Clay Picture Frames – Part I

Painted and assembled Clay picture frames

This spring I collaborated with our third grade teachers on an identity project. These clay picture frames were a perfect fit: they are personal and fun to make. The parents and grandparents absolutely loved these.

The frames require only a single bisque firing and it generally takes only one session to paint them.

Let’s get started!

Materials:

To make the frames

  • Clay
  • Rolling pins and slats (or slab roller)
  • Cardboard templates
  • Pin tools
  • Textured items
  • Small cookie cutters
  • Letter stamps (like these)
  • Toothbrushes and water
  • Drinking straw
  • Optional: gallon-size Ziplock storage bags and damp paper towels if you need to store for a second class period.

To paint the frames

To assemble and hang the frames

  • Student photos
  • Tape
  • Plastic lanyard cord
  • Pony beads

Prep:

Print out student photos (ours were 4″x6″).

Create two rectangular cardboard templates: a larger rectangle for the outer frame, and a smaller rectangle for the interior window. Your smaller template should be slightly smaller than the printed photo (ours were 3.5″x5.5″). This will allow you to tape the photos to the back of the frame. I made one set of templates for each table.

Cut a mock frame from cardboard. Test each photo by placing it behind the frame. Be sure the student’s face is visible. Keep in mind the actual clay frame will have a slightly smaller window, as the clay shrinks as it dries.

Directions

Cover tables. Set out clay, rollers, and slats (or set out pre-rolled slabs if you have a slab roller). Distribute pin tools and both large and small templates.

Roll the slab (rolling pins/slats or a slab roller). Position the larger rectangle template on the slab and cut around it with the pin tool to create the picture frame (Note: we were able to get two cut rectangles from each slab). Center the smaller window template on the clay frame and cut around it with the pin tool. Set scraps aside and don’t squish them!.

Completed clay frames. Allow 10 days to dry.

Rotate clay frame to portrait position. Stamp name at bottom using letter stamps. Texture frame using texture tools. Optional: use cookie cutters on to create decorative shapes. Attach shapes to the corners: dip a toothbrush in water and gently scrub clay to create slip. Press on the decorations.

Make the hanging holes: an adult should do this. Punch the top of the frame with the drinking straw to make two holes. The straw will fill with clay – don’t remove it, just keep going.

Air dry for 10 days. Bisque fire.

Tips:

  • Make sure the hanging holes are big enough. Really twist the drinking straw in the holes and make sure it goes all the way through the slab. I had to Dremel out a couple of holes in the fired frames because I wasn’t perfectly diligent in this step.
  • Build the template around the printed photo. Roll and fire a clay sample and make sure the cut window is a just a little smaller than the dimension of the photo. Be sure you can see the student’s face clearly in the photo. Remember, clay shrinks as it dries. That window will shrink…
  • If you are doing this project after school picture day, you could use a standard school pictures to create your template.

I found that showing an instructional video is the best way to teach a clay project like this. The kids have a clear view of my hands. I can show it over and over each class period, and share it with kids who were absent on the day we did the clay project. Plus, I get to show it next year, or whenever I choose to do this project again.

I created a YouTube playlist with the whole process. Here you go!

(P.S. I make instructional videos all the time! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for my latest videos).

Enjoy!

In my next post I will show you how we painted and assembled the picture frames .

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Warm and Cool Color Clay Rattles: 100% Success!

Warm and Cool Clay Rattles

If you are looking for a super-successful clay lesson for Kindergarteners-second grade, you’ve come to the right place. These functional clay rattles only requires a single bisque firing, and are finished with a fast and easy warm and cool color process. Students, parents and teachers loved them. I’ve included an instructional video at the end of this post – all my kindergarten students watched it and created the rattles independently.

Materials:

To create the rattles:

  • Clay
  • Rolling pin and slats (or slab roller)
  • Circle template or bowl to trace
  • Pin tool
  • Texture tools (we used LEGO)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toothbrushes and water bowls

Prep:

Roll the slab and cut the circles. Cover the tables. Each table should have a tray of LEGO, one toothbrush for every two students, and small water dish. They also need a couple of squares of toilet paper and a little scrap clay.

table set up

Process is in my instructional video. This was a very effective video: 100% of KINDERGARTENERS did this project correctly and independently the first time. I strongly recommend showing this.

Coloring the rattles:

Materials:

  • crayons/construction paper crayons, sorted into warm and cool colors
  • individual pans of water color
  • brushes and water cups

Process:

Students scribble on the textured ceramic with their crayons. Ideally, one side could be cool color crayons and the other warm. Then they paint over the crayons with (ideally), the opposite color scheme. This was kindergarten….some did it, some didn’t, but they all looked great.

This was a great end of year project: all my water colors had just about run out. Yet we had enough for this project. I sure look tired in this video, though. Typical for end of year…

Set-up for coloring the rattles

Enjoy!

Do you have a sure-fire clay project for kindergarten?

Have you tried creating instructional videos?

Clay and Pasta Portraits

 

clay and pasta faces

The first graders made these clay self-portraits earlier this year. They were fun to make, required a single firing, and surely will be treasured by the students and their parents for years to com.

Materials:

  • clay
  • marker or glue stick caps
  • dull pencils
  • alphabet pasta (available in the Hispanic foods section of Walmart, and through Amazon)
  • wagon wheel pasta
  • spaghetti
  • bow-tie pasta
  • ramen or egg noodles
  • optional: date stamps
  • tempera cakes (including peach)
  • Crayola multicultural paint
  • crayons
  • optional: ceramic spray gloss

Prep:

I used a multi-slab cutter to easily cut the clay block into identical clay tiles.

Alexandra's clay and pasta face

Making the face:

Students first used a dull pencil to draw the face, nose, smile, and neck. We stamped eyes with the glue stick caps. Then we added wagon wheel pasta for eyes. Curly-haired students pressed in Chinese egg noodles for hair; kids with straight hair pressed in broken lengths of spaghetti.  Some kids added bow tie pasta.

Next I passed out plates of alphabet pasta. The kids spelled out their names and pressed the letters into the clay.

Finally, I added the date with an old-school rubber date stamp from an office supply store.

Allow clay to dry, then bisque fire.

Note: we did not remove ANY of the pasta before firing – we just let it burn out in the kiln.

clay and pasta faces alphabet pasta

clay and pasta faces 3

Painting the clay:

After bisque firing, we painted them with tempera cakes. For the skin tones, I offered multicultural tempera as well as peach tempera cake. The first graders painted their faces in a snap.

Within a few minutes, the tempera settled into the porous bisque. Then the kids added mouths with crayon (or construction paper crayon). Some kids used crayon for the eye color and even for make up.

As a last step, I sprayed the clay portraits with glossy ceramic sealer.

Tips:

Live and learn – here’s what I found out:

  • don’t press to hard with the pencil when drawing the portraits. Some students cut right through the slab (but came away with nice face-shaped clay portraits!)
  • the pasta may attract rodents.
  • egg pasta leaves a yellow tint on the clay even after firing.
  • don’t press extremely hard with the wagon wheel pasta. If you do, the fired clay eyes will end up as a shallow well.

For more examples and ideas, see this post on last year’s clay self-portraits.

Enjoy!

 

Decorated Clay Cupcakes

decorated clay cupcakes feature lettering and clay roses and

These lidded clay cupcake boxes are extra-special: they feature lettering and clay roses!

decorated clay cupcakes feature lettering and roses

Materials:

  • clay (we used low-fire white)
  • individual silicone cupcake molds (such as Wilton Silicone Baking Cups
    )
  • pin tool or plastic knife.
  • white vinegar
  • q-tips
  • alphabet pasta (I use La Moderna brand from the Hispanic food section at Wal Mart).
  • underglaze
  • clear glaze

Make the cupcake base

Give each student a lump of clay and a silicone cupcake form. Create a pinch pot, place it in the silicone form and press the clay all around against the textured sides of the form. If the clay pot is higher than the form, trim the clay with a pin tool or plastic knife.  Turn form inside out and remove from clay. Students should write their name on the bottom at this time.

Make the cupcake lid

Take some more clay and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball. Invert the top of the cupcake form and place onto of the flattened clay. Trim clay to fit cupcake form. Write student name on one side of the lid.

Want more tips? Check out this clay cupcake post from The Art of Ed.

Adding roses

I saw this great post on making simple clay roses on the smART Class blog. Essentially, you create a coil (rope) of clay, lay it on the table, pinch the top (‘spine’) along the length of the coil, and spiral into a rose.  Please see the smART Class blog post for a full photo tutorial.

We attached our roses (and optional leaves) to the lid using vinegar applied with a q-tip. Some students skipped the roses and added other decorations. Variations included a sun, animal, wrapped present, and cherry.

(Note: vinegar is our glue. We use it instead of slip when attaching small clay objects).

Adding text

Pour some alphabet pasta into a plate. Press alphabet pasta into wet clay. Write a birthday message or anything else. Do not remove (the pasta will burn out in the kiln).

Fire to cone 04.

decorated clay cupcakes feature text and roses.

Glaze the cupcake

Glaze the base with three coats of underglaze.

If the lid has text, use a stiff brush to press a dark color of underglaze into text indentations. Wipe off the underglaze. The text should now be legible. Carefully glaze the roses/leaves/decorations with three coats of underglaze. When dry, add 2-3 coats of clear glaze. Fire to cone 06.

decorated clay cupcakes at the art show.

Enjoy!

p.s. This would be a nice Wayne Thiebaud lesson!

Rainbow Footprint Tile Mural

rainbow footprint tile mural

Thinking about a mural project? If you want a mural that is engaging, beautiful and enduring, consider this rainbow footprint tile mural. I used Craig Hinshaw’s Rainbow Footprint Mural lesson from Pottery Making Illustrated July/August 2004.

Whole school mural project made from individual clay tiles, each imprinted with a shoe sole.

Whole school mural project made from individual clay tiles, each imprinted with a shoe sole.

Materials for the tiles:

  • Low fire white clay
  • square viewfinders
  • pin tool or opened paperclip
  • underglaze in colors of the rainbow
  • small brushes
  • clear glaze
  • your shoes!
  • optional – for lettering: magnetic letters (refrigerator magnets), alphabet pasta

Creating the footprint tiles

We followed all the directions in the magazine article. The students were THRILLED to stomp their foot down onto a ball of clay.

Cutting the tile though the viewfinder opening was a bit of the challenge for the younger students. Instead of neat squares, we had a lot of irregular shapes. These tiles had to be remade, but it only took a few extra minutes. I had extra sixth grade volunteers on hand to help cut out the tiles for the kindergarteners.

 Creating Text

We created text two ways: 1) large text was created by pressing magnetic letters into clay, and 2) small text was created by pressing alphabet pasta into clay.  (Don’t worry – the pasta burns out in firing).

For the large letters, we pressed magnetic letters into the clay tiles.

For the large letters, we pressed magnetic letters into the clay tiles.

For the small text, we pressed alphabet pasta into the clay tiles.

For the small text, we pressed alphabet pasta into the clay tiles.

I did this mural with the students of Solana Santa Fe School. We prepared all the tiles and had them professionally installed on an exterior stucco wall.  Eight years later, it is still standing and looking great!

Another school in our district did a twist on the same mural project. Artist (and parent) Christie Beniston create a rainbow footprint mural with the students of Skyline School. Click here to see this mural. Note the rectangular and circular tiles.

If you are planning a whole-school mural, consider this project. The kids LOVED making the tiles. Each tile is uniques, just like our students. They mural is beautiful to look it and fun to touch. After it is installed, kids will look for their shoe prints. It is a permanent reminder of unity in the school community.

Enjoy!

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