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Teaching Clay Art and Pottery

Updated on June 23, 2012


Welcome to the Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit of Teaching Clay Art and Pottery. This is another lens in the continuing series of lenses created for clay workers and clay wantabees. This lens will focus on helping clay art educators and teachers find online resources to help teach their students how to work with clay no matter if they are children or adult. Please feel free to suggest links that contain info that you think would benefit clay art teachers.

Teaching Children

My hat is off to those that enjoy teaching art to children. Just keeping a classroom of little ones(or not so little ones) quiet(or at least down to a dull roar) and in their seats seems imponderable to me. Then to actually introduce a clay topic and keep them on track and come out sane is amazing. Then to add behavior problems, equipment problems, budget concerns, grading, and all the other thing that are heaped upon the art educator, I know I would be pulling my hair out by semester one. So kudos to all of you.

Clay History on Amazon

Clay: The History and Evolution of Humankind's Relationship with Earth's MostPrimal Element
Clay: The History and Evolution of Humankind's Relationship with Earth's MostPrimal Element

While not a pottery book it is a great clay book. This book explores mankind's relationship with clay from man's first molding of clay to current industry uses of clay A great book to learn about the history of clay use. Very easy to read. A great resource.


Your Students?

What is the age range of your students(please pick the best answer)?

See results

Children and Clay Books on Amazon

Easy Clay Projects for Kids

  • Wearable Clay- A fun project is to make amulets to wear around the neck or on a keychain. This could be a Mother's Day or Father's Day project to make gifts for mom or dad or they could make it for themselves.

    You need an assortment of simple cookie cutter shapes i.e. circles, squares, triangles etc. A small clay slab about 1/4 of an inch thick for each student. Things to press into clay to make texture i.e. lace, burlap, netting, shells, buttons, rubber stamps, etc. Something to make a hole, a drinking straw is perfect. And cording such as jute, hemp, ribbon, or yarn.

    For younger children have the rolled slabs prepared, older kids let them roll their own with a rolling pin. Allow the kids to press the texture making materials into the clay surface then have them cut out a shape(or more than one shape) in the slab with a cookie cutter. Take away the unneeded scraps of clay surrounding shape. Ask child where they want the hole for the cord to go or allow them to make the hole themselves. Dry slowly under plastic on a flat surface so the clay shapes won't warp. Bisque then either fire with glaze or paint with acrylic paints. String cord through hole and knot where length will allow to slip over head or attach to keyring.

  • Winter Snow- This would be a great winter project or a project to do in conjunction with teaching about seasons or weather.

    Materials needed scissors, sheet of thick paper(construction paper is good), one pound of clay per student, rolling pin, dull thin knife like a potter's fettling knife, something to make a hole(again a drinking straw is perfect), white iridescent glitter, white acrylic paint or white glaze, white glue, and white yarn

    Have your students fold up a piece of paper and cut a snowflake shape that is about 3-4 inches in diameter. Then have them roll out a slab of clay about 1/4"- 3/8" thick and slightly larger than the snowflake cutout. Place unfolded snowflake on surface of clay. Using the fettling knife cut out the shape of the snowflake following the lines of the cut out paper flake. Cut the exterior outline first and if the students snowflake has holes cut those out too. Using the straw, make a hole for a yarn string to eventually go. Dry the snowflakes slowly on a flat surface under plastic to prevent warping. Bisque then either paint with white acrylic or glaze fire with white glaze. After paint is dry or glaze is fired have student lightly coat with white glue and sprinkle with iridescent glitter if they would like. Let glue dry and string up with white yarn. These now can be hung up in the classroom in a window and shine in the sun.

Teaching Teens

My First Forray into Teaching Kids

This summer I was given the opportunity to offer a class to teach teens aged 12-17. I was a bit nervous but I decided to give it a go. I read quite a bit about teaching this age group and what I found didn't make me any less nervous. I read foums full of comments that middle school aged teens were near impossible to keep on task, behavior problems, and gamut of other problems. But in reality my teens have been a breeze to teach.

My classes have been made up of mostly younger teens, more in the 12 years range than the 17. My first semester was all girls. Quiet(near too quite), sincere workers, kept mostly on task. The semester went smoothly and the 5 weeks were near problem free.

My current semester has brought me a mix of exactly half boys and half girls. So far, although a bit more noisy, the kids keep on task and are very eager. They have separated themselves into a 2 groups, boys at one end of the tables, girls at the other. The girls are very detailed oriented, working on one piece a long time. The boys like to use a lot of clay, its bigger and more for them.

I am finding teaching my teens quite interesting and will likely do it again next summer. I am still quite in awe of teaching little ones tho. There is a kids craft camp going on in the room next to mine for 3-7 year olds, my what chaos that can occasionally blossom into. :)

Some K-12 Clay Links

Here are some links the k-12 clay teachers might find interesting.

Location, Location, Location

Where do you teach?

See results

Teaching Adults

Teaching adults has its own set of problems, while I've never as of yet had to settle an unruly classroom I have had a problem of attendance, lateness, unpreparedness, and similar things. The main problem as I see it is adults have lives, husbands, wives, kids, jobs that are continuely getting in the way of the learning process. They plan on taking a class and fully intend on coming to every one but the kids get sick, work schedules change etc.

Since I teach in a community adult education classroom I can be fairly lenient since no grades are given but absences and lateness can have a negative impact on a class. One summer I was teaching a class, it was a very small class to begin with but as weeks went by one by one my students had other commitments that took them away from the classroom, soon my small class was just a few students and the energy that students get from working around each others was lost in a big echoing classroom.

College Classroom: Teachers Teaching

I've never taught college officially. I was the studio assistant when I went to college. I helped, assisted, cleaned, mixed glazes, loaded kilns, cleaned some more, and then turned around and cleaned some more. I also sat in on so many of the same lectures as an advance ceramic student and studio assistant I can quote my main ceramic professor verbatum still today.

During my time spent at college I got to observe the teaching styles of 5 different ceramic instructors and got to see quite a few visiting artist give workshops. Unknowingly, I was not just absorbing the information on clay but I learned a lot about teaching and a lot about learning. They all seemed to have a very different approach to teaching, two of them stood out.

My first semester teacher was a sweet, gentle teacher. She always had something positive to say and doled out the compliments lavishly. She was a great beginning teacher. She was very supportive and is very likely the reason I continued to take the next level of clay classes. I was never blinded to the fact that my pots were thick walled heavy little door stops by her compliments but it was nice that she believed I could succeed.

My second semester teacher was a very skill potter and a long time professor. He had so much knowledge about clay in his head it would leak out. Personally, he was going through a rough patch at home. I didn't know this at the time and thought he was too aloof. He was prone to give his lecture and then disappear. That semester I was never so glad to have had my first teacher so as to be grounded in techniques. I got to know this teacher over the next many semester. As he left his problem behind he became a great teacher and I would call him a friend. The style he eventually taught in is the one I closely emulate because I saw its effectiveness.

He was very hands off. He gave a demo. Then would excuse himself and go to the kiln room or his office for a short while letting the students start the days task. Then he would be back just walking around having conversations with the students. This is when the clay knowledge would start to leak out and spill all over the ground. I learned more from this informal knowledge spillage/teaching than his demos.

Art Educator's Forums

When you have a problem, a question or just want to find like minded instructors a forum is a great place to interact with others.

DVDs and VHS from Amazon

I welcome your feedback. Would you like something added? Know a good link or book? Did I manage to misspell something? Did you find a dead link? Let me know, afterall this Kiln Goddess isn't all knowing ;-)

Suggestions and Feedback

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I stumbled across this lens and it lit an old fire in me to go back to doing clay work and pottery. Thanks for the help.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      6 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed working with clay in my art classes. Thanks for the information here. A good resource for us.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I loved teaching about clay, especially to first-timers. Thank you for this great info. I want to get back to it again and may come back for a visit.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice teaching information ! fantastic lens !

    • kathysart profile image


      6 years ago

      Clay is such a fun medium.. brings us back to playing in the mud.. love clay and love the lens. Blessed.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      7 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I volunteer teach art in elementary grades and we love to use clay, but we've had to be satisfied with the air dry kind. The kids have made some very cute bunnies tho. Nice lens with lots of good info. Thanks

    • tarastillhere profile image


      7 years ago

      fun ideas for my and my children at home :)

    • HeavenBlessedMe profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens and learned many things. Thanks for sharing and have a blessed day.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great lens. Enjoy your teaching.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My mom's a graduate from a pottery school. She never practiced but kept her school projects in the attic-till they got destroyed in a fire. I still love pottery and her favorite picture is by the wheel in 8th grade. Your lens made me think of that. (Your teaching ideas are great too and I would wear with pleasure a cookie cutter made amulet!)

    • kathysart profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens.. THUMBS UP!

    • rdgubaten lm profile image

      rdgubaten lm 

      7 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Useful, too.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      8 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I love it that you have a handout here people can use. Thanks for the great tips here - - I will definitely be back!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      A really nice 5-Star lens! If I didn't create in gemstones, I would create in clay. Please feel free to stop by my Custom Handcrafted Jewelry lens. Thanks, Donia

      Handmade Beaded Jewelry Gallery

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      Teachers touch each of our lives. You have a great lens here. Please consider joining the Unit Studies: Fun, Active, and Creative Learning

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Sculpting is such an intricate and creative art. I am excited to increase my learning in the subject.

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image

      Sheryl Westleigh 

      11 years ago from Maine

      Really great lens! I'm hoping to start teaching a few sculpting classes this winter.


      Noadi's Art Fantasy Sculpture

    • CynthiaWetzel profile image

      Cynthia Wetzel 

      11 years ago from Michigan

      This lens is great! I didn't realize how little I knew about clay until I began exploring this lens. Thank you!


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