Making an Oval Bonsai Pot

The following are the steps in my process to create an oval bonsai pot from stoneware clay. The part I find most interesting about the way I make oval bonsai pots is the combination of both wheel throwing and hand building techniques (documented below). I believe this process makes for a stronger and more elegant shaped piece than hand building alone.

7.75" Oval Bonsai Pot by Ashley Keller

7" Oval Bonsai Pot by Ashley Keller

Oval bonsai pot rims drying on wooden bats after shaping

Step One

I start with high quality, commercially prepared stoneware clay that is ready for throwing. 

I begin by throwing a round pot as I normally would, however, I take it straight down to the head of the wheel. This eliminates the floor of the pot and essentially creates the rim of the pot as one solid shape. 

Once the piece has been pulled out to the approximate width and height I desire, I cut the piece off the wheel with a stainless steel wire and set it aside to become almost "leather hard". When each pieces reaches this leather hard stage, I gently push two sides of the round shape towards each other to create an oval shape.


Separate oval bonsai pot components

Step Two

After I have created the sides of the pot using the potter's wheel, I trace the oval shape onto a piece of clay slab (which has cured for 8-10 hours on canvas wrapped slab) to create the bottom of the pot.

The bottom is then pierced with drainage and wiring holes and scored with a sharp tool (roughened) to facilitate combining the bottom together with the rim of the pot.


Clay bead being smoothed into the seams of the bonsai pot

Step Three

All of the corners and seams of the bonsai pot are reinforced with a clay bead which provides extra strength and ensures all joints are fully sealed. This technique also creates a subtle inner curve inside the pot which assists with proper water drainage.

Bonsai pot feet cut out and ready for application

Bonsai pot feet cut out and ready for application

Step Four

Finally, the bonsai pot feet are cut out and attached to the pot. They are scored and painted with slip (a combination of dried clay mixed with water) before being fixed to the pot.

Watch the video below to see this process and the final cleanup of the pot:

After the pot has been completed it is fired twice; once to bisque temperature and a second time for glaze firing. Read more about this process here.

ProcessAshley Keller