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.


  • 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.



Fancy ‘Gold’ Frame for Mother’s Day (or anytime)

Looking for a fun and pretty Mother’s Day project for kindergarteners and first graders? First graders just put the finishing touches on their Mother’s Day project: a shiny gold frame made with pasta! Bonus for primary students: this project reinforces pattern lessons taught in the general ed. classroom. It’s two lessons in one.


First graders use tag board, pasta and glue to create a picture frame. Look carefully at the pasta: can you see the A-B-C-B-A pattern?

Tag board
White glue (Elmer’s)
Template cut to size of art you wish to frame
Dry pasta (we used four different shapes)
Gold spray paint

Cut tag board to desired dimension. Center template on tag board and trace with pencil.

Students glue pasta on the outside edge of their tag board. Explain to students we can’t put pasta in the center of the frame because that is where the art will go.

Dry on drying rack. Be sure to dry in horizontal position ( you may even tell the kids to hold the art ‘flat’ as they carry it to the drying rack).

Option 1: create pattern with pasta. We alternated pasta to create an A-B-C-B-A pattern.

Option 2: student’s choice! So fun and unique.

Finishing the project:

Spray the pasta with gold paint. No need to paint the center of the frame. Spray outside!

Insert art and wait for the oohs and aahs!

The pasta/glue bond is quite strong, especially if you encourage kids to use a big dot of glue. In fact, the inspiration for this project came from my son’s kindergarten teacher. I have been carrying around that pasta frame holiday gift for over 10 years, and it is still intact 🙂


We added the Modigliani Mother’s Day portraits I wrote about in this post.

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