Making figures, dishes, or small objects by manipulating the clay is known as modeling. Small figures, such as sitting (rather than standing) birds or animals, or small dishes in leaf shape, are good articles for beginners. Puppet heads and the making of camp pins or symbols may be a progressive step. Learning to handle the clay will involve free action in working with a small ball of clay, making all kinds of shapes at first, with no plan to fire or finish the article. The clay may be returned to the storage crock and used again and again. Modeling is especially delighful to young campers. When one has caught the feel of the craft, some creation will be so pleasing to the maker he will want to keep it, and then embark on a more advanced project.

Modeling Figures

Equipment needed: modeling tool; piece of oilcloth; knife. Materials needed: ball of well-wedged clay; glaze as desired.

Making An Animal Figure. Steps

1. Using the reverse side of the oilcloth piece as a working space, squeeze the clay roughly into the shape of the object (Fig. IV-20 a).

2. Next define more clearly the head, neck, etc. Add legs by taking away clay with tool (Fig. IV-20 b). Beginners should not attempt to make the standing animals, but should indicate legs that are folded into the body.

3. Keep adding more detail until the figure is satisfactory. Do not try to put in every little detail, but accentuate those that are prominent (Fig. IV-20 c).

4. Protruding parts, such as ears, tails, and beaks, may be attached with slip.

5. Except for very small figures, hollow out part of the bottom and inside of the figure (Fig. IV-21).

6. Dry and fire and glaze as desired.

Try a variety of animals and birds (see Fig. IV-22).

Making A Puppet Head

Follow the same general steps as above, but plan a place to insert finger, and make neck long enough so that a costume may be attached. Puppet head features are usually exaggerated (Fig. IV-23). Puppet heads can be made of self-hardening clay and painted with poster paints. (See also Chap. XIII).

Making A Leaf Dish. Steps

1. Find a leaf that has an interesting shape, to serve as a design for a dish (avoid sharp points or deep cuts into leaf).

2. Pat out the clay in a square or oblong of desired thickness and size (Fig. IV-24 a).

3. With a knife, cut out design.

4. With fingers, model the shape of the leaf as desired (Fig. IV-24 b).

5. Put in veins, etc., with modeling tool.

6. Dry, fire, and glaze as desired.

Tile-Slab Method

Tiles may serve as table protectors for hot dishes, flower pots, etc., or as plaques for wall decorations. The story of the nature lore of the camp may be recorded in tiles for a cabin, or many campers may make tiles for the facing of a new fireplace, especially if the clay comes from the campsite.

Tile Slab Method

Equipment needed: guide sticks; piece of oilcloth; knife; water and brush; rolling pin or broom handle; small nails and hammer.

Materials needed: ball of well-wedged clay; glaze as desired. Steps

1. Make a frame of guide sticks of desired size; 5" x 5" is good size for a tile (Fig. IV-25). The height of the sticks will determine the thickness of the tile (1/2" is a good thickness).

2. Place ball of well-wedged clay on reverse side of piece of oilcloth on table. Roll out between two guide sticks until uniform in thickness (Fig. IV-26).

3. Place frame on clay, and cut around inside of frame. Cut away excess clay, and press frame around clay piece. Leave for an hour. Free edges around frame with knife. Brush some water on edges next to frame, as these dry faster than center (Fig. IV-27). Leave in frame overnight.

4. Remove frame next day, and brush edges of tile with water. Wet a strip of cloth that is long enough to go around all four edges, and wrap around the outside of tile. Keep this strip wet throughout a day.

5. Let tile dry for several days, turning it over occasionally so air will touch both top and bottom, to prevent warping.

6. When tile is leather-hard, turn bottom side up, and mark 4 square areas on bottom (Fig. IV-28). With knife, cut out about 1/4" of clay in these squares, making the tile thinner except on edges and across center.

7. Decorate and fire as desired (Fig. IV-29).

Note; Tiles to be used on tables should have pieces of felt glued on bottom; small patches may be used on the corners, or the whole base may be covered.

Flower Dish-Slab Method

The same method is used to make dishes, boxes with lids, etc., by the addition of sides. The project described might be for dish-gardens or flower holders for the camp dining room.

Equipment needed: paper and scissors for pattern; 1/2" guide sticks; rolling pin; modeling tool; water and sponge; oilcloth; plaster bat.

Materials needed: well-wedged piece of clay; slip; glaze as desired.


1. Cut a paper pattern for sides and bottom (Fig. IV-30).

2. Place ball of clay on reverse side of oilcloth, and roll out between guide sticks to uniform thickness and to desired length (see Fig. IV-26).

3. Using pattern as guide, cut out bottom, two sides, two ends. The D and E ends should be 1" narrower than the bottom, to allow for thickness of sides, B and C (Fig. IV-30).

Flower Dish Slab Method

4. Lay these cut-out sections on a plaster bat until they are leather-hard and do not bend when handled.

5. Run slip along one edge of base, and stand side B along edge (Fig. IV-31). Roll a small coil of clay and place it in the seam, with a generous amount of slip. Smooth joint inside and out with modeling tool or fingers.

6. Erect the two ends and place coils in seams, as in step 5.

7. Place side C last, using coil in seam, as above.

8. Smooth inside and outside of box with modeling tool, sponge, or fingers.

9. Dry, decorate as desired, and fire.

Variations: Put handles or feet on the dish (Figs. IV-33 and 34). See mug project for attaching handles (Fig. IV-42).

Make a lid for a box by making a section like the bottom (A). Roll a small coil and attach with slip inside box, to keep lid from slipping (Fig. IV-32). Allow to become bone-dry before firing.

Camp Pin Made By Casting

This project is one to use in making a number of identification symbols or pins. Two processes may be used in making the mold into which the clay is pressed.

Equipment needed: nail; hairpin; brushes for glaze; household cement; plaster bat; knife.

Materials needed: plaster of paris for mold; clay; glazes; pin-back; soft-soap grease.


1. Model a pin from clay, let dry and then fire, then make a plaster of paris mold from the pin. Grease the pin, then press into soft plaster, removing when the plaster is firm (Fig. IV-35 a).

Or, carve a mold from plaster. Plan the pin, and with hairpin and nailhead, carve the design in reverse into a block of hardened plaster (Fig. IV-35 b).

2. Grease the mold with soft soap (made by cutting up soap, boiling, and cooling) using brush.

3. Press clay into mold, and level off with knife edge, even with mold (Fig. IV-36).

4. Let stand about 10 minutes, and remove from mold with hairpin or sharpened twig.

5. Stand on plaster bat to dry.

6. When bone-dry, fire.

7. Glaze as desired, and fire again.

8. Attach pin-back with household cement (Fig. IV-37).

Pottery Mug-Coil Method

This project employs a base and coils of clay laid on top of each other to make a cylindrical shape.

Pottery Mug Coil MethodRoll Out Clay To Uniform Thickness

Equipment needed: piece of oilcloth; plaster bat; 2 1/2" guide sticks; rolling pin; knife; brush and sponge; water; modeling tool.

Materials needed: ball of well-wedged clay; slip; glaze or slip as desired for decorating. Steps

1. Place ball of wedged clay in center of reverse side of oilcloth, between the guide sticks.

2. Roll out clay to uniform thickness (Fig. IV-38).

3. Cut out shape of bottom, using paper pattern or a glass or other circle. Place this base on plaster bat.

4. Make a coil from a ball of clay the size of a walnut. Roll ball between the palms until it is elongated. Then place on oilcloth and roll with palms of both hands until it is a coil of desired thickness (Fig. IV-39).

5. Brush a generous amount of slip on top edge of base. Lay coil carefully around base, on the edge, and press firmly in place. Cut ends of coil diagonally, and brush slip in cut surfaces as joint is made (Fig. IV-40).

6. Lay successive coils in the same manner, but make joints of coils in different places, so none is directly over another. When cylinder is high enough, smooth out coils with fingers and wet sponge, inside and out. Shape as desired by pressure of fingers (Fig. IV-41).

7. If a handle is desired, roll a coil and shape it on oilcloth. Be sure it is in good proportion to the size of the cup, and is sturdy enough and long enough to allow for at least two fingers to grip it (Fig. IV-42).

8. Using slip, wedge handle ends to mug (Fig. IV-43).

9. Use modeling tool to smooth joints at handle.

10. Let dry gradually until bone-dry.

11. If smooth surface is desired, smooth with sandpaper or steel wool.

12. Decorate and fire as desired.

Wedge Handle Ends To Mug

Books To Help With Additional Activities

Barford, George, Working with Clay. School Arts Magazine, Vol.

54, Numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Boy Scouts of America, Pottery (Merit Badge Pamphlet No. 3314).

New Brunswick, N. J.: Boy Scouts of America. Dougherty, John Wolfe, Pottery Made Easy. New York: The

Bruce Publishing Co. Evans, Clarice, Firing Pottery Out-of-Doors. New York: Art Craft

Service, Inc.

Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., Arts and Crafts with Inexpensive Materials. New York: Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., 1941.

Leeming, Joseph, Fun with Clay. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott, 1944.

Lunn, Dora, Pottery in the Making. London: The Dryad Press,

Murphy, Corinne, Exploring the Hand Arts. New York: Girl

Scouts of the U.S.A., 1955. Shanklin, Margaret, Use of Native Craft Materials. Peoria, I11.:

Charles A. Bennett Co., 1947. Snively, R. D. and M. E., Pottery. Brattleboro, Vt.: Stephen Daye


Taroff, Muriel P., How to Make Pottery and Other Ceramic Ware, No. 1049. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.

Tummins, Madge, Pottery for Everyone. Grand Prairie, Tex.: Madge Cummins' Ceramic Studio, 726 Hill St., 1949.

Wren, D. K. and R. D., Pottery Making. New York: Pitman Publishing Corp., 1952.

Zarchy, Harry, Ceramics. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1954.