Kids Sculpting with Clay

Camp Clay Sculpture ProjectIn addition to all of the clay vessels we make at camp, the cups, bowls, trays, dishes, pitchers and so forth, another fun part of the Rockbrook ceramics program is making sculpture. This means using the same hand building techniques, and even wheel-thrown pottery techniques, and combining pieces to build three-dimensional objects.

One important technique to learn for clay sculpting is using something called “slip.” Slip is a form of liquid clay, or a runny mixture of clay and water. It can be used a number of ways, but when building a clay sculpture, slip is applied to join two pieces of wet clay together. For example, you might want to connect a coil to a slab, or a dome shape to something turned on the potter’s wheel. The slip acts as a sort of glue helping the pieces stick together.

So what kinds of things can you sculpt out of clay? Anything your imagination might dream up! Recently at camp we’ve seen some great representational figures— fish, horses (of course!), turtles, snakes, and other animals. The campers have also made amazing human forms like faces and hands. Natural objects like leaves, ferns and branches make great textures to be incorporated as well. Need some other ideas? Here’s a great web site with links to amazing examples of sculptural ceramics.

Seeing what the Rockbrook girls are sculpting in our pottery classes, it’s easy to be amazed, and to understand why this arts and crafts activity is so popular at camp.

Dude, Do you Extrude?

extruded pottery and glazed ceramicsOne of the ceramics hand-building techniques we teach in Rockbrook pottery classes is extruding. This involves creating clay forms, or consistent shapes, by pressing clay through an extruder, a simple hand-powered machine. An extruder is really a piston of sorts operated by a lever. On one end of the piston’s cylinder is a wooden or metal plate called a die. Different dies have different shapes cut out of them. The whole thing works by filling the cylinder with clay, and pulling the lever of the extruder, thereby forcing the piston to push the clay through the die, and out in the shape of the cutout. It takes muscles to pull that lever, but it’s so cool to see the extruded clay come out!

Some dies extrude circular tubes, but there are also square, hexagonal and octagonal tubes as well. You can extrude slabs, coils and even half-spherical shapes. Extruders are great at making long, even forms of clay.

Of course, these shapes then can become the building blocks for more complex hand-building projects. Extruded clay can be combined to make really complex sculptures, for example when extruded tubes are cut at different angles and joined to make multi-sided vessels.

And don’t forget glazing and firing these pieces. Like all the pottery and ceramics projects at camp, the results are beautiful! Yep, at Rockbrook, we do extrude.