The All About Clay Student Handbook
The All About Clay Guide for Ceramics Students is an ideal resource for introducing students to the basics of clay. While, there is lots to learn and understand about ceramics, in-depth knowledge is not needed to get started. A basic understanding of key techniques and processes is very helpful. This resource is chalk full of information, but focuses on the key things you/students need to know to get started, to create and design clay artworks, and to fire and finish ceramics pieces. Some pages include some extensive information to help those looking to understand ceramics at a deeper level. This book is organized into chapters, each one focusing on different aspects of ceramics including Studio Guidelines, Tools & Equipment, Attributes of Clay, Clay Forming Methods, Glazing & Firing and Ceramics Design. Visit the Art Box Adventures eCommerce site for more information or to purchase this resource. https://payhip.com/b/nF2rt Author Tracy Fortune has other great teaching resources in the other ALL ABOUT CLAY resources such as CLAY MATTERS, SPEAKING OF CLAY, CLAY INSPIRATIONS, FUNCTIONAL CLAY INSPIRATIONS and the CLAY STUDIO TIPS SERIES.
The All About Clay Guide for Ceramics Students is an ideal resource for introducing students to the basics of clay. While, there is lots to learn and understand about ceramics, in-depth knowledge is not needed to get started. A basic understanding of key techniques and processes is very helpful. This resource is chalk full of information, but focuses on the key things you/students need to know to get started, to create and design clay artworks, and to fire and finish ceramics pieces. Some pages include some extensive information to help those looking to understand ceramics at a deeper level.
This book is organized into chapters, each one focusing on different aspects of ceramics including Studio Guidelines, Tools & Equipment, Attributes of Clay, Clay Forming Methods, Glazing & Firing and Ceramics Design.
Visit the Art Box Adventures eCommerce site for more information or to purchase this resource. https://payhip.com/b/nF2rt
Author Tracy Fortune has other great teaching resources in the other ALL ABOUT CLAY resources such as CLAY MATTERS, SPEAKING OF CLAY, CLAY INSPIRATIONS, FUNCTIONAL CLAY INSPIRATIONS and the CLAY STUDIO TIPS SERIES.
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Attributes of Clay ………………..…………..…...……..8
Clay Tools and Equipment………..….………….…...16
Clay Methods ……….….…...…....…………………...29
Glazing and Other Surface Treatments…………….44
Other Resources ………………………..….……...……70
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While, there is lots to learn and understand
about ceramics, in-depth knowledge is not
needed to get started. A basic understanding
of key techniques and processes is very helpful.
This resource is chalk full of information, but
focuses on the key things you need to know to
get started, to create and design clay
artworks, and to fire and finish ceramics pieces.
Some pages include some extensive
information to help those looking to understand
ceramics at a deeper level.
This book is organized into chapters, each one
focusing on different aspects of ceramics
including Studio Guidelines, Attributes of Clay,
Tools & Equipment, Clay Forming Methods,
Glazing & Firing and Ceramics Design.
I hope this resource helps you on your journey
as a ceramics artist and student.
Clay is an amazing media to work with. This chapter
gives you some important tips and insights to help
you be successful in ceramics class.
• Safety in the Ceramics Studio
• 10 Golden Rules for Working with Clay
• Clay, Ceramics and Pottery Terms
• How do You Say Clay? A Global Look
• History of Ceramics
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Be Safe in the Ceramics Studio
Working with clay and glaze may not seem hazardous, but there are some
unseen physical dangers. You should be aware of the potential impacts on
your health and your life. Below are some safety recommendations when
Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
1. Respirator - Protect your lungs, especially when working with dry clay or raw glazes. Without
a respirator, tiny airborne dust particles can enter the
lungs and cause irreversible damage over time.
2. Gloves - Protect your hands and arms from coming
into contact with raw materials. While some materials
are harmless, some can irritate the skin, and others
contain toxic minerals that can be absorbed into the
4. Safety glasses/goggles - Protect your eyes,
especially if looking through a peephole of a hot kiln.
Your vision is too important to risk.
5. Apron - Protect your clothes. This will help keep your
clothes clean and will keep you from taking clay and
glaze dust with you when you leave the studio.
5. Tie your hair back - Protect your head. If you have
long enough hair to tie back, do so.
6. Wipe your feet - Protect your surroundings. It is good
practice to wipe the soles of your shoes after working
with messy materials, so you don’t track dust and
raw materials around your studio.
Other Safety Tips
• Clean the studio often to avoid excessive
dust exposure. Use a wet mop or sponge,
not a vacuum unless it has a HEVA filter.
• Keep clay out of the sink. If your hands or
tools are very dirty, use a bucket or large
bowl of water to rinse them.
• Keep food and drink out of the studio.
Compounds in glaze can be especially
harmful if ingested. Remember to wash
your hands regularly.
• Handle sharp tools with care and avoid using
them on plaster molds or the wedging
area (as they may cause damage).
• Be careful not to let plaster mix with clay as
it can cause problems when clay is fired.
• Keep your back straight when lifting heavy
equipment or materials such as a box of
clay. If possible adjust wheel, bench, and
wedging table heights to help you maintain
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1. Clay should be tightly covered with a plastic bag to keep it from
drying out. This applies to works in progress and moist clay.
2. Clay dust can be harmful if you are exposed to it for long
periods of time. Keep clay scraps off the floor, clean-up with a
damp sponge, and never throw clay.
3. Wedge clay to remove air bubbles, achieve uniform
consistency, and to align the particles of clay.
4. Remember artworks made with clay thicker than your pinky
finger and thinner than your thumb are more likely to be
successful than ones made with very thick or thin walls.
5. Trapped air can cause clay issue in the kiln, so hollow out
sculptural forms and make a hole so air can escape.
6. When joining clay together, remember to score, slip, blend,
and smooth while the clay is wet or leather-hard.
7. Clay can be recycled, but only if it is unfired.
Don't glaze the bottom of a clay artwork. Wipe off any excess
glaze off with a damp sponge.
Let your clay artworks dry thoroughly before they are fired.
Handle your artworks with care at all times, especially
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Clay (noun) an earthy material that is plastic
when moist, but hard when fired
and used to make brick, tile, and
“That ceramic jug was made
with red clay”
History of the Term Clay
From the Old English “clæg“
meaning "stiff, sticky earth.”
• Germanic *klaijaz and "Kleie
• Old Frisian klai
• Old Saxon klei
• Dutch clei
• Danish klæg
• Objects (containers) that are made
out of clay by hand.
“The artist created beautiful pottery"
• A studio where pottery is made.
“The artist worked every day at the pottery”"
• the skill of making pots and dishes
“The student took pottery class"
History of Term Pottery
• Pottery derived from the Old English
term “potian” meaning "to push".
• A pottery (potter's workshop) comes
from the Old French word “poterie.”
Ceramics (noun) the art of making and
“I am taking a ceramics class”
Ceramic(s) (noun) an artifact made of
hard brittle material produced from non
-metallic minerals (clay) fired at high
“There are ceramics on the table”
Ceramic (adjective) Made of material
produced by the high temperature
firing of inorganic, non-metallic rocks
"A ceramic jug stood on the table"
History of the Term Ceramics
From the Greek word
• “keramos” meaning “burnt earth.”
• “keramic, meaning "of or belonging to
What is the Difference
Between Clay, Ceramics
Clay is a material that when fired
Ceramics are products such as
bricks, stoneware, china, and tiles
that are made from firing glass,
cements, or clay.
Pottery is generally considered to be
containers made from clay.
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Some Key Events in the…
People have been making items from clay for thousands of years. Ancient
cultures discovered that soft clay could be molded into many different
shapes and then fired to give them permanence.
Early Ceramic Artifacts: The oldest known ceramic artifact is a
female statuette, called the Venus of Dolní Věstonice dated
about 28,000 BC. It was found in a small prehistoric
settlement near Brno, in the Czech Republic. A this
site, hundreds of clay figurines, animals and balls
were uncovered near the remains of a horseshoeshaped
The Pottery of Ancient Civilizations: Ancient pottery
has been found in various places around the world
1. Czech Republic (28,000 BC):
2. China: (16,000 -18,000 BC) Xianrendong Cave
Pottery, Yuchanyan Cave Pottery and later for
3. Croatia: (15,500 BC) Vela Spila Pottery
4. Japan: (14,500 BC) Jamon Pottery
5. Russia:(14,300 BC) Amur River Basin Pottery
6. West Africa (9000 BC): Nigerian Pottery
7. Iran (3500 BC) Ancient Persian Pottery
8. Americas (2000-1500 BC) Pre-Columbian Pottery has been found
in north, south and central America.
9. Greece (1000-400 BC) Ancient Greek Pottery is known for its exceptional vases
with detailed surface decoration.
History of Ceramics Timeline
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
BC or BCE (Before Common Era)
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Potter’s Wheel: The first potter’s wheel was invented in
Mesopotamia around 6000 to 4000 BC. This innovation made it
easier and faster to create uniformly cylindrical ceramic pieces
instead of hand-built pottery.
Glaze and Surface Finishes: Burnishing was one of the early ways
that artisans made the surface of their pots smooth. Early glazing
was discovered in China, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece. Some
of these glazes were made from the ash of various kinds of wood or
straw and others included lead.
Firing and Kilns: Early clay pieces were dried in the sun or fired at
low temperature (below 1000°F/1830°C) in a shallow hole dug into
the ground. The Chinese were the first to introduce high
temperature kilns capable of reaching up to 2460°F/1350°C, and,
around 600 BC, developed porcelain (a material with less than 1%
porosity) from kaolin clay.
A. Middle Ages: During the middle ages, trade through the Silk
Road allowed for the introduction of porcelain first throughout
middle east and later in Europe.
B. 15th Century: Coal and wood furnaces were developed in
Europe, capable of reaching up to 2730°F/1500°C. They were
used to melt iron and were initially constructed from natural
C. 16th Century: When synthetic materials with better resistance to
high temperatures were developed, the results were that
melting metals and glass on an industrial scale as well as firing
mass production ceramics were possible.
D. 20th Century: The ceramic industry continued to change as new
products were developed. In the 20th century both gas and
electricity were used as fuels. Electric potter’s wheels and kilns were
developed and evolved. With kilns electronic programming
became common to control the temperature during a firing.
E. 21st Century: Technology is playing a bigger role in the firing and creation of ceramic
artworks. Smart phones and 3D printers are two innovations already being used. Who
knows what new innovations are on the horizon.
History of Ceramics Timeline
A B C
AD or CD (Common Era)
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It can be said many ways….
Among: Av Nplaum
Chinese: 粘 土
Czech: Hlína Hrnčířská
Japanese: 粘 土
Polish: Glina Skała
Vietnamese: đất sét
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It is helpful for ceramists and ceramics students to
understand the attributes of clay. This chapter
highlights several aspects.
• What is Clay?
• Types of Clay
• Sources of Clay
• Properties of Clay
• Clay Chemistry
• Stages of Clay
• The Ceramic Process
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Geologically, clay comes from
decomposed igneous rock that has been
eroded by weather. Clay is found near the
earth’s surface, often by rivers and lakes.
Chemically, clay is a mixture of alumina,
silica and water and has the formula
Other mineral oxides and organic matter are also found in clays.
Physically, clay is plastic due to its thin
plate-like particles and water content. It
becomes hard and brittle with drying
or firing. Clays naturally vary in color from
white to dull grey, brown to orange-red.
Artistically, clay is an art medium that can
be used to create both functional and
sculptural items. Products can be
handcrafted or mass-produced.
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Clays and clay minerals are found mainly on or near the earth’s surface.
When hot magma from
under the earth’s crust
cools, it becomes a solid
called igneous rock.
Through weathering, this
igneous rock is broken
down from boulders to
rocks, rocks to pebbles,
and finally pebbles to
small particles called
platelets. These platelets
are mixed with organic
matter and clay is
formed. Erosion carries
sediment away from the
original site of the
Primary Clay is found near the igneous (mother) rock and
Secondary Clay is found away from the original site.
Two Classifications of Clay
Based on Where Clay Is Found
Primary (Residual) Clay resides at or near the original site where the igneous rocks were
formed. It is the purest type of clay and has few or no impurities.
Names: Kaolin, Porcelain, China Clay
Uses: Industrial, Commercial, Residential Artists/Potters
History: Used in China during the Eastern Han Dynasty (206BC–220 AD) and Tang Dynasty
(618–907 AD). Porcelain production was introduced in Europe around 1720.
Secondary (Sedimentary) Clay has been broken down and moved from its original
location by weathering and erosion to a new (sedimentary) deposit. Clay can accumulate
minerals along the way and is often found near rivers, streams and lakes.
Names: Stoneware, Earthenware, Ball Clay
Color: Buff, Red, Brown, Grey
Uses: Residential Artists/Potters
History: Used in pre-historic times and common around the world
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The color of clay is determined by the presence
and type of minerals in it.
Examples: Iron=Red/Brown, Manganese=Black/Grey
Ability and ease of a clay body to be
formed and molded.
The roughness or smoothness of clays can vary.
Ones containing grog are rougher.
Grog: a granular material made from crushed, fired clay.
Temperature/Cone at which a clay matures/vitrifies
and becomes its hardest and least porous.
The ability of clay to hold/absorb moisture.
Low fire clays are more porous.
Mid and high-fire clays are less porous.
The amount clay shrinks as it dries and after it has
been fired. This can be up to 20%.
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What are the Main Components of Clay?
Potters are most interested in the periodic table elements that are found in the earth’s crust. These
elements, found in rocks, are present in clay and glazes. The most abundant elements are oxygen,
silicon and aluminum, followed by iron, calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Periodic Table of the Elements
Rare Earth Metals
Important Elements for Potters
Primary Function Type of Element Comments
Rare Earth Metals
Alkali metals, such as sodium, potassium and lithium, can act as a flux.
Alkaline earth metals, such as magnesium and calcium, are used as fluxes.
Magnesium carbonate is a flux and colorant.
Transition metals, such as chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt and nickel are
colorants for clay and glaze. Zinc oxide is a flux and opacifier.
Rare earth metals, such as neodymium, erbium and praseodymium,
are used as colorants in glass and glazes. Glazes can have vivid colors and
Alumina is a stiffening/stabilizer. Lead and bismuth can be used as fluxes.
Tin is an opacifier.
Silica and boron are glass formers. Clay and glaze need a glass former that
reacts when heated. Boron also acts as a flux.
Hydrogen and oxygen form water and are found in all clay and glazes.
Selenium and arsenic are colorants. Phosphorus a flux. Carbon is a key
component in several colorants such as cobalt carbonate.
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Clay mixed with water into a pudding-like
or liquid consistency.
Used for joining clay, slip trailing, and slip casting.
Soft, workable clay that can be easily
molded and formed.
Used for hand-building, extruding and wheel throwing.
Clay that has hardened slightly.
This is the ideal stage for carving clay and
building tall slab constructions.
Clay that is completely dried
and ready to be fired.
Clay is very fragile at this stage.
Clay that has been transformed into
ceramic material after being fired once.
Ready to be glazed, stained or painted.
Ceramic material with glaze applied and
fired a second time.
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Add Heat by Firing in a Kiln
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It is helpful for ceramists and ceramics students to
know about commonly used clay tools and
equipment. This includes learning the names of each
and their key parts.
• Clay Tools
• Clay Equipment
• Anatomy of a Slab Roller
• Anatomy of Wall-Mounted & Handheld Extruders
• Anatomy of a Potter’s Wheel
• Wheel Pottery Tools
• Anatomy of a Kiln
• Types of Kilns
• Kiln Firing Chart
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Sgraffito Loop Tool
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Heavy Weight Canvas
Slab Rollers are great for
making uniform clay slabs
with less time and effort than
using a rolling pin.
Use them to easily make large
slabs of various thicknesses.
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Handheld extruders can create both solid and hollow clay forms
Various Dies &
interchangeable dies with
holes that come in a
variety of sizes and
Each die shape produces
& Hollow Forms
Hollow forms can be
created with an inner
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Extrude: “The act or process of shaping by forcing through a die.”
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Bucket for Water
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A pug mill is a special electric powered machine used to recycle and
reclaim clay. It can process a lot of clay in a short period of time.
Clay Hopper Cover
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Lid with Fire Bricks
Peep Holes &
Spring Loaded Plenum Cup
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There are many different types of kilns which vary by power
source, size, loading access
Kiln Power Sources
Gas (Natural Gas,
Top Hat (Raku)
Small Glass Kilns
Electric and Gas Kilns
Large Production Kilns
Kiln Loading Access
Many Gas Kilns
Many Electric Kilns
Top Hat (Raku)
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Oval Kilns (glass kiln)
Sprung Arch Kilns
Catenary ‘Cat’ Kilns
Oval Glass Kiln
Kiln Firing Cycles
(fired, cooled, reloaded)
Kiln Heat Flow
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It is very important
between Cones 06
-04 and Cones 4-6,
as the settings are
quite different and
using the wrong
one could have a
negative effect on
the results. Cones
can be used to
temperature in the
kiln. Below is an
example of how
they are set up
and what happens
during the firing
Note: Temperature equivalents are based on a rate of climb of 270F (150C) per hour
GLASS FUSING in the KILN
A ceramic kiln can be used to fuse glass.
Full Fuse: 1480F Tack Fuse: 1350F Slumping: 1220F
Note: Following a detailed firing schedule for each type of fusing
is necessary for desired results.
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Ceramists and ceramics students should be familiar
with key clay techniques for preparing clay and
working with clay, for both hand-building and
doing wheel pottery.
• Clay Thickness Guide
• Joining Clay Pieces
• Pinch Pot
• Wheel Throwing
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Wedging is kneading/pressing clay to remove air
bubbles and even out clay consistency.
Rams (Bull) Head Method: This popular method
has two hands both doing the same actions of
pushing and pulling the clay to form a ram’s
head-like symmetrical form.
Spiral (Shell) Method: This method has each
hand doing different motions and results in an
asymmetrical shell-like form.
Stack and Slam Method: Repetitively stacking,
slamming and slicing through blocks of clay.
Spanking Method (Modified Wedging):
This simple technique is done by ’spanking’ and
rotating clay. Mostly helps with shaping the clay.
• makes clay more pliable
• ensures a uniform consistency
• removes air pockets and any hard spots in the clay.
Wedging clay is a great way to make clay into
• a ball for working on the wheel or making a pinch pot
• a ‘loaf’ for putting it in the slab roller.
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The thickness of clay artworks is important.
What thickness is recommended to minimize issues?
Your clay can be...
“Thin as your Pinky………...Thick as your Thumb.”
Thickness is an important consideration, especially
when rolling out slabs and making pinch pots.
Credit: Wendie Love
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Tips for Joining Clay Pieces
Artists strive to create strong and creative
artworks. When joining or attaching small or
large pieces together, it is important to make
sure they are securely attached.
Clay shrinks as it dries and smaller pieces of
clay dry more quickly than larger pieces. As
smaller pieces shrink, they may detach from
larger pieces if not well attached.
The Slip and Score method is commonly
taught to students. To make joins even
stronger it is recommended to also Blend and
Smooth the seam. Blending is done by pulling
clay across the seam so the gap disappears.
Smoothing afterwards further strengthens the
join and gives a finished look. These four steps
are called S.S.B.S. or Score-Slip-Blend-Smooth.
Some people use the word Stick or Weld
instead of Blend, so call it S.S.S.S. or S.S.W.S.
Making joints and seams
disappear is often done with a
Using sponge, finger, or brush to
make a clay surface smooth
The tools used for S.S.B.S. can vary but
typically artists use a sharp tool such as a
needle tool for scoring. They use slip as gluelike
mixture, a wood or plastic modeling tool
to blend and a sponge or finger for
Tip for Connecting
When attaching larger pieces together
or onto a base, wrapping a thin coil
around the join like a ‘scarf,’ makes the
seam stronger and less obvious.
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Pinch pots are
using a pinching
Pinch pots can
together in a
variety of ways.
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FUNCTIONAL PINCH POTS
Pinch Pot Bell
Animal Effigy Bowls
Nested Pinch Pots
Altered Pinch Pot
Multiple Connected Pots
SCULPTURAL PINCH POTS
Big Mouth Characters
Double Pinch Pot Character
Animal Lidded Dish
Head Bust Sculpture
Nature Inspired Sphere
Totem Pole Pinch Pots
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are snake-like ropes of clay.
Ways to Make
1. Roll Coils by Hand
Using palms gently
move hands back
and forth to lengthen
2. Use an Extruder
Handheld and large
extruders work well to
make uniform coils in
a variety of sizes and
What Can You Do with Coils?
• Construct vessels and sculptures.
• Add surface decorations.
• Strengthen seams when joining pieces of clay together (fill seam, then blend).
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FUNCTIONAL COIL IDEAS
• Coil Vases
• Pitchers and Teapots
• Coil Baskets
• Coil Bowls
• Coil Boxes
• Coil Candle Holders/Lanterns
• Coil Vessels
• Freeform Coiling
• Coil ‘Puzzling’
• Coil Decorated Spoons
SCULPTURAL COIL IDEAS
• Heads or Faces with Coil Details
• Figurative Coil Sculptures
• Coil Animal/Character Sculptures
• Coil Object Sculptures
• Relief Tiles with Coil Details
• Coil Ornaments
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A slab is a piece of clay which has been made
flat, usually by rolling with a rolling pin or slab roller.
Slab Construction Steps
1. Use a rolling pin or slab-roller to roll out clay
so it is about 3/8” thick.
2. Cut out slabs for each side of your end
3. Lay all pieces and let dry until they are
leather-hard (somewhat stiff). This takes
about an hour or leave overnight in loosely
wrapped plastic. Placing a board on top
can keep the pieces from warping.
4. Consider beveling edges that will be joined
together as that will help the pieces fit
together well (bevel=cut at angle).
5. Score edges that will be attached.
6. Apply slip to scored edges.
7. Join pieces together and blend all of the
seams using a modeling tool.
8. To make the seam stronger, place a coil
along the interior seams of the piece.
Gently blend the coils so the seams and
9. Blend any visible gaps on the outside.
10. Use a wet brush, sponge or your finger to
smooth out the whole piece.
S l i p
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TILES & LOW RELIEF
1. 2D Slab Animals
2. 2D Architecture
3. 2D Human Form
4. Word Play Masks
5. Slab Animal Tiles
6. Incised-Excised Designs on Tiles
7. Coaster Sets
8. Relief Tile Murals
9. Slab Clocks
10. Picture Frames
11. Ceramic Looms
12. Folded Slab Dishes
13. Push Pots
14. Slab ‘Pillows’
15. Relief Personalized Plates
16. Sgraffito Plates
17. Shallow Animal Dishes
BOXES and OTHER VESSELS
18. Cube and Rectangular Boxes
19. Slab Personal Boxes
20. Animal Boxes
21. Fun-Shaped Boxes
22. Sgraffito Boxes
23. Rounded Joint Boxes
24. Open Top Containers
25. Cylindrical Lidded Boxes
26. Dome Character Boxes
27. Other Cylindrical Containers
28. Vases with Matching Front and Back
29. Slab Vessels with Handles
30. Tripod Vessels
31. Organic Slab Vessels
32. Organic Slump Bowls
33. Rim Stitched Bowls
34. Sgraffito Vessels
35. Tissue Box Dispensers
36. Slab Piggy Banks
37. Patch Pots
38. Bird Houses
39. Bird Feeders
40. Rectangular Lanterns
41. Other Shaped Lanterns
42. Slab Bells
44. Garden Stakes
45. Wall Vases
46. Garden Totem Poles
47. Animal Sculptures
49. Figurative Sculptures
50. Nature Inspired Sculptures
51. Sculptural Bookends
52. Ceramic Shoes
53. Mixed Media Sculptures
54. Abstract Sculptures
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“The act or process of
shaping by forcing
through a die.”
Barrel shaped equipment used to make
coils of assorted shapes and sizes.
Note: Extruders can also extrude hollow forms.
What can you do with an extruder?
Extruders are great for making coils
for coil construction or coil decorating,
handles and hollow forms.
Dies vary in size and shape. Hollow
forms require a die holder (spider) to
create a donut-like hole to extrude clay.
Dies and Die-Holders
sculpting with coils
Making handles to
attach to functional
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Functional and Sculptural
Functional Extruder Ideas
• Extruded Vase
• Lidded Container
• Set of Vessels
• Napkin Rings
• Multiple Hollow Forms
• Architectural Sculpture
• Human Faces/Forms
• Figurative Sculpture
• Animal Sculpture
• Abstract Sculpture
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Trimming a Pot
Forming clay on a potter’s wheel
Place your pot upside
down. Adjust the pot’s
position with the pot
spinning slowly. Once
several small coils of
clay into place around
the rim to attach the pot
to the wheel. Then use
trimming tools to remove
excess clay, add a foot
and refine shape
For best results, make
some measurements &
A. Pot Height
B. Pot Depth
C. Bottom Thickness
D. Foot Ring Diameter
usually 1/2 - 1/3 of
E. Curves of the Pot
F. Walls of the Pot
should be of even
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1. Get Out the Tools You Will Need: You will need a
bucket about half full of water, as well as some
pottery tools including a sponge, wire cutter, needle
tool, rib and wood modeling tool.
2. Choose the Right Type of Clay: Most potters use
smooth clays, but beginners can find it easier to
work with clay with a bit of grog or sand as it is less
likely to collapse.
3. Wedge Clay: Wedging your clay well is important
as it removes air pockets and small hard spots, and
gives clay uniform consistency.
4. Clay Should Be Well Attached to the Wheel or Bat:
It works best if the clay you put on the wheel is
rounded and not flat on the bottom.
5. Use Plenty of Water: If your clay feels dry against
your hands as you’re centering, you don’t have
enough water on your hands. Your clay can
become too wet if you use too much water.
6. Pay Attention to Wheel Speed: Use med-high or
high for centering and a slower speed when your
are forming the pottery. Put your hands on the clay
once it is spinning, not when it starting to move.
7. Move Your Hands SLOWLY: Move your hands
slowly as clay can easily go off center with
quick movements. Pull clay up slowly with
pressure on inside and out.
8. Pay Attention to Your Body Position: Place your legs
as close to your splash pan as possible. Keep your
arms anchored and back straight. Lean your body
into the clay. Keep your arms anchored to your leg
or the side of your body — that way the clay has
nowhere to go except where you want it.
9. Clean Up: There are quite a few things to clean
including the wheel head, tools, shelf and yourself.
Don’t put clay down the drain. Clay and slip/slurry
can be recycled.
10. Turn On and Off the Wheel: Of course you turn on
the wheel when using it, but don’t forget to turn it off
when you are finished.
Use a “W Position” with your
hands when creating a hole.
Pull clay up slowly with
pressure on the inside and out.
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60 Ideas for What You Can Make Using the Pottery Wheel
3. Bird Bath
4. Bird Feeder
5. Bird House
7. Butter Dish
8. Cake Stand
9. Candle Holders
10. Candle Snuffer
12. Casserole Dish
13. Cellphone Speaker
14. Chip & Dip Bowl
15. Christmas Ornament
18. Cookie Jar
19. Cream and Sugar
21. Cupcake Stand
22. Dog/Cat Bowl
23. Egg Cups
24. Egg Separator
25. Garden Ornament
26. Garden Totem
27. Garlic Holder
29. Honey Pot
30. Jam Jar
31. Jewelry/Ring Holder
34. Lamp Base
36. Lemon Juicer
38. Napkin Rings
39. Nesting Bowls
40. Pencil Holder
41. Piggy Bank
43. Plant Holder
45. Rain Chain
46. Salt & Pepper Shakers
47. Salt Pig
48. Serving Dishes
49. Soap Dish
50. Soap Dispenser
51. Soup Tureen
52. Spoon Rest
53. Teacup and Saucer
55. Toothbrush Holder
56. Toothpick/Match Holder
57. Utensil Holder
59. Wind Chimes
60. Yarn/String Bowl
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Ceramists and ceramics students should be familiar
with ways to finish and alter the surface of clay
artworks, including aspects of glazing and other
ways to finish ceramic artworks.
• Glaze Safety
• What is Glaze?
• Properties of Glaze
• Glaze Chemistry
• Finishing Methods
• Surface Decoration Techniques
• Glaze Issues and Remedies
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Ways to add color to the surface of bisque-fired clay
Glaze is the most common way to add color and finish
clay artworks. It is applied to bisqueware and can be
clear or colored.
Underglazes can be applied to Greenware (unfired clay)
or Bisqueware. May be coated with clear glaze to seal it
or give it a shiny finish.
Stains and oxides can be applied to bisqueware and
then wiped to emphasize texture. To seal and add
shine, apply clear glass over top.
Lusters are overglazes applied on glaze-fired pieces and
require a third firing. Lusters are often metallic and fired at
a lower temperature.
Paint, including acrylic, watercolor or tempera, can be
applied on bisque-fired clay. Paint is used mostly on
Wax crayons, oil pastel, marker, shoe polish, wet tissue
paper and black or colored inks can be used as
alternatives to glaze or paint.
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Safety Rating of Glaze Products
Non-Toxic: Refers to the product in the jar. Contains no
harmful ingredients in sufficient quantities that
could be harmful to humans (including
Health Caution: Refers to the product in the
jar. There are some ingredients present in
large enough quantities that the product
may be harmful to humans. There will be
detailed information on the product label
about the risk and proper handling
instructions. Even more detailed information
is available on the relevant Material Safety
Data Sheet (MSDS).
Dinnerware Safe/ Food Safe: Refers to the
finished, fired surface of the glaze. Once
fired according to the instructions on the
product label, the fired surface may be
used in contact with food or beverage
without leaching potential harmful
elements from the glaze into the food or
Toxic Minerals In Glaze
Two materials in glaze that have
proven to be especially toxic are
lead and cadmium. Lead is used
to make glazes flow better at low
temperatures. Cadmium is used
primarily to create bright orange
and red colors.
• Crystalline silica is
present in almost all
glazes and can scar
lung tissue if
• Do not eat, drink, or
smoke in the glazing
area. Do not
and glazing utensils.
• Scrub your hands
• Use a ceramic dust
filter mask that fits
well when mixing,
spraying, or sanding
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Potters need to consider several important properties of glazes when selecting
which glaze(s) they will use to finish their artwork. These include color, opacity,
surface finish and firing temperature. Some glazes can be used and applied to
achieve a variety of different special effects.
Glazes can be formulated to produce a wide variety of
colors using stains or metallic coloring oxides. Color is a
major defining characteristic in describing any glaze.
The ability of light to penetrate the glaze layer determines
if a glaze is transparent, semi-opaque or opaque. With
transparent glazes, what is underneath can show through.
Glazes can have various degrees of shine.
Gloss - high shine, smooth
Satin - low shine, semi-smooth
Matte - no shine, slightly rough
The 3 most common temperature ranges in ceramics are
Cone 06 (1830°F), Cone 6 (2232°F) and Cone 9 (2336°F).
Glazes can be developed for wood, soda, salt, luster, raku,
crystalline and other firing techniques.
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What are the Main Components of Glaze?
Periodic Table of the Elements
Glass Forming Agents
Melting Agents - Fluxes
Essential Glaze Components
or boron trioxide
Silica needs to be heated to a
very high temperature (about
3100 F or 1710 C) to turn to
glass. This is hotter than can be
reached by ceramic kilns.
Alumina stiffens a glaze so it
won’t slide off and helps
disperse fine gas bubbles that
can form in the firing process.
Various options include
calcium oxide, potassium
oxide, sodium oxide
Flux is need to lower the
melting point of the higher
temperature ingredients in a
Colorants Opacifiers Other
Made mostly from
Common opacifiers Suspending agents,
metallic oxides such
include tin oxide, gums, and glaze
as iron, manganese,
zirconium, titanium, thinners are also
cobalt, nickel, and
zinc and bone ash. sometimes added.
Oxygen is present in all glazes.
Various elements combine
with oxygen to form oxides
Tin Oxide SnO₂
Calcium Oxide CaO
Silicon Oxide SiO2
Aluminum Oxide Al2O3
Note: Some oxides impact a glaze in more than one way. For example, iron oxide acts as flux agent and a colorant.
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1. Brushing is a common method of glazing. The right brushes is also
very important. Large flat brushes for bigger pieces. and small,
round-tip brushes for finer details.
2. Dipping can be used to form a base layer to use before
decoration or to apply a solid color that won’t be decorated.
3. Spraying requires a spray gun or air gun is used to apply whole
layers, as well as decorating. Using a banding wheel is
recommended as it is easier to rotate the banding wheel than the
spray gun. Spaying is especially good for larger pieces or pieces of
4. Sponging is used to create interesting textures, pattern and soft
transitions of color. Sponges easily absorb the glaze and help to
quickly apply it to pottery.
5. Dripping/Pouring are fantastic techniques that can be used to add
a layer of glaze or for creative decorating. Dripping is usually
associated with decorating, while pouring is often done to cover
the whole piece in a solid-colored layer.
6. Splattering is a fun way to apply glaze. It is typically done with a
stiff brush to create dot-like splatters or streak patterns. It is usually
applied over a base layer of glaze.
7. Wax Resist is done by painting a layer of
liquid wax resist over glaze or underglaze, then brushing a second
color of glaze or underglaze over the surface. Hot or cold wax can
8. Glaze Trailing is the process of applying glaze-on-glaze or glaze-on
-clay artworks by drawing with a small, squeezable bottle that has
an narrow tip.
9. Stippling is applying glaze with the tip of a soft brush. It works well
when a shading effect is needed, or if you want to apply the glaze
in a dappled texture.
10. Bubbles Effect is done using straw to blow bubbles into a soapy
mixture of 3 parts water,1 part dish or hand soap, and 1 part
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1. WIPE bisqueware with a
2. CHOSE glaze(s) based on
glaze test tiles.
3. MIX glaze thoroughly.
4. APPLY glaze in even coats
5. CLEAN OFF any glaze from
the bottom of pot with a
6. RECORD info in your glaze
journal noting the name(s)
of glaze and how it was
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Crazing is fine pattern of
cracks in the surface of the
glaze. This crackle-like effect
is the result of the glaze
shrinking more than the clay
body. Note: Some glazes are
designed to craze.
Glaze shivers when it cracks
and pieces of glaze peel off
the piece, often at the edges
of a piece. This is a result of
the clay shrinking more than
the glaze which is opposite of
the crazing problem.
Try changing to a lower
expansion glaze or adding a
relatively low expansion
material such as silica to the
existing glaze. Alternatively,
you can switch to a higher
expansion clay body.
Try to increase the
expansion of the glaze by
adding a material such as a
high expansion frit.
Glaze that crawls or creeps
leaves exposed areas of bare
bisque. Glaze can crawl due
to the presence of dust,
grease or other dirt on the
bisque or when it is too thick.
Wipe bisqueware well with a
sponge before glazing.
Try thinning the glaze by
adding water or by applying
Pinholes are tiny holes in the
glaze surface. They are
caused by gases escaping
from the clay body during the
Try a longer firing cycle with
a 15-minute hold or do a
thinner glaze application.
Off-gassing can occur if a
kiln cools too quickly from its
Glaze blisters look like little
craters or bubbles on the
Try thinner layers of glaze or
wait longer before firing to
allow the glaze to fully dry.
Make sure the kiln is not over
firing or cooling too quickly
from its top temperature.
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Creating great ceramic artworks can be improved
by thinking before and during the creation process.
This chapter highlights some things to consider.
• Ceramic Design Considerations
• Steal Like an Artist
• Creative Process
• 2D Surface Decoration
• 3D Surface Decoration
• Element of Design
• Principles of Design
• What is a Vessel?
• Anatomy of a Vessel
• Functional Ideas
• Sculptural Ideas
• Artwork Planning
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Artists create art, but that is not all that artists do.
Artists also observe, connect, reflect,
talk and think like artists.
When creating ceramic artworks, artists go
through a series of design steps as they
make design decisions. These steps are not
the same for everyone, but here are some
• Functionality: Will I create something
functional, sculptural or both?
• Aesthetic Considerations: Which
elements and/or principles of design will I
use to create an aesthetically pleasing or interesting artwork?
• Functional Considerations: If it’s a functional, what are the parts like? Will
it have handle, lid, spout, and/or foot?
• Concept: What message, purpose, idea or theme will my artwork
• Style: If sculptural, what level of abstraction will your idea have?
Realistic? Abstract? Stylized? Cartoonish? Non-Representational?
• 2D-3D: How 3D is the artwork? Is it more 2D (relief) or 3D (viewed from
• Size: What are the planned dimensions? Length? Width? Height/Depth?
• Construction Methods: What construction method(s) will work best to
create this artwork? Slab, Coil, Pinch Pot, Wheel, etc.?
• Surface Decoration: What surface decoration technique(s) will you use?
Incising, excising, sgraffito, sprigging, slip trailing, etc.?
• Glazing or Glaze Alternative: What type of glaze and what color(s) of
glaze? What application method will you use? If not glazing, what
alternative way of finishing will you use?
• Tools and Equipment: What tools and equipment will you need to create
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Artists develop ideas in many different ways. It is worth
checking out Austin Kleon’s book How to Steal Like an Artist
as his thinking can help artists and students view idea
development in a an inspiring and freeing way.
Kleon introduces his book with
Every artist gets asked the question
“Where do you get your ideas?”
The honest artist answers
“ I steal them.”
Kleon also states.
When you look a the world in this way, you stop
worrying about what’s “good” and what’s
“bad”—there’s only stuff worth stealing and stuff
that is not worth stealing.
His graphic image (see image on right) comparing
good and bad theft can help you to “steal like an
artist.” by combining and/or revising ideas to reflect
your personal passions. Pairing this with the creative
process can help you build your thinking skills and
This guide provides some list of inspiring ideas, including
• Functional Ideas
• Sculptural Theme ideas
• Pinch Pot, Coil, Slab, Wheel Throwing and
Check out an Artwork Planning tool that can be used to
guide you to not only steal like an artist, but to better
think like an artist as one of the key skills that artists
develop and use.
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Set Challenge - Consider Constraints - Define Goals
Decide on Big Ideas - Determine Direction
Make a List - Generate Ideas - Conceptualize
Visualize - Imagine Possibilities - Mind Map
Gather Inspiration - Sketch Ideations
Aha does not
come at any
Research Ideas - Explore - Develop - Experiment
Percolate - Incubate - Practice Techniques - Process
Sketch Possibilities - Adapt Ideas - Classify - Sort
Combine - Transform - Consider Approach & Tools
takes effort and
Keep in mind
Create - Produce - Execute - Refine -
Synthesize - Analyze - Adjust - Improve -
Revise - Modify - Finalize - Culminate
Evaluate - Assess - Interpret - Analyze - Critique
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The surface of clay can be altered with various relief effects.
This is usually done at the leather-hard stage.
Carving or engraving
a design into clay by
cutting or scraping
into the surface.
Carving away the
shapes on the surface
of the clay to leave a
raised relief design.
embossing textures or
designs with an
object, tool or stamp
or scraping into
Cutting of shapes,
letters, or designs
through the wall of a
pot while in the
Drawing on the
surface of a clay
with slip using a
Making parallel lines
on the surface of a
pot with a tool such
as a serrated rib
Using a carving tool
to remove ribbons
of clay leaving a
Decorating with low-relief forms
that are usually made separately
using a mold.
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The surface of clay can be altered with various 2D effects.
This is usually done at the leather-hard stage.
Some techniques require colored slip or underglaze.
Rubbing the surface
of leather-hard clay
with a hard object to
create a smooth,
Carving a clay
layers of underglaze
or colored slip, to
leave behind an
incised image or
Filling incised lines/
areas with colored
slip or underglaze.
Cutting or tearing
adhering them to
and then applying
over the clay
Brushing a wax
medium over an
area of clay, slip,
or underglaze to
resist the final
Using a sponge
or slip with
a brush in a loose
manner to give
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The elements are like the ingredients for a recipe to design
functional and sculptural ceramics.
Line: Lines are two-dimensional, and are used in sculpture to lead
the viewer’s eye in, around and through a form. Can be actual
or implied. They can vary in many ways including thickness,
length, curvature and direction.
Shape: Shapes are two-dimensional and may be used
on surface designs or be evident in the silhouette of a
sculpture. Slabs look like shapes, but are actually
forms with very little depth. Three-dimensional forms
contain points (vertices), lines (edges) and planes
Form: A 3D sculpture has height, width and depth. Forms
can be geometric or organic. Every sculpture is a
form, but not every form is a sculpture.
Space: Space is the height, width and depth of a 3D
form. It includes the area within and around a
sculpture as well.
Color: Color can be used to enhance a 3D form. It can
be applied (glazed or painted on) or inherent, such
as the natural color of the clay. Color can be used
to increase the clarity of the theme or meaning of a
Value: Value is evident in highlights or shadows on the
surface of a sculpture, meant to create interest
through contrast. Textures and deeply carved areas
have dark shadowed values; areas that stick out
have highlighted values. Value is also evident in the
lightness or darkness of glaze or paint on the surface
of a sculpture.
Texture: Repetitive marks a sculpture’s surface create interest
through contrast. Deeply textured areas appear darker and
smoother; non-textured areas appear lighter.
Volume and Mass; Volume is a shape in three dimensions.
Mass is the density of an object (actual or perceived weight).
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are like a ‘recipe’ or instructions of ways to work with and organize the
elements of design for functional and sculptural ceramics.
Balance: Ordered relationship of parts.
Visual balance is achieved by the
placement of similar or dissimilar
Contrast: Different elements used
together to highlight their differences.
Emphasis: Stressing or calling attention
to some part of a 3D artwork,
creating a focal point.
Proportion& Scale: The size of the
parts or whole compared one to the
whole, other parts, other objects
and/or the human form.
Repetition & Pattern: Repeating one
or more elements of art to create
patterns and help unify an artwork.
Rhythm & Movement: Rhythm is the
result of replication and creates visual
interest. Movement guides the
viewer’s eye around the artwork.
Unity: The elements working together so
everything comes together in a
cohesive harmonious way.
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What is a Vessel?
A vessel is a
often designed to
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What Functional Ideas Interest You?
Consider Creating Something that is Both Sculptural and Functional
1. Address Number Sign
5. Bird Bath
6. Bird Feeder
7. Bird House
8. Book Ends
12. Bud Vase
13. Business Card Holder
14. Butter Dish
16. Cake Stand
17. Candle Holders
18. Candle Snuffer
20. Casserole Dish
21. Cell Phone Holder/Speaker
22. Chess/Checker Set
23. Chia Pet
24. Christmas Ornament
25. Chopstick Rest
29. Cookbook Holder
30. Cookie Jar
31. Cream and Sugar
33. Cupcake Stand
35. Dog/Cat Bowl
36. Door Stop
37. Earring Holder
38. Egg Cups
39. Egg Separator
40. Garden Ornament
41. Garden Totem
42. Garlic Holder
44. Honey Pot
45. Incense Burner
46. Jam Jar
47. Jewelry Holder
50. Lamp Base
52. Lemon Squeezer
53. Measuring Spoons
55. Mug with pocket
56. Mug with surprise
57. Music Instrument
58. Napkin Holder
59. Napkin Rings
60. Nesting Bowls/Plates
61. Pencil Holder
62. Photo Holder
63. Picture Frame
64. Piggy Bank
66. Plant Holder
67. Plant Markers
69. Rain Chain
70. Rice/Noodle Bowl
71. Ring Holder
72. Salt & Pepper Shakers
73. Salt Pig
74. Serving Dishes with
75. Serving Platter/Tapas Set
77. Soap Dish
78. Soup Tureen
81. Spoon Rest
83. Switch Plate Cover
84. Teacup and Saucer
86. Teapot Set
87. Tic-Tac-Toe Game
89. Tissue Box Dispenser
90. Toothbrush Holder
91. Toothpick/Match Holder
93. Utensil Holder
95. Wall Hanger/Pocket
96. Watering Can
98. Wind Chimes
99. Wine Bottle Stop
100. Yarn/String Bowl
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Group of Figures
Pair of Figures
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ARTWORK PLANNING SHEET
Part A: List of Ideas
(A=15+, B=9-14, C=4-8)
Part B: Thumbnail/Small Sketches
(A=6+ B=4-5, C=1-3)
Part C: Image/Idea Search: Look Online (or other Source) for Inspirational Images
to Use as You Develop and Refine Your Ideas. (A=3+ B=2, C=1)
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Part D: Large/Final Sketch
Consider your ideas on the previous page Select/Combine/Refine Idea(s) to best convey the message/concept
you are trying to communicate. Make at least two detailed sketches (1 large sketch and one supporting smaller
sketch). Include notes such as the title, technique(s), size, colors and other information about your plan.
A= 2 detailed sketches (1 large sketch and 1 supporting sketch such as an alternate view or close-up) with descriptive notes,
B= 1 detailed large sketch with some notes, C= 1 medium/large sized sketch.
Large Detailed Sketch
Side, Top, Back or Close-Up View
Surface Decoration Method(s):
Glaze (or alternative) Plan:
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THE ALL ABOUT CLAY
GUIDE FOR CERAMICS STUDENTS
By Tracy Fortune
Copyright © Tracy Fortune 2021
National Board Certified Art Teacher
Bachelor of Education, Masters of Education