Lesson Objectives: Students will create a textured plaque in the shape of a fish or bird.

Students will have an opportunity to practice several clay techniques and use various tools to create texture on their form. 

Time Required:      Two sessions

Artist:  Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ceramic Staff with Profile Figure, 6-11th century, Ecuador (available online)

Materials (Day 2):


Brown paper bag or cardboard placemats

Rolling pins

Small dish or lid of water

Tools to create patterns

Materials (Day 2):



Dixie cups

Discuss texture. Showing pictures if possible, point out the wide variety of shapes and designs of fish or birds. Discuss slab and scoring techniques.

Procedure, Session 1:

  1. Students will start by rolling a slab of clay.  Then lightly trace an impression of the outline of a fish or other animal to fit the slab.
  2. Cut out fish.
  3. Decorate fish using a minimum of three tools.  Anything that can be pressed into the clay to create an impression can be used; modeling tools, pencils, paperclips, straws, dried pasta, etc. – let the students brainstorm and come up with their own ideas.
  4. Using the scoring technique, add on eyes, fins for fish and feathers for birds, etc.  Be sure to join the pieces well by rubbing a wet finger on the back of the add-ons.
  5. Carve initials on the back of the slab. Consider adding a bit of a curve to the animal if appropriate. For example, curving the tail of the fish up against the curved side of a paper plate will make it look like it’s swimming.

Procedure, Session 2:

  1. Paint the plaque with glaze.
  2. Using 2-3 coats will result in vibrant colors.
  3. Make sure not to get glaze on the bottom of the plaque! Or use stilts in the kiln to prevent the glaze from coming into contact with the kiln shelves.
  4. Let dry 14 days and then glaze fire in the kiln.