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Pinch Pots Make a Comeback in DIY Air-Dry Hanging Planters

July 28, 2016

For all the pinch pots, coil pots, and unidentifiable statuettes we made with clay as kids, there's something about crafting with it now that screams don't do it!. Maybe it's because of the mess—watery slip everywhere, the dried-up cement that finds its way into your nail beds—or, more likely, because it's not a forgiving material. Making something that looks professional using clay is nearly impossible for the average jane, even if she does have a potter's wheel (and I'm guessing you don't?). Calling all star ceramicists in our Shop, come teach us a lesson!

In the meantime, let us turn our attention back to the lowly pinch pot. You can make one (I'm about to tell you how), and even if it turns out lumpy and unruly, it's going to make a very charming base to a hanging planter that looks like this:

Photo by Bobbi Lin

The best part yet is that you don't even need a kiln to fire it, thanks to the brilliance of air-dry clay and a little spray-on varnish. Here's how to make a shallow hanging planter at home.

What you'll need:

Set up your claymation station. Photo by Bobbi Lin

How to make a hanging planter:

1. Make a pinch pot.

Slice off a hunk of air-dry clay using a butter knife, then twist the baggie closed again so the remaining clay doesn't dry out. Knead this chunk on a clean surface until it's pliable (the clay will be a little stiff right out of the bag and needs this loosening up). Add a dribble of water whenever it's feeling dry.

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Shape the worked-out clay into a ball, then poke the middle with your thumb. Pinch all around the sides and the underside, little by little, until the ball starts shaping into a bowl. Stop when the bowl is about a half-inch thick on all sides.

Knead, pinch, pot! Photo by Bobbi Lin

Once you have a bowl shape, give it square sides by knocking each one lightly against the table. Then dip your fingers in water and run them all over the surface of the pot to smooth it. If there are any humps, bumps, or pokey parts, this smoothing process should give them a finished look—don't bother trying to make your pot too perfect!

2. Let it dry and then seal it.

Air-dry clay takes about 24 hours to dry—just set it out near a window, turning it once or twice to dry evenly, until it's entirely dry and hard.

Once dry, spray it all over with varnish (which is clear, and can be found in a matte finish) to make it waterproof. If you want to paint your pinch pot, do it when the clay is dry but before you spray it with varnish; let the paint dry before moving on.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

3. Measure and tie the string, plant the planter, then hang.

Cut two long pieces of jute and lay them in a cross formation on a flat surface. Set the pinch-pot atop them, then gather the pieces above it and knot them to secure. Any remaining length of string can be used to secure it on a hook, if you want the knot to show. If you don't want the knot to show, hang the planter from the knot!

Once your strings are the right size and tied off, set them down and fill the pot with a little soil and a small succulent of your choice. (You can add any plant that doesn't require much watering, but nothing that needs drainage!) Nudge the strings back into place—adding a little wax on the bottom of the planter where the strings cross to keep them in place if you're nervous about the setup—and then hang it on a hook. (I don't recommend planting it after it's hanging; the table will be a sturdier place for packing down dirt.)

Funky, imperfect pinch pots—looking great! Photo by Bobbi Lin

Tell us: When was the last time you made something out of clay?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Olivia Bloom
    Olivia Bloom
  • Zoe Ching
    Zoe Ching
  • Maurina Rachuba
    Maurina Rachuba
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
  • PHIL
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Olivia B. July 29, 2016
Another winner! So darling. What kind of paint do recommend for painting clay? I don't like how some paints end up looking splotchy and inconsistent. Also, how do you know if a plant needs drainage or not? I never know. Love, a plant amateur
Amanda S. July 29, 2016
Cacti, air plants, and succulents should all be just fine in there—so long as you don't overwater them! For paint I'd just use acrylic: Knead it into the clay before shaping for color throughout or paint it on after it's shaped, before it dries. Then finish with varnish so it's waterproof! You've got this.
PHIL July 29, 2016
Burro's tail is a nice succulent that will hang down., add a little gravel to the bottom of planter for excess water and use a cactus mix soil or add sand to existing soil. other options include any ivy, pothos or a spider plant. all are hardy and thrive on neglect which I suspect you may be guilty of Olivia. Also , don't overwater! better to underwater, you can always add water, once you overwater the plants will rot quickly.
Olivia B. July 29, 2016
Thank you, Phil! I have been a tragic over-water-er in the past, and learned my lesson the hard way. Hadn't heard of Burro's tail, it will be perfect for this!
PHIL July 29, 2016
sometimes its called donkey's tail (sedum morganianum ) We need to be able to put photos in the comments. When in doubt underwater. especially when there is no drainage. Making a drain hole is a good idea but it can be annoying because you have to take it down or put something under it.
Elizabeth L. October 21, 2016
Donkey Tail is wonderful, as is String of Beads. They are not always easy to find here in Melbourne.
Zoe C. July 28, 2016
This is awesome!
Maurina R. July 28, 2016
Can you add drainage holes?
Amanda S. July 29, 2016
Or a straw! You'd also want to make a little dish to set the planter in, in that case.
Maurina R. July 29, 2016
I water outside, and give time to drain, so a dish isn't necessary. I love this idea, and will give it a try!