Introduction: Easy Ceramic Pinch Pot Turtles

About: I adore instructables and use it when I'm playing with ideas for my students (I'm a certified art teacher and the Art Director for a children's summer camp). I have found that it fuels my creative process as …

Ceramics is a fantastic media to help children explore their artistic world. Not only does it allow for hands on three dimensional explorations but it invokes the sense of smell and touch while being visually stimulating. Ceramics helps children develop and increase their fine motor skills, which is a crucial element in their learning process during elementary school.

This instructable will give you the how to of creating your own stoneware turtle appropriate for elementary school aged children and really children of all ages, let's get started!

(This is a photo of a box turtle in Missouri, I called him I didn't keep fluffy, wild animals should stay in the wild, but I did do a photo shoot with him)

Step 1: Materials Needed

Stoneware clay (I like to use a high fire clay)
Random clay tools- at min you need something to score with and something to use to cut like a felting knife
Small container of water
Tooth pick (or a needle tool)
Small canvas to work with your clay
Kiln (to fire the stoneware )

Step 2: Wedge Your Clay

Hand out the canvas to all your students.  Give a small lump of clay to every student.  About the size of a potato or half a potato if you have really small hands.

They will need to wedge the clay.  There are several different wedging techniques, use what you are comfortable with.

Because this is a small piece, I like to use the throw down technique, and no that's not it's proper name,  Basically you take the clay and throw it onto the canvas, pick it up, turn the clay and do it again.  Do this at least 30 times.  You are working out any air bubbles that might be in the clay, getting the moisture to even out through the clay, work out any hard pieces and all around condition your clay.

Step 3: Cut the Clay in Half

After you have the clay wedged cut your piece of clay in half with the felting knife. 

This is my first year teaching in this district and they had not ceramic taught in the school for over twenty years.  Needless to say there were no clay tools.  When I bought our kiln some clay tools came with it (YAY) so I have some cheap green tools.  One day I hope to get better tools in the room.

OK where were we.

If the clay is not two perfect pieces do not fret, it's 100% ok.

Step 4: Pat One Half Into a Ball

Take one half of your cut piece and gently pat it into a ball.  When you get it pretty round you can roll this in your hands.

If your clay is cracking, and depending on your clay body at this stage it is possible that this happens.  take your fingers and put them in your water bowl and rub your hands together then pat some more.  You don't want to over saturate your clay, a little water goes a long way.  Just dipping your fingers and patting the water into the clay will help reintroduce water into the clay body with out making a slimy mess.

Step 5: Create a Pitch Pot

To make a pinch pot you need to shove your thumb into your clay ball.  I tell the kids if you turn your thumb upwards your clay lump on your thumb will look a lot like a mushroom.

Take your thumb and for finger and pinch the side.  Then twist the clay and do this again all around the pot.  Remember to punch in not out.  If you flare the clay out you will get a wider mouth but you can get dangerously thin weak walls.

You want the sides to be around a 1/4 of an inch thick, thicker is ok, but don't go thinner, your poor turtle will collapse if you do.

Step 6: Creating Legs

Sit your pinch pot to the side and grab your other lump of clay.

Now, cut your lump into three pieces.

Take two of the pieces and roll out a coil (some kids like to call these snakes)  Tell them to get the coil about the thickness of a dime, maybe just a little smaller.  To thin, your poor turtle won't stand.

Cut one of the coils in half.  Then put them beside each other and cut again.

You now have four legs

Step 7: Attaching Legs

To attach the legs you must scratch and score.  You can also slip and score if you wish, but if your clay is the same viscosity you will be ok just slipping and scoring.

To slip and score you make a cross hatch on the clay where the leg is going, then on the part of the leg that is going to attach to the shell. 

Once you place them together smooth the two clay body using the back of your nail or a clay tool.

If your joints look a little ruff, it's ok, we can clean those up a bit later, or you can do it now, but I like to get the whole turtle finished then touch it up, that way if we have to store the turtle and come back to it, it's in one piece.

Step 8: Creating the Head

Using your other coil create a head.  You can do this by making an S shape with the coil. 

Pinch the coil end to get the head shape you want.

Pinch the other end flat to make a plain to attach the head to the underneath of the turtle.

Scratch and score all areas where the clay will touch and attach together.

Just like our legs, smooth the two clay bodies together to get a good bond.

Step 9: Creating the Tail

Using any little piece of scrap clay you can roll a coil with a point and a flat edge

Scratch and score and attach the tail.

Step 10: Fixing Cracks

You may at this point get some "elephant" skin.  If your clay is cracking take a sponge and get it wet.  Then wring it until almost all the water is out of it and rub it on the clay.  Repeat if needed.  Again, a little water goes a long way, to much water and you will have a muddy mess that falls a part and all your hard work will be ruined.  Remember it's easy to add more, it's not easy to take it away.

At this point you can also start cleaning your turtles joins and smoothing it out.

Step 11: Adding Detail

Using a toothpick or a needle to you can start adding details to your turtle.

Step 12: Drying

Let the turtle dry, when it gets leather hard you can take an x-acto knife and cave on the turtle.  You can also use a spoon to burnish part of the turtle if you wish. 

Once it's bone dry, you can put it in the kiln and do a bisque fire.  (I'll make an instructable later on firing a kiln)

Step 13: After the Bisque Fire

When your turtle is out the the kiln you need to decide what you are going to do with the little guy.

There are several options:

Paint the turtle with water color and seal it
Paint the turtle with acrylic paint
Use iron oxide on the turtle and fire again
Glaze the turtle

Step 14: Glaze the Turtle

If glazing pick out your colors.  Shake the glaze to ensure it's well mixed.  Take a paint brush and brush on your glaze.  Do two or three coats of each color.  Remember to not glaze where the turtle touches the table, if you do it will stick to the kiln.

Step 15: Student Examples

I made over 100 turtles with my students, alas I wasn't good about taking pictures!!  I have a few still in the room so I will update this with more photos.  However, you will see several examples here and I will have more to come!

Step 16: PoofRabbit's Tips and Tricks

* You can make sea turtles or tired turtles.  Have the legs stick outward. This is a great fix as well if your students make their coils to thin to support the pinch pot.

* Remind students there is no magic fix in clay, once fired it will look like it did when they finished, if they want to add more detail or clean it up more then need to do that before it gets leather hard

Questions?  Ask away I am sure I'm forgetting something! :)

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