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Published on 17 Mar 2011 | over 5 years ago

This is how I teach my grade one to grade seven students to make animals out of clay, starting out with the most basic shapes and then moving up to more complex ones.

Process:
1. have a good photo/picture of the animal in side view handy
2. look for the most basic shapes in the animal
3. keeping proportions in mind, recreate those simple shapes in clay, e.g. oval for body, columns for legs etc. Note: for long legged animals will need to make legs much thicker than in nature so they can support the body, cannot put supporting armature in pottery clay as clay shrinks as it dries and armatures cannot be fired
4. make sure all attachments are smooth and seamless like in nature
5. look for more complex shapes in animal, the more shapes you see and the more shapes you make, the more real your animal will be
6. make a thick clay base and attach animal, put clay base on a cardboard or plastic base so easier to carry and move, add accessories to base to make sculpture more interesting, can add another animal and make something happening, use imagination
7. hollow animal out, needed to allow clay to dry properly, otherwise it may explode in kiln, can close large hole made by hollowing and then make smaller holes to allow air circulation to outside
8. allow to dry for one to two weeks, do not touch during this time, do not want it to break accidentally
9. fire in kiln, local community pottery studio will do this for you for a small fee, can also buy clay and tools from them
10. glue sculpture to wooden base and repair any breakages
11. fill in cracks with self-hardening/air drying clay and smooth out attachment to wooden base
12. allow to dry for 24 hours
13. paint with acrylics, starting with large areas first and then moving to fine details like stripes, spots, eyes later
14. allow paint to dry, then spray with protective varnish

Note to Teachers:
1st lesson: one and a half hours long, choose an animal, with picture brainstorm shapes on board, using guided practice have everyone make the same animal, step-by-step altogether
2nd lesson: each student brings a picture of an animal of their choice to class, review and brainstorm basic shapes of several very different animals on board, students create sculpture using independent practice with teacher assisting individually when needed
3rd, 4th lesson: demonstrate painting of sculpture to class, students paint their sculptures

To save time I always hollow out the clay animals, make the wooden bases, attach the fired sculptures to them and repair the sculptures for the kids. I work on contract so this is a better way for me to do it. If you are a regular classroom teacher then you may have the time to show them how to hollow and repair sculptures, although with the younger kids this may be more hassle than it is worth it, and you are better off doing it yourself.

Note: with my students, I get them to add googly eyes to the sculpture once they finish painting, this makes the kids' sculptures come alive :)

Note on Mouse: That is little Matilda when she was around three weeks old. I handraised her from a tiny pinky. I have many videos on YouTube of her, she is quite the little character :)

Music by Rob Costlow (L.A. Passing By) licensed from Magnatune

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