A couple of different methods of pulling handles

Anyone who watched the Great Pottery Throw Down will remember Daniel Pratap’s expertise at pulling handles. He makes it look easy, and with practice it can become second-nature as you get a ‘feel’ for it, but it really comes down to using the right technique, and practice. Lots of it.


Pulling handles Daniel Pratap 1

Start by preparing the clay properly, by wedging to remove all the air. To see how to do this, click here


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Daniel forms a carrot shape that can be held comfortably in one hand.


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With a wet hand, start to coax down the length, using just the surface pressure of your hand. You aren’t aiming to force the clay down with a ‘pull’, it should feel more like a firm ‘slide’. Keep turning as you work. Make sure your strokes come off the end of the clay each time.

4 and 5

Pulling handles Daniel Pratap

This is the shape your fingers and hand should make around the clay.


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Using your thumb, pull a fairly pronounced groove down the centre of what is now looking like a strap…


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… and continue to pull. This will smooth the groove’s edges and make it more subtle.


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While you need a fair amount of clay at the top, to attach the handle to the pot, be careful not to let too much weight gather at the bottom. Pinch off any excess clay that isn’t forming part of the nice handle shape, with your fingers.


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When you are happy with the length and uniformity…


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… pinch the handle off, and leave it to dry until it’s firm enough to handle.


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The cross-section and groove are clearly visible here.


‘Pulling on the pot’

This method involves pulling a rudimentary handle, which is then refined and shaped once attached to the side of the pot.


Pulling handles 1

Begin with a thick coil of clay – hold it in your left hand as shown, then wet your other hand and draw the clay down between your fingers and thumb as shown. You’ll need to do this several times to achieve the correct thickness and shape, but the handle will be shaped further once attached to the mug, so it shouldn’t be too thin at this stage.


Pulling handles 2

Now divide the pulled clay into equal lengths and lay them side by side on a board as shown. Use the fingers to pinch off each length.
Most makers will make several mugs (if not dozens) at a time, so it’s common practice to make several handles in one go. For the beginner, making several will give you alternatives if you don’t get it right first time.


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Mark, score and slip the position for the handle on the side of the mug. Think about the visual balance when deciding where to place it.


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Supporting the mug on the inside with one hand, carefully fix the handle onto the scored area and push into place until secure.
Holding the handle with the left hand, carefully blend and smooth the clay at the join onto the body of the mug, until it looks seamless.


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Holding the mug in the left hand so that the handle hangs vertically, wet your right hand then pull the handle again between fingers and thumb, as shown, to thin and refine it to suit the shape and size of the mug.
When happy with the size and thickness, carefully draw your thumb down the centre of the handle to form a groove.


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Curve the handle around and down to the base of the mug to form a pleasing shape.  Make sure there’s comfortable room for your fingers to lift the mug before pinching off the surplus length between your fingers, as shown.


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Neatly blend the handle onto the wall of the mug at the base – you shouldn’t need to score and slip beforehand because the handle clay will be soft and wet enough to fix to the surface easily.
Once you’re happy with the join, and as a final feature, push your forefinger into the clay as shown – this makes a great position for your maker’s mark or stamp if you have one.


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On the finished mug, you can see how the lines scored into wall at the throwing stage have formed a good point for attachment of the handle and a nice line to decorate to.