Clay Sea Rocks

27 Feb

5th graders made clay 'sea rocks'. Allow three 40-minute sessions.

Want an ocean-themed clay project with high success? Super fun? Colorful? Only one firing? And……NO SLIP!

Try this sea rocks lesson plan!


  • clay
  • newspaper
  • white vinegar in small cups
  • Q-tips
  • toothpicks
  • pencils
  • Popsicle stick or other clay tools
  • gallon-size Ziploc storage bags (if more than one session is required)

Day 1:

Look at photos of sea life that attaches to rock.

Coral reef.

For another artist’s take on sea life, view images from Disney movie ‘Finding Nemo’. Look at the sea life on the ocean floor.

Inspiration: colorful sea floor from Disney movie 'Finding Nemo'

Download this clay sea rocks powerpoint from CAEA conference (we think this project was presented by clay educator Barry Bernam around 2005).

It all starts with a pinch pot. Stuff with crumpled newspaper for support and turn upside down. Apply starfish, urchins, coral etc. to top of rock using vinegar to attach.

Vinegar, clay tool, toothpick



If you don’t finish, wrap clay in damp paper towels and seal in Ziploc bag.

Day 2:

Finish adding sea life to rock.


I let them dry for 12 days, then fired on slow setting.

Although no slip was used to attach decorations, only one decoration came off during bisque firing.

Day 3:

We painted with pan watercolors and tiny brushes. Students had option of rinsing off excess paint (they called this ‘fading’). Also could draw on painted ‘rock’ with colored pencil.


I will add shine with a little spray gloss (I use Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Spray Gloss ).

A huge thank you to SDAEA’s Carol Catalano Webb, who brought back this lesson from California state conference AND made the YouTube movie. A huge thank you to the clay teacher who created the Powerpoint (we think it was Barry Bernam-please leave a comment if you know Barry!).

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7 Responses to “Clay Sea Rocks”

  1. Mr. E February 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    These are GREAT!!!!!!!!!! Love the idea.

    • Rina February 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

      Ted – You are going to love this project! I even teach it in polymer clay for art camp. Good luck!-Rina

  2. phyl February 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Wow. Fabulous, Rina! I don’t have a kiln so I do limited work with air dry clay, but these are super – they look REAL!!! I never heard of using vinegar to attach clay instead of slip. I wonder why it works.

    • Rina February 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      Hi Phyl! I have no idea why the vinegar works. I have never tried the project with air dry clay, but I have had great success with polymer clay! Stuff polymer clay pinch pot with foil, bake and paint with acrylic.

  3. Miss March 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Soooo cool! Love this project. Thanks for sharing all the detailed steps!

    • Rina March 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      So glad you like it! It is a very successful project AND requires only one firing. I hope you can try it next year.

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