Introduction: Ceramic Sculpture: Tree Stump Bonsai Planter

About: Liked to draw and paint when I was growing up. Switched to carving and sculpture in my twenties. Work in wood, stone / marble, plaster, and ceramic clay.

Once you can make a piece of tree bark, it is not such a large step to make a tree stump.

In this case it will be used as a bonsai pot.

If you are a beginner, your first attempt at a tree stump might be a little smaller and it can be used as a base for an animal or turtle or something. I show an example like that, at the end of this instructable.

Step 1: Supporting the Clay

The main challenge in a structure like this, is supporting the clay until it dries and can support itself.

I used cardboard and masking tape to make a support.

The top is cut to a suitable shape. It is planned to be smaller than the top of the tree stump. Clay will shrink as it dries and I don't want the cardboard to interfere with this reduction in size and cause the work to crack. Place it on a rolled out slab of clay and trace an edge that is a little larger than the cardboard support.

The clay slab will need to be thicker if the tree stump is larger. This piece was about 10 inches across. The original slab was a little over 3/8 inches thick, and it held up well. 

Since I plan to remove the cardboard before firing, I wrapped it in plastic wrap. Probably not necessary, but it is quite a large surface area, and I wanted to remove it easily once the clay was dry.

The center support for the cardboard is just a strip cut wide enough to give some height. It is held in place with the masking tape.

Step 2:

Flip over the cardboard so that the clay is on top and supported up off the work surface.

Take pieces of clay and begin to form the bark around the edge.
In this case I want the bark to extend upward to form a cavity which will act as a planter.

The larger opening under the tree stump will allow a water catch basin to slide under. Other openings are just for decoration or design.

Build the clay up to form a complete stump and smooth it with your hands. Wet fingers wotrk well for this. The final result should be a fairly solid structure.

Step 3:

Use sculpting tools to form the highly textured bark. Add fungi, mushrooms, moss, leaves or whatever you feel will add some interest.

Add a drainage hole near where the catch basin will go.

Step 4:

Make a catch basin, using a theme that matches the tree stump concept.

Make sure it fits under the stump and will work as intended.

Set aside to dry.

'Paint' with underglaze colours.

Coat with a clear glaze.

Step 5:

Oven dry or use a longer candle time in the kiln.

Fire to cone 06.

Step 6:

An example of the tree stump used as a base for a rabbit.

The sculpture is titled "Half Wild"