Making Native American Pinch Pots

Follow these directions to create a tradition style of earthenware used by Eastern Woodland Native Americans. While clay from streams and rivers would have been used to fashion pottery used for cooking and eating, we recommend using a self-drying clay available at most craft stores. The pots you will create are for educational and decorative purposes only. DO NOT use these pots to hold food or liquids of any kind!


  • self-drying clay (no firing or baking needed)
  • a small container of water for each students
  • butcher paper to cover tables
  • damp paper towels for each students
  • assorted shells, sticks, stones, etc., for etching designs in the pots.


1. Take a small handful of clay and shape into a round ball.

2. While holding the ball in the palm of one hand, take the thumb of the other hand and make an indentation in the center of the ball. Keep turning the ball of clay and pressing down with the thumb to within 1/2 inch of the bottom.

3. When the pot is the desired depth, rotate while pinching the sides with the thumb (inside) and fingers (outside).

4. Work from the bottom up until you have achieved the desired shape. As the clay dries it may begin to crack. Keep dipping your fingers in the small container of water and wipe the surface of the pot frequently with damp paper towels.

5. When the pot is finished, used small objects that would normally be found in nature, to etch designs in the pot. Make sure each students etches their initials in the bottom.

6. Allow several days to completely dry. Caution: These pots will break if not treated gently and they are not water resistant.