8th Grade Clay Projects

Clay Demo 1 Stamps

Clay Demo 2 Textured Symbol Plaques

Wheaton High School
Wheaton, Minnesota

 Introduction to Clay.  7th Grade

Clay Design is popular because of the physical connection of the hands to the clay. The personality of clay makes it a "direct medium." This means that any action of the hand or tool makes  a lasting mark. In the direct medium concept, each movement or gesture of the hands is frozen in time, sort of like a dinosaur's footprint.  Because of this directness of clay, it shows skill  to use a minimum of handling to produce the desired design. Overworked clay is a negative.

Skills in clay design:

 1.)  Preparing the clay:  Adding or removing moisture so that it is uniformly soft and pliable enough but not too wet and sticky. Moistening too dry clay is done by adding drops of water between clay slices and then rolling and folding (wedging). Drying clay that is too wet, in a similar way can be rolled and folded until it is no longer tacky and sticky. Pressing the clay onto a fabric  surface. Canvas or thick fabric is good for absorbing moisture;  Paper or cardboard are very absorbant also.

 2.) Hand building with slabs or pieces of clay. Clay building is a versatile and   'artistic' method of producing ceramic designs (pottery). With slab building one can make sculpture, containers and a variety of other interesting and easy ceramic designs. The slabs must not be too thin or too thick. About a half inch is good. Rolling pins or roller tools can be used to produce slabs. Make sure they are of uniform thickness. Slab pieces can be assembled many ways. You will be shown some options.

 3.)  Decorating slabs of clay. The slabs are decorated before they are joined or assembled. A variety of beautiful surface treatments make slabs beautiful. Here are some: Scraping; Scratching or drawing; Stamping a pattern using simple stamps; Tearing clay slabs into pieces and applying these to make design (appliqué') and extruding liquefied clay to make lines or designs (like draw with a Ketchup bottle.)

 4.) Good Clay design: The weakest part of any typical school clay projects is that little or no attention is given to the treatment of clay surfaces. There are many, many effects which are possible,  suggested by the list of treatments described in no. 3 above, it is just a matter of giving some thought to not just the structure but the detail upon the structure. Remember the concept of primary and secondary breakup?! Once you begin to handle clay it is best to know exactly what you want to do with it. Not to have a plan is to merely handle and manipulate the clay without purpose and it becomes "overworked" and poorly controlled.

Some Don'ts  or "No-No's"  Please Pay Close Attention:
A. A little clay on the floor makes a big mess and spreads like a plague through the whole building. Therefore, make every effort to keep the clay off floor. Pick up even smallest pieces that fall.
B. Each person must clean up at the end of hour. Some items to be cleaned include tools, return them to the tool box. Wipe tools clean before returning them. Place your incomplete clay projects  inside of  a plastic bag to keep moisture in. Add an extra moist piece of towel to add more moisture.   (You will supply your own plastic storeage bag. A kitchen trash bag is perfect.)
C. Any person throwing clay will be given a library assignment instead of completing work with clay.
D. Any person making obscene or illegal objects will be given a library assignment instead of completing work with clay. There is no further warning necessary in this regard.
E. Please remember to keep the hand outs for procedures and remember< Sign your clay work.>

   Clay "Warm up" & Demo:
Roll out flat slabs up to 1/2 inch thick:
Use the following techniques to make a overall texture design
Small pieces of clay pressed into clay.
2 or more stamps pushed into clay (any object makes an imprint.)
Textures formed by scratching with a tool. (such as a fork)
Make a hole in the center or in the corner to make this a wall hanging.
Leave Without any holes to make this into a trivet.

Be sure to repeat a series of each texture effect.
Decide how the repeat series will fit or follow the shape.
Project 1. 
Appliqué' and Textures Relief Plaque. (Grade 7)
make a stamp

use a stamp to decorate

Basic Instructions - -
1. In This project you begin with a single cut out slab of clay.

2. The slab should be a simple but interesting shape.  Make the shape 'Symmetrical.' Meaning that opposite sides mirror each other.

Size: Not too large (Up to  8 inches wide.)

3. The slab should be 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and even in thickness.

4. The design idea will come from personal information -- icons or letter forms which desribe your life or interests. In other words, you can combine symbols and words as long as they describe you in some way.

5. Method of making relief forms.
Add small cut out shapes onto the slab background. This requires  'slip' (oozy - liquefied clay applied with a brush like glue to the back of each piece to be joined.

6. Building up shapes by small clay pieces pressed into the background.  Small bits of clay of different sizes can be pinched off clay supply and then  pressed onto background.

7. The desired effect is to have many interesting shapes and textures spread about on the slab. Try to have at least 3 icons. And possible some words also.

Project 2: Pocket Wall Placque (Grade 7)

This is an  easy to do clay project. This project features 'slab building' and textured design made by stamping, appliqué',  and incising line textures. 

This project is made of two slabs of clay. One for the shape and one for the pocket. It can be made very quickly, a half hour or less and is quite attractive. The more attention given to pattern on the surface the better your design will be. 

Here are the steps to complete the project:
 1. Have a plan or design 
 2. Roll out first slab around a half inch or more thick 
 3. Lightly draw the outline for the plaque, oval, square, trapezoid, etc. 
 4. Decorate the area of the shape with line and pattern according to the hand out  or discussion on the subject of "pattern." 
 5. Use a pointed clay tool to cut out the shape you have scratched in 
 6. With a new slab begin to create a shape that will be used for the pocket. 
 7. Draw then decorate the pocket shape. Use repetition and variety. 
 8. Cut this pocket piece out of the slab and form it to fit the back piece. 
 9. Use pressure at the seams to make a permanent join. Use slip between seams. 
 10. Wadded newspaper or soft material can be place in the pocket to shape it. 
 11. Punch in holes to hang the plaque or to attach a cord. 
 12. Make sure your name and hour are scratched on the back of the project. 




Slab construction is a fast and very "Artsy" approach to clay design.  Hand built pottery is crafted with a minimum amount of effort and handling and does not take the  hours and hours of practice to gain the skills that wheel pottery requires for  only the basic forms. Slabs about .5  inch, can be rolled out, cut to shape  then decorated with patterns made by stamps, appliqué or incising  and finally cutting out the clay sections and assembling them carefully. Slabs are joined with some liquefied clay (slip) which serves as the glue.

Clay Design from Assembled slabs
  Hints on good projects. Keep the ideas simple but interesting. Allow the clay to express its character. Handle the pieces carefully after you have decorated each section. Working clay  too much destroys the natural textures and makes it look overworked..Use stamps, applicque', drawing or other methods to make pattern & use slip to insure that the joined sections are well joined.



Some clay designs need a foot. A foot is a pedestal or a base of support.
The foot has two functions:
First, that supports the structure but also

Second,  an aesthetic reason. It gives the structure a visual lift.
This gives the form more verticality and enhances the sense of lightness. Examples Design of a Clay Foot


Clay Project Designs 1
This design is a single slab folded and sealed on one side Add foot and possible handles to set off the top

2.  2 slabs are pressed to join at edges with fingers or tools.  Repeat applicque textures. added before joining. Handles optional clean lines top by adding a belt to top Foot #2

  3 Here is a variation of 2. 2 Slabs cut to an interesting outline. Joined by pinching both sides. The foot is a slab bent to fit the bottom shape. Add ornamental handles - - remember to use slip between joined surfaces.


   4 This design is formed by bending two slabs into "U"s. Join in the center;
Add ends and reinforce to make this candy dish.

5 Several upright slabs are joined to a matching base. A triangle base would have 3 uprights. etc. - Upright pieces can also be bent outward to make a very interesting look. Secure touching edgeswith slip. Join to Base with slip.

 6  Use small clay chips or fragments to construct a total design.  these pieces are added onto each until the desired height is reached. A simple base such as an oval  or another symmetrical
shape will work the best

Return to Arts Homepage