Heartfelt/Handmade Activity: Hand-Molded Pottery
: to help the students understand how pottery was hand-molded and decorated before the age of
Illinois State Museum Web site used:
: After viewing the Anna Pottery section of Folk Art and seeing other pottery examples in
books or online, the student will show his/her understanding of
hand-made pottery by forming a vessel shape of clay and decorat-
ing it with figurative clay motifs.
Grade Levels: K-12
(adapting tools and processes)
two class periods
: (adapted to skill levels)
clay (pottery clay, self-hardening clay, or oil-based clay)
basic clay tools, like wire, wooden sticks, spoons
water in small containers (for pottery clay)
(premixed slip and access to a kiln if using clay that gets
ceramic glazes or acrylic paint and brushes
: Discuss with students that pottery has always been made by hand. Larger commerical
potteries used steam-powered molds, while smaller potteries still worked clay by hand, including Anna
Pottery. Working by hand is necessary for one-of-a-kind pieces. Look at the snake jug. What other
figures or creatures or forms could a potter apply to a pot? What shapes do pots have? Draw some
sample shapes on the board for reference. Demonstrate how hand-molded pottery was made - coiled
and smoothed, slabs joined together, or pressed into a mold such as a glass bowl. Show how figures or
motifs are formed by hand and attached (by scoring the surface of the pot and the motif, touching a few
drops of water or a thin clay mixture (slip) to it, and pressing them together). Answer questions about
: Students will
take a ball of clay, roll and shape it into a pot form of their choice (see Native American module
activities for instructions on forming pots).
form figures, animals, plant forms, etc from small amounts of clay and attach them as demon-
strated. (If more than one session is needed to complete it, wrap in damp paper towels
and plastic wrap or bag overnight.)
allow the clay to harden (then, if applicable, fired in a kiln).
apply glaze to the pot and fire again, or paint the piece.
Pottery --page 1 of 2