I think they fit right in! 

 We have so many fun clay projects on our blog! Learn to make beads, candle holders, a mobile, or miniature cactus.  

 Have you tried air-dry clay? Share your projects in our comments! 


Designer, entrepreneur, and lover of crafts! Boss Lady at Jenny Lemons in San Francisco



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