Tag Archives: clay

Clay and Pasta Portraits

7 Sep


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.


  • 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


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.


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.



Decorated Clay Cupcakes

23 Aug

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


  • 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.


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

Rainbow Footprint Tile Mural

16 Aug

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.


More Photos from Art Show 2014

28 May

Here are some more photos from Art Show 2014.  Thanks again to Devan, our art show chair (and party planning/layout genius) and all the AMAZING art show and art room volunteers who put this show together.

Sixth grade foil name art. Click here for lesson plan

Upper grade display

Foil name art (and those awesome decorations!) in the upper grade area.

Primary grade display

First grade clay self-portraits on table top. Click here for lesson. On skirt: marker and foam prints lesson plan at shine Brite Zamorano. Above on wall: baby oil and oil pastel herons. Click here for lesson.

Marker prints, clay faces and great blue herons in the K-3 area.

Marker prints, clay faces and great blue herons in the K-3 area.

Kindergarten Kandinsky CD Case Circles Mural

Click here for the lesson plan. The lesson went incredibly well. The mural was mounted on foam core using the 3M clear mounting tape.

Primary grade display

Kandinsky CD case circles mural

Shoe Art and Sport Trophies:

On the table skirt: fourth grade shoe art. Click here for lesson. This is a 100% successful lesson.

Fifth grade sport trophies. Click here for lesson.

Upper grade art display

Shoe art and sport trophies in the upper grade area.

Upper grade display

Calder wire hands

Want more pictures? Check out our first post from Art Show 2014. And check out Art Show 2013 and Art Show 2012! Click here for more on Devan’s space-saving displays.

Our volunteers are the best! Our school is blessed to have the help of parents year-round in the art room. We had some amazing, hard-working parents who hung this show in just three days.

It was our last show with Devan as chair. We will really miss her vision and energy. How fortunate we are to have had her help these past four shows.


What’s your best tip for a successful art show?





Art Show 2014: A Rainbow of Color

24 May

art show 2014 stage

SSF art show 2014: paint cans spill a rainbow of color down the stairs; Bob Ross painting video plays throughout the evening.

We had our annual art show last week. It was amazing! Over 1000 pieces of art; at least two from each student. This show featured a rainbow theme (designed by Devan, our AMAZING parent volunteer art show chair), a FEAST! food art area, and an iPad photography/digital art showcase.

Rainbow theme:

Devan used real paint cans purchased at Home Depot. The colored ‘paints’ are plastic table cover rolls. The 10 cans on the stage were drilled and hung on monofilament. Hidden PVC pipe stands hold up the freestanding paint cans.

Spilled paint decorations

The show featured Devan’s amazing freestanding paint can decorations.

Giant crayons and a rainbow of color.

Giant crayons and a rainbow of color in front of the plaster masks.

FEAST! Food Art

I taught food art projects in grades K-4. Click here for kindergarten cookie collage, first grade feast collage, second grade Wayne Thiebaud geometric dessert, and fourth grade Seurat pointillist food. Devan decorated the tables with real cooking utensils and ingredients.

Five FEAST! art projects (clockwise from left): clay cupcakes with roses and alphabet pasta; Seurat pointillist food; Thanksgiving feast collage; cooking plate collage; Wayne Thiebaud geometric dessert.

Andy Warhol activity:

We had a coloring contest again this year. I used a blank Campell’s soup can sheet courtesy of E is for Explore blog. Click here to get yours. We used a real soup pot and real cans of Campbell’s soup.

Our interactive coloring contest ties in to the FEAST! unit.

Our interactive coloring contest ties in to the FEAST! unit. Check out the pot of crayons!

iPad Art Showcase:

We put the iPad showcase right up at the entrance. I printed out a few samples of the second grade iPad photography project, then stationed two iPads looping slideshows of our other digital art projects.

This achieved three goals: 1) display student art, 2) advocate for the art program and 3) thank the parents who raised money to bring iPads to our school.

iPad photography print outs, plus looping slideshows at the iPad art showcase.

iPad photography print outs, plus looping slideshows at the iPad art showcase.


Thanks to our PTO and parent volunteers

Our entire art program is made possible by the parents at our school. A big thank you to the art room and art show volunteers for all their hard work during the year and for three CRAZY days hanging the show. We also had the help of a college student, Abby, who spent two weeks observing our art program. The gorgeous room layout and decorations are the vision of our amazing art show chair, Devan, a professional party planner. We are so lucky to have Devan on board.

100% of our art program is funded by our school PTO. Thank you.


What’s your best tip for a successful art show?