Introduction: Ceramic Sculpture for the Absolute Beginner : Basic Mushroom

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.

basic objectives:
Shaping clay with the hands.
Make a simple, hollow, self supporting structure.

Most beginners can make a basic mushroom. In this example the clay that supports itself while it is still moist.

Use whatever ceramic clay you have available.
I am using a cone 04 sculpture clay that contains grog.

This can be made in air dried clay. Just paint with craft paints and seal with acrylic varnish once the clay has dried.

Step 1:

The stem:

Make a flat piece of clay and roll it around your finger.

Be sure to press any joints and smooth them out with the fingers of the other hand. Dip your fingers in water if necessary, but be careful not to get the clay too wet. Wet clay gets soft and will not support itself.

The narrow end, at the end of your finger, will be where the top of the mushroom is attached. Flare it out so it can later be pressed into the top for a good joint.

Next press it down on a work surface, so that it stands up. A piece of wax paper or parchment paper works well for this.

A little bit of a lean in the stem will look more natural.

Use a tool or brush and water to smooth the edge of the base so it isn't sharp.

Step 2:

Make a pinch bowl top. Take a ball of clay and press into it to make a small bowl. Smooth over any joints or overlaps to be sure the work is a solid piece of clay.

Use a needle to make some spore marks on the inside of the 'bowl'. This will beome the underside of the mushroom.

Step 3:

Flip it over and smooth the surface with a paint brush and water.

Step 4:

While it is still damp, paint the surface with an underglaze colour. I am using red.

Step 5:

Add some interest. In this case I make some small pieces to stick to the top. Do this while the surface is still wet.

You will need to place a finger under the edge of your mushroom in order to press the little pieces firmly into the surface. You may also need to touch up your colour after placing the little bits on top.

Use a needle tool to add some texture to the pieces.

Step 6:

If you want to add a little shine and depth to the colour, you can coat the top stem with a clear coat.

If you have clear gloss and you want a little less shine, you might try thinning a little with water and applying a very thin coat.

Set aside until bone dry.

Step 7:

The varying thickness of the wall on this sculpt means you will need to dry it in an oven before firing or use longer times on the initial warm up in the kiln. Perhaps 20 minutes just below the boiling point of water (200F) and 45 minutes just above (225F).

The extra drying will reduce the risk of hearing a popping sound in the kiln and finding the mushroom in pieces.

When making these you soon discover that the mushroom needs to be kind of short and have a fat stem for this method to work. Too tall or skinny and the moist clay won't support itself.

A simple support method for making taller mushrooms, using card stock and scotch tape, will be shown in a following instructable.

I only used one coat of underglaze for this project. Sometimes the red may not come out quite as bright when single firing, due to organics burning off. The same is true for some other colours. Not too important here.

Fire to cone 06 ( or 04 bisque if someone else fires ).  I left the underside of the top with no glaze, so it comes out as a flat mat finish.