There are a few ways to pull a handle for a mug, pitcher, etc. This Instructable will show you how to pull a handle directly on a cylinder verses pulling a handle by itself then cutting it to fit and attaching it to the piece. It will take some practice to know the correct amount of clay you will be needing. Once you get it down you may find it to be easier and quicker to the alternative.
Step 1: Trim your pot and prepare handle
Once your piece is leather hard trim it, and clean up any areas that need a little extra attention. It should be fairly firm to the touch with just the littlest bit of springiness if you were to gently try to squeeze it out of shape. If you can easily misshapen it with a slight squeeze it is still a little too soft.
For the handle grab a small chunk of soft fresh clay and roll it into a log shape. I like to roll it so it is more oval then totally round through the center. Then I roll both ends on the table to fatten them up slightly. The amount of clay you will use will vary depending on the size and shape of the handle you would like to make. This chunk is about 2 inches long by 1/2 thick.
Step 2: Score and Slip
Decide the area where you would like to attach the top of the handle. Score that area well and apply slip. Score the side of the handle that is going to be the top.
Attach the top of the handle to the scored & slipped area of the cylinder. Give the handle a gentle but firm push with a hand in the inside of the mug to support the other side of the wall. Then use an index finger around the edges of the attachment to further seal the two pieces together. A little additional water on your finger to smooth out the seam works well, or you can try a small paintbrush with a little water on it to smooth the area once you have properly pressed and sealed the two areas together.
Step 3: Pull the handle
Turn the mug so the handle is pointing straight down towards the floor. Hold the cup gently with your left hand supporting it, but not squeezing it too hard or it may crack. Apply some water on the short chunk of clay that is going to be your handle. Dunk you right hand in the bucket of water to make sure you are always able to glide gently over the clay.
Starting up at the top attachment of the clay gently squeeze lightly and glide your hand straight down and off the clay. The handle should be slightly longer this time. Continue the same motion 3-6 times until the handle is at the desired length. Be sure to continue to add water before each pull.
You want to continue to pull the handle straight down towards the floor. Changing the angle of the cup can cause a weakness in the top curve of the handle. So you want to wait until the desired length before you create any arch in the handle.
Step 4: Attaching the bottom of the handle
When your handle is long enough, gently rest the mug on its opposite side. Set it either on a piece of foam on the table or directly in your lap. You want to be looking straight down at the handle to assure when you attach it it will be perfectly straight.
Gently arch the handle and allow it to rest on the mug right above where you would like to attach it. This prevents the handle from being further stretched out of shape.
If the handle appears too long you can use and needle tool to cut of some of the bottom before attaching it.
Score and slip the mug. Score the bottom of the handle where you plan to attach it to the mug. Gently lift the bottom of the handle off where it was resting and attach it to the mug. Again make sure to press firmly to make sure it will stick, but not so hard that you thin out an area at the bottom of the handle by accident. Use your finger or small paintbrush with a little water to clean up the seam.
When attaching the bottom you may have lost a bit of the natural curve of the handle. You can readjust the shape of the handle by gliding a moist index finger or moist paintbrush handle on the inside of the clay handle to help it regain a curve.
Step 5: Dry Slowly
Lightly cover your piece with plastic to allow slow drying and prevent major cracking or separating at the seam. Once it is dry you may need to lightly clean up any small cracks with a needle tool and brillo pad.
Remember, the handle is not strong enough for use until it has been bisque fired.