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Handmade mug tutorial

September 23, 2021


Nadine from The Clay Centre teaches us how to hand-build a pottery mug. All you need is a slab of clay and plenty of enthusiasm.




  • Board or turntable
  • Cardboard template (a pattern to help cut your clay to size)
  • Mould (use an existing cup)
  • Old toothbrush
  • Old knife
  • Rib or cake scraper
  • Old jar lid (to cut your mug base)
  • Rolling pin (to roll the clay)
  • Optional: Patterned rolling pin, for texture
  • Clay
  • Bucket of water
  • Paintbrush

Nadine makes pottery look easy. She began 17 years ago, and it has been her passion ever since. Determined to live a creative lifestyle, Nadine spent five years training before leaping into pottery full time. Since then, she has dedicated her career to sharing creativity with Aotearoa.
The wheel thrower has set her wheel aside for this hand-building video tutorial. A mug is a great project for every level, including a beginner. So, watch along. All you need is some clay and items from around the home to use as tools before getting your hands dirty.



Roll it out 


Nadine starts by rolling out her clay. Keep rolling until you achieve an appropriate thickness for a mug. Any lumps or bumps will show up on your finished piece, so it pays to roll, roll, roll it out now. Achieving an even thickness is important. If your edges are thicker than the centre, your mug will have a thick lip which makes sipping coffee a risky activity!



Have fun with texture

Nadine uses a patterned rolling pin to add texture, pressing firmly as she rolls. But plenty of household items can give your clay texture. A fork, whisk, bubble wrap, non-slip drawer liners – have a look around and see what sparks your imagination.


“Compression is really important to prevent cracking.”




Join it up

Once her mug has been cut from the template, Nadine joins it together. Pause here and take a moment to ensure that the seam where the clay joins is well sealed with your fingers before smoothing it carefully with the rib. Keep working at this until you’re comfortable that the piece of clay you wrapped around has transformed into a leak-free mug body. Nadine takes similar care with the bottom of the cup and all inside seams. The last thing you want is to pour your morning herbal tea only to see it leak out a hole in the bottom of your mug!



Make it food safe

The final step is to glaze and fire your pottery mug to a food-safe level at your local pottery kiln or workshop. This is important if you’re planning to drink or eat from your mug. But if your plans don’t involve food or liquid, using air drying clay is a great option.

Special thanks to Nadine from The Clay Centre.