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Clay, wonderful clay.

To make some whimsical animal pottery which can be glaze-fired, the only techniques you need to teach to your third- and fourth-graders are those of the simple pinch pot and the rolling and attaching of slabs.

A simple pinch pot can be made pushing your thumb into a ball of clay and gently squeezing the ball to hollow it out. I like students to form a ball of clay, set it on the table and use both thumbs to gently open up the inside of the ball. This forms the inside of the pot by repeatedly squeezing or pinching the clay ball until it turns into a small bowl or pot, which can be manipulated into any shape of vessel or pot you desire.

For instance, if you start out with a small, round bowl shape and desire an oblong shape for a penguin's body, you just pull and stretch the clay into that form. It you want it in a triangle shape to form an odd-shaped bird, you gently pull the opened-up form into a triangular shape.

The pinch pot is one of the most primitive ways to make a vessel out of clay. It's also one of the easiest and foolproof--as long as you make sure no air bubbles have formed in the clay. It's thought that the Stone Age man formed pots in this way from earthen clay to make his pots for cooking food and for other uses. Today, potters use this technique alone or in combination with other techniques. The pinch pot requires no tools except the hands, so it is an easy way to get acquainted with clay.

Once my students have successfully formed a pinch pot, they are to turn it into an "animal" of some kind. We define this loosely. It can be a mammal, fowl, cartoon or combination of the aforementioned creatures. The original pinch pot has to have a uniform thickness in its walls so the finished pot will be sturdy and shapely. Once it is of a uniform thickness, the student pulls it into the shape of their animal being formed.

Next, I demonstrate rolling out slabs of clay. I use a rolling pin and roll the clay to about a quarter-inch thickness on a burlap bag. Then, I cut shapes from the slabs using a plastic knife. These shapes are joined to the pinch pot body using slip (liquefied clay.) A penguin might be an oval-shaped pinch pot that has slab wings, feet and beak, which are attached with slip. A "bird-fish" would be a circular pinch pot with a lip pulled in the front, and slab wings and fin attached with slip.

I demonstrate making eyes by carving into the clay or rolling small balls of clay and making impressions in them with clay tools. These eyes are attached using slip also.

As students made their slab pots, many of them also used pulled pieces of clay to make legs, feet, tongues and other body parts for their animals. These pulled pieces were in addition to the slabs they had already used.

When the pots had been successfully completed and air-dried, we fired them for the first time. When they were removed from the kiln, the students got to pick from an assortment of lead-free glazes to glaze their animal pots. I wanted them to get make their animal pots as colorful as possible to keep them whimsical.

When the kiln was opened for the second time, the students were really excited by the wonderful animal pots they had created. One of my third graders said, "Wow, Mrs. Skop, you're a genius!" If only that were true.


Elementary students will ...

* understand simple clay terms.

* manipulate clay to form a pinch pot.

* manipulate clay to successfully roll and cut slabs of day.

* successfully join slabs of clay to a pinch pot to form an animal.

* understand how clay and pinch pots fit in with relation to history and culture.


* Clay and slip

* Rolling pin

* Clay tools

* Glazes in bright colors


* Understand and apply media, techniques and processes.

* Choose and evaluate a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.

* Understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

* Understand the characteristics and merits of their own work and the work of others.

Karen Skophammer is an art instructor for Manson Northwest Webster School in Barnum and Manson, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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