After the clay has been kneaded sufficiently to force out all the air bubbles, it is forced into the proper proportions, smoothed out and curved so that it follows the general curve of the object used as the model. It is well for the beginner to start with a simple object, such as a banana, apple or potato. A wooden tool will help to form the edges where needed, and a damp sponge will aid in smoothing the entire surface. The rabbit is also a good subject for the inexperienced, and pictures of rabbits in different positions will serve as models.
When animals with slender legs or long necks are made, toothpicks, match-sticks or wires may be used as the foundation. A slab of clay is made the base, and four toothpicks are set deep in the base. Then a large lump of clay moulded into an egg shape is placed firmly on the toothpicks. From this the head, ears and tail are drawn, the body is shaped, and clay is worked down around the toothpicks to form the legs. An orange stick or penholder will be useful in giving the animal eyes and smoothing off his various parts.
For making simple round or curved pieces of pottery the coil system is very satisfactory. This procedure was used by the American Indians. The clay is rolled with the hands into 10-inch to 12-inch cords or ropes, a trifle thicker than the walls of the bowl or vase are to be. Coil the ropes to form the base and weld them together by rubbing the fingers over them, smoothing and finishing the surface. The upper edges of the base should be marked with nicks so that the sides will be more firmly cemented to the base. After the first coil has been laid on the base another, slightly thinner, may be laid inside and moulded to both base and side to insure a firm construction. The side walls are built by laying one ring of clay "rope" firmly upon another, pressing and welding each successive strand to the one below. Each must be smoothed and finished before another is added. The ends of the coils should be diagonally cut and matched to form a good joint. It will be better not to have each succeeding coil join on the same side. Look at the bowl from all angles to see that it is balanced and symmetrical. Some prefer to draw the patterns or templets on paper and fit them to the jar or vase.
The slab method is suited to making square or irregular blocks such as a tile on which to set a teapot, or for a small flower box. The moist clay, well kneaded, is placed on a piece of oilcloth (rough side) or on a board. Two strips of wood 3/8 inch thick are placed on two sides to form the edges. The clay is flattened out with a rolling pin. To decorate the slabs for a tile or box, a pattern is placed on the clay and traced with a sharp tool. Remove the pattern, go over the traced lines and hollow slightly. When the panels are finished, the edges of each are roughened with a sharp tool, moistened and fitted together. The sides should be placed against, not on, the base. A roll of soft clay placed along the inside of each joining and carefully welded will strengthen the sides. Slabs should be cut about 10 percent larger than actual size to allow for shrinkage in drying. Models must be entirely finished before they are set aside to dry. If they have to be left unfinished, a damp cloth will keep the clay moist until the work can be completed.
There are other methods that can be used in more advanced work. Just to mention a few: shapes may be pressed with plaster moulds; slip-casting, which means that a thinner mixture of clay called "slip" is poured into plaster moulds and allowed to harden; a kick wheel will help to form and shape various objects.
To set the clay after it has been dried naturally, it should be fired. If a firing kiln is not available, the work can be sent to a kiln. When clay is purchased, the dealer from whom it is bought can indicate its firing temperature and can often recommend a kiln to which it may be sent when ready.
Clay modeling projects can often be introduced in conjunction with other parts of the camp or playground program. Pintrays, paperweights, candlesticks and many other such articles make attractive gifts or keepsakes; stories told during Story Hour or around the Council Fire often lend themselves to illustration; animals and objects seen on hikes may be modeled and given a place in the nature museum.