Pinch Pot Portrait



The Potter II, 2019. Terra cotta, porcelain, underglaze, china paint, lustre, brass, wood. 58 cm tall, 40 cm diameter base

The Potter II, 2019. Terra cotta, porcelain, underglaze, china paint, lustre, brass, wood. 58 cm tall, 40 cm diameter base

Small ceramic sculptures, like The Potter II, have historically been considered different from fine art. Shary Boyle continues and responds to a long history of women artists who are reclaiming and reimagining this type of art. In Outside the Palace of Me, Shary Boyle considers how we see ourselves and how other people see us. She asks questions about what we keep to ourselves and what we share with others. She explores identity and invites the viewer to look inside themselves.

About the Artist

Shary Boyle creates artwork in a variety of disciplines, including sculpture, drawing, and performance. She borrows themes and aesthetics from mythology, old technology, and folk art. Her work is often very detailed, inviting the viewer to take a closer look. Her art is about feminist, historical, and political subjects. Shary Boyle is very inclusive, and she often collaborates with other creative people.

Studio Activity

Make a clay pinch pot that represents you and your relationship with your family.


  • Air-dry clay
  • Sculpting tools (craft sticks, ribbon tools, scrapers)
  • Newspaper or canvas to cover your work surface
  • Container or spray bottle of water
  • Sponges and water for cleaning

Step 1

Think about yourself in relation to your family, guardians, or friends. What moments or memories do you think of? What colours do you see? What shapes or patterns come to mind?

Who will you give this pinch pot to? Do you want to keep it for yourself? Consider these things as you work.

Step 2

Take a chunk of clay about the size of your fist. Form it into a ball, making sure that it’s compressed and that there are no gaps inside.

Step 3

Take one thumb and push it into the centre of the ball. With your palms and fingers holding the ball, place both thumbs inside the hole you made. Using a pinching motion, form the walls of the pot.

Take your time. Make sure the walls don’t get too thin, especially at the base of the pot.

Aim for the walls of your pot to be about as thick as the width of your pinkie.

Tip! If your clay feels dry, wet the tip of your fingers or spray your hands with water. This will make it easier to work with the clay. But be careful! You don’t want to use too much water, or the clay will get too sticky, become too soft, and collapse.

Step 4

Now, you have a pot with even walls that can hold its shape. It’s time to get creative and remember the things we were thinking about in Step 1.

Using your sculpting tools, you can carve the surface of your pot. You can also make small changes to the shape of your pot. For example, you can turn the rim of your pot outward or inward.

Tip! If you want to add clay to your pot, make sure to score and slip! That’s when you use a tool to make shallow, criss-cross marks on the surfaces where the new clay and the pot will be connected (score). Then, you dip one finger in water and wet the surfaces where you made those marks (slip). After following these steps, you can add the new clay to your pot. Use your fingers to smooth the seams.

Step 5

Leave your pot to dry. Once it’s dry, you can paint your pot. You can also give your piece a title.

Things to Think About

  • What makes you unique? What makes us the same?
  • How do you see yourself? How do you think other people see you?
  • How can you represent yourself visually?