Pinch pots are one of the simplest and earliest pottery vessels. Fragments of clay figurines dated to 27,000 B.C. were found in the Czech Republic. Most early clay figurines were made by squeezing and pinching the clay into crude shapes, modeled after the animals that fed and clothed primitive peoples. Even very young children can pinch clay into a shallow vessel to make a candy dish, ashtray or small cup.
Remove regular or self-hardening clay from its wrapper and place in a five-gallon plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Add an inch of water in the bottom. Let stand 24 hours with the lid closed.
Break clay block into fist-sized pieces. Work each piece until it is warm and pliable. Smash all pieces back together and pour one-half of a cup of water over everything. Squeeze clay until it is all one soft mound.
Break off a fist-sized piece of clay. Roll it into a ball.
Push your thumb or finger into the center of the ball to make a hollow spot. Work the spot until it goes into the ball and the walls of the ball are one-fourth to one-half of an inch thick. Smooth the opening to shape fully round, oval or slightly squared.
Use clay sculpting tools to incise a design on the outside of your pot, or press textured objects such as leaves, pine trimmings, modeling clay cutters, plastic lace doilies or other items into the clay surface.
Allow your pot to harden until it is "leather hard." At this point, your pot can still be deformed by squashing, squeezing, dropping or tearing. If you used self-hardening clay, move it to a non-stick cookie sheet that you will use only for working with clay. Let it sit in the sun or in a warm corner of your home until it dries to a powdery white or gray color. Paint with acrylics as desired. Do not use ceramic glazes intended for firing.
Use underglaze in the pressed design to make it more noticeable if you made your pinch pot from regular clay. According to the staff of BigCeramicStore.com, "Underglaze is usually applied to greenware, sometimes to bisque. It is similar to colored clay. It is often used for painting detailed designs, as it doesn't move during firing ... it is covered with a clear or translucent glaze." Lili Krakowski advises mixing your own underglazes if you do not need a specific color. According to Krakowski, "Glaze colorants are different oxides or carbonates (sometimes sulphates) that in combination with a glaze of a particular composition will achieve a certain color. Many colorants will react or interact with the materials in the glaze and give a diversity of hues. Oxidation or reduction firing also affects final color."
Arrange for kiln time and space if you do not already have access to a kiln. Have your items fired with or without first applying any underglazes. Apply any overglazes and refire to a finished product. Use your pinch pots as seasonal decorations or give them as gifts. Handmade gifts are especially appropriate for Hannukkah or Kwanzaa and are very welcome at adult day programs, shelters, senior centers and nursing homes.