Irresistible Indian Corn

My first graders created this awesome Indian corn that has a textured surface.  They were a big hit at the fall art show and many mommas’s asked to have them home for Thanksgiving.

Here’s how we made them.

Kids rolled a slab of clay with rolling pins to a thickness of about ½ inch.

Next, they placed a template (which somehow looked a little like a grenade) on top of the clay and lightly traced with a dull pencil.

The cool texture was the next step.  We used a popsicle stick, pressed in lightly, to make rows of corn kernels.

Next, we cut out the ears of corn with needle tools.  Luckily, I had some Mom and Dad helpers to help cut them out.  Be sure to cut a bumpy edge.

After I fired the Indian Corn, we used under glazes sponged on and painted on to re create the look of authentic Indian Corn.  I dipped them in clear glaze and fired again.

For the corn husks, I used real corn husks from a neighbor’s garden.  I soaked them in water to make them pliable enough to put through the hole in the top.  I think they look fun and festive!  The first graders were so proud of one of their first works in clay.

What ceramic projects are you doing with your little ones now?  Any fun fall projects?


Clay Leaf Bowls

This is a project that I can’t take credit for.  It’s been floating around the web for a while.  However, the process is simple and the results are stunning.

I’ve done this project with kids as young as kindergarten and up to fifth grade, as an enrichment sort of project.

The timing is important, at least in Colorado.  I love to do this project in the fall and ask students to bring in a leaf from home (in a Ziploc bag to stay fresh).  But with a class rotation that can go on for a while, it can be tricky getting leaves that are soft and supple before it gets cold and the leaves get crunchy.

So, here’s the process.

Have students roll out a slab of clay.  I’ve used a red body and a white body clay.  It’s just a personal preference and sometimes dicatated by the type of glaze.

Students place the leaf bumpy side down on the clay.  (One side of the leaf will have veins that are a little bumpier and more pronounced)

Either the students (or maybe an adult helper, if they are little) cuts the leaf out with a needle tool or a paper clip or tapestry needle.

Remove the excess clay and put the prettiest side of the leaf facing up in a bowl.  Gently press the clay into the bowl, shaping the leaf.

Let dry and remove from the bowl.  Fire – I usually use a clay that is fired 04 to 06.

Let students apply glaze and re-fire.

Some favorite glaze options: Mayco Elements Chunkies, and watercolor underglazes with a clear overglaze.

Students and parents both are always delighted with the end result!  (me too)

Native American Adobe Houses

My Fourth Graders made these fabulous adobe houses. They began by learning about the clay pueblo houses of the Southwest Indians and viewed several examples of this unique style of achitecture. Then they  drew and cut out a design to be replicated in clay.

Supplies:  Red body clay or brown clay with grog added for texture, student drawings of puebloes, needle tooles or tapestry needles, rolling pins, wood plugs (for the vigas), bamboo skewers (for ladders), and weavings that students created.


Pueblo,  Adobe, Viga,  Ceramic,  Slab, Weaving,  Warp,  Weft


1.Each student was given a ball of clay and rolled a slab with a rolling pin.

2.They then placed the adobe template they had drawn and cut out on top of the clay and cut it out ofthe clay using a neddle tool.  (As an alternitive, use a tapestry needle)

3.  These were placed on shelves to air dry before firing in the kiln.

4.  Viga’s (the wooden timbers supporting the structure) were added by gluing the wood plugs onto the fired pieces.

5.  Weavings (done before this lesson) were also glued onto ladders made from bamboo skewers and glued onto the adobe houses to create a finished piece of art.

This was a lesson that was sucessful for all students and became a favorite of many.  They were displayed by gluing a pop tab onto the back with a silicone glue as a “picture hanger”.

Prehistoric Lascaux-style Cave Paintings


Sometimes the simplest of projects can turn out to be the most stunning and successful. My students not only loved making these cave paintings; they also learned a lot about the artwork sounds int the Lascaux caves and surface decoration.
The most famous and outstanding examples of prehistoric art made nearly 20,000 years ago were discovered by accident. The caves at Lascaux in Southern France were found in 1941 by two young boys playing in a field. Their dog disappeared down a hole to chase a ball, and when the boys heard the dog barking below, they followed him down into the caves. The lighted matches they used to guide their way revealed extraordinary drawings of animals. These astonishingly sophisticated examples of man’s earliest art have been studied by scientists and artists since their discovery. For a number of years the caves were open to visitors and tourists, but have been closed since 1963 to protect the art from disintegration and destruction. In this lesson, elementary students learn the rich history of prehistoric art and create their own “cave paintings.”
Before creating, I talked to students about creating their own “cave art.” We looked at examples and talked about the technique and the process.
Anthropology — the study of the history of human beings including their cultural history
Ceramics — the art of making objects of clay which are hardened by firing at a high temperature in a kiln
Composition — the organization of a work of art
Fire — a term used in ceramics; to heat the clay in a kiln at a very high temperature until it is dry and hard and becomes pottery
Kiln — an oven or furnace that reaches very high temperatures (2000°F to 2300°F) and is used for drying, firing, and glazing ceramic ware
Prehistoric — relating to the time before written history
Slab — a rolled out piece of clay of a certain thickness
Template — a positive pattern
Trace — to copy a drawing onto another surface by following the lines of the original drawing
Underglaze — a special type of color that is usually put on a ceramic piece before the glaze. It has no flux (glass former) in it so it stays where it is put when fired and is good for detail work. It is used for paint ing and decorating ceramic pieces.
Red body clay or stoneware clay with grog
Assorted AMACO® Liquid Underglaze Decorating Colors
Assorted AMACO® Velvet Underglazes (Velvets are available in 16 oz. and 2 oz. jars and in sets)
Small brushes for outlining
Paper towels
Card Stock (9″ x 12″)
Pencils and erasers
Bowls of water
Rolling pins
1. The students each got a handful of red clay and rolled a slab (one of the techniques of hand-building)
2.   The students had already drawn an animal that might have been seen in prehistoric times on a piece of cardstock and carefully cut it out.  This was placed on the clay slab so that students could cut out a random shape that looked like broken rock.

3.   The surface decoration – painting – can be done directly on the wet clay.  Underglazes in rock tones (white, gray, brown) were sponged around the edges of the template and out to the edges of the clay.
4. The template was removed and details were added with a thin brush and black underglaze.
5.  Finished pieces were put on a cart to air dry before a trip to the kiln. The cave paintings were fired, but left unglazed to simulate a rough rock like surface.
Kids really loved doing this project and learned about art history, as well.  They were surprised to find that the Icemen were quite talented and drew and painted animals that are worthy of being hung the Louvre Museum!

This lesson was loosely based on a lesson by Allyson Santner, elementary school art teacher in Brownsburg, Indiana.