Suitcase Lesson Frances Senska, Artist

Until the last 100 years, women were not generally recognized in art history references. Before this, women were recognized for art forms such as china painting, quilting, and needlepoint. However, in this century women artists have taken their place of honor among their male counterparts. In 1981, the Montana Arts Council, the state agency responsible for fostering the arts in Montana, began a Governor's Arts Awards Program to recognize both outstanding artists and outstanding service to the arts. Frances Senska won the Governor's Arts Award for Visual Arts in 1988. Frances Senska represents a woman who has had a long career in the arts, working in various media and specializing in clay. She taught art for over 25 years at MSU Bozeman. 

The Montana Chapter of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is pleased to sponsor this Suitcase Lesson. Part of the purpose of this organization is "to encourage the development and recognition of Montana women in the arts." 

This Suitcase Lesson was created by students in the Art Methods class at University of Montana -- Western of the University of Montana. We hope that you enjoy using the lesson as an arts resource for your classroom. 

This art teaching resource is for the classroom teacher to have a visual art resource unit. The purpose for creating the unit is threefold: 

  • To give students familiarity with a Montana artist
  • To inspire students to make art and become artists
  • To teach art methods
This package contains the following materials:
  • Black a White photograph of Francis Senska (on left) with artist Jessie Wilbur (on right) Governor's Award Biography
  • Three articles about Senska
  • Four full page photos of ceramic pieces as educational tools
Instructions about clay modeling for the following:
  • making clay bells and beads coil pot
  • folded clay animals
  • pocket pot
  • slab pot
  • wind chimes
  • operating a kiln
  • making clay
  • clay tiles
  • Pottery Vocabulary
  • "Ceramics, A Guide for Clay"
  • "Pottery: History, Equipment, and Materials"
  • Porcelain Powder Formula
  • Stoneware Powder Formula Ceramics Tool Kit
  • Video of University of Montana -- Western - UM students throwing clay pots
Lesson written by Ryan Kakalecik, 351 Art Methods student, Fall Semester 1996.  This lesson (including video) was created to give visual instruction on throwing. 


Learning to throw a pot on the potter's wheel is one option for middle school and high school level students.  

I f potter's wheels are not available, this package offers a variety of succinct descriptions for hand building containers and objects. 

A contemporary art history lesson can be put together from the articles about Senska, i f the user of this package wishes to make a presentation about Senska as a practicing artist.

Learning about clay as an art medium offers science related information. This package is quite complete with historical material about clay use and other clay trivia.

Clay is a wonderfully "plastic" material, and one which can be formed In an Infinite amount of ways. Clay comes from the earth, Is a natural material (with some minerals added for ease of working) and It offers a meditative experience In working it. 

Of course, this lesson addresses uses for ceramic clays which require kiln firing.  The Archie Bray in Helena is an excellent outlet for ceramic clays. Their phone number is: 406 442-2521, and they sell 12 types of ceramic clay. 

Some other types of clay which do not require firing - 

  • Sculpey - which can be baked in a regular oven (there are other brands similar to Sculpey)
  • Plasticana clays - the traditional non hardening elementary school type of clays which now come in various colors.
  • Callunlax - a paper mache which forms small shapes well.
  • Self hardening clay - Can be painted when hard. Various brand names.
Sources - Visit a craft supply store or place orders through school supply catalogs and art supply catalogs. 

Good luck with the lesson and HAVE FUN! 

Art Methods Students: Ryan Kakalecik 
Pam Dolan Deanna Burch Erica Holschbach 
Sally Colburn EdD Assistant Professor of Art/Education 

2915 Country Club Avenue - Helena, Montana 59601 443-3502
June 1988

In March we completed the first successful production runs of pugged clay. The machinery is operating well, but we are still working out a few bugs. We will soon have new boxes, printed with the original Akio design "Brickyard Lady" logo, for packaging pugged clay. New clay bodies are being developed and old ones revamped. 'They will be available in, stock by mid-May. Currently, ABF stoneware and ABF oxidation pugged clay are in stock, two 25 lb. pugs per- box. Special mixes are available in quantities in excess of 3.000 pounds.  As a result of our volume purchases of books for the inventory here, we have been able take advantage of a good discount to order ceramic reference books for libraries in nine Montana cities. The books will also be available through the Montana Inter-Library Loan Service. We envision doing this on an annual basis, with the goal of providing six basic ceramic books to the following libraries: Missoula Public Library Bozeman Public Library Miles City Public Library Butte-Silver Bow Public Library Glasgow Public Library Parry Billings Library Lewis & Clark Library, Helena Great Falls Public Library Flathead County Library Bitterroot Public Library, Hamilton - Chip Clawson 


On the evening of January 29, 1988 Bozeman's Main Street traffic was halted at the corner of Tracy Avenue for at least 45 minutes by "men in blue." No, it was not a road block or a shakedown, just an exuberant parade throng honoring two great ladies, Frances Senska and Jessie Wilber.

The Ellen Theater had been packed to the rafters with their Montana art world friends. University colleagues, students and former students, and friends from the Gallatin Valley. They had gathered for this occasion to honor Senska and Wilber. with Governor Ted Schwinden bestowing upon these two the prestigious 1988 Governor's Awards For Distinguished Achievement In the Arts, under the aegis of the Montana Arts Council. Then that great audience. many wearing masks, others carrying lighted lanterns, trooped over to the Elks Club for more joyous celebration. What a night it was!

The teaching years of Senska and Wilber together number more than sixty at MSU and have touched the lives of hundreds of artists. Today, though retired, they are still active in the arts community and have little time for reminiscence about what happened 'back when.'  But Archie Bray's dream for the Foundation early involved them ...Jessie made special tile for the front wall of the pottery ... and they continue to give their blessings in many positive ways. They are very much a part of the Bray Foundation family. -Virginia Walton 

Frances Senska
1988 Governor's Award in the Visual Arts

Frances Senska and Jessie Wilber--artists, teachers and active members in Bozeman cultural life--were jointly honored for their distinguished achievements at a ceremony in the Ellen Theater in January, 1988. 

Frances--who works in a variety of media but is known primarily as a ceramic artist--was born in 1914 in Batanga, Cameron, where her father was a doctor and her mother a teacher with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Frances earned a BA in Art from the University of Iowa in 1935 and an MA in 1939. She later studied at Chouinard in Los Angeles and at Chicago's School of Design.

Her teaching career began at Grinnell college in Iowa, was interrupted by the U.S. Navy (1942-46), and resumed at Montana State University in 1946, where she was a member of faculty until 1973. During summers, she also taught summer school at Portland Art Museum and the University of Utah, as well as conducting numerous workshops in Colorado, Alaska and Washington.

Frances' ceramic work has been recognized, collected and included in major shows, such as "Masters of Ceramic Arts," and has been a primary influence on many of the nation's outstanding clay artists. Her work has been exhibited not only throughout Montana, but the United States. One nominator stated: "She takes her form and insight from the African environment of her childhood, her materials from Montana soils, from her sense of wit and sharp intelligence. To touch a simple dish of Senska's is to encounter the perfection of craft, the pleasure of touch and sight.... 

Frances received an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1982. Students in the Film and TV department there made a film about her work in 1978, which was shown in 1979 at the National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts meeting where she was made an honorary member. She was a trustee of the American Craft Council 1972-75 and was elected to the College of Fellows of that organization in 1988. She was a founding member of the Montana Institute of the Arts in 1948, a director in 1961-62, and made a Fellow in 1964. 

The Lives and Work of Frances Senska and Jessie Wilber

Frances Senska and Jessie Wilber, artists, teachers, and long-time members of the Bozeman community, live in the home they built in 1953.  Entering the house, one has an immediate feeling of comfort as well as an awareness of traces of the many other people who have been welcomed into this place. 

Jessie Wilber arrived in Bozeman 1941 Raised in the midwest, she had a happy childhood. When she was 9 her family moved to Boulder Colorado. This was the time where she experienced a deep emotional feeling toward the environment that would be reflected in her paintings, prints, drawings and collages for many years to come.

Jesse received her masters degree in art in Creeley, from Colorado.  After graduating she taught for four years before an opening in the art department at MSU brought her to Montana.

Frances Senska was born in Batanga, Cameroon, Africa, where she lived with her family. Her father was a doctor and her mother, a teacher with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

At the University Iowa, Frances completed her BA in Art in 1935, and her MA in 1939. She taught at Grinnell College in Iowa from 1939 to 1942, and served in the US Navy.  Hired as an arts generalist, "at MSU in 1946, Frances recalls that with only three art teachers in the Department, it was necessary for each of them to be able to teach numerous subjects.

Frances now works mainy with clay but during her years at MSU, she worked in a wide variety of media.  In 1982, the Montana State University confered her an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.  In the more than a quarter of a century that Frances Senska and Jessie Wilber taught an at MSU, the list of students coming from their classes is both extensive and impressive.  They were both  early members of the Montana Institute of the Arts and spent much time sharing their time, talents and energy with other persons throughtout the state who were interested in the arts.

aFrances Senska makes deceptivly ordinary things, but  the beauty and elegance of her works transform form everyday objects and tasks into joyful tributes to living. At the heart of a work by Jessie Wilber is a positive statement expressive of an optimism which is both forthrightly self-conscious and intellectual accurate. Together these two dedicated and caring artists, teachers and human beings have had a  a profound effect on the directions and the progress of the arts in Montana. 


Frances Senska

Although Frances Senska's major fields are pottery and design, she has also received national recognition in lithography. The Brooklyn Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Princeton library, in addition to the Binet Gallery of New York, are among the purchasers of her lithographic prints.  Miss Senska received her training in lithography at the University of Iowa, where she took her B.A. and M.A. degrees. She has also studied pottery and design at the Institute of Design in Chicago, the Cranbrook Academy at Cranbrook, Michigan, and the Pond Farm at Gurneyville, California, where she studied under the famous Marguerite Wildenhain. To visit Miss Senaka's home in Bozeman is to see the effects of a sensitive and trained artistic talent applied to practical living, for she has designed much of her own furniture, pottery, and silverware. 
The broad interests reflected in Miss Senska's training and her artistic productions reflect an equally broad and varied background. Born in Africa, where her father was stationed as a medical missionary, she saw a good portion of the world, its peoples, and its art at an early age.  She is at present serving as assistant professor in the Montana State College Art Department.  Verne Dusenberry, Bozeman, 1952 

Basic Ceramics by Ryan Rakalecik

The objective of this video is to show basic wheel throwing techniques that are used in ceramics today. Some of these techniques are my own and some are basic techniques that everybody must master. 

Wedging: Shown here are both types that are used to wedge the clay. First the Rams head as it is known is shown and second the spiral type technique. (note: the spiral technique can be used with larger amounts of clay while the Rams head is not.) 

Purpose of wedging: Wedging is used to remove air bubbles that are present in the clay body. The use of wedging is also to put uniformity to the clay and to give strength and structure. 

Centering: Note how not all of the clay is centered at the same time. Using this technique larger amounts of clay can be centered on the wheel.
To rough center the clay equal pressure is used from both hands as shown. After this is accomplished downward pressure is applied from the right hand for right handed throwers and with the use of left hand inward pressure is used to keep the clay body even on the outside of the clay. This process is repeated over and over until the desired results are accomplished.
The half moon trimming tool was used to even out the base of the clay where it was hard to reach the clay.
Opening up the clay body: After the clay has been centered, by using the right hand run your fingers along the top of the clay toward the center to find the center of the clay. By using even pressure gently lower two or three finger into the clay. This will open the body of the clay. Depth is almost a matter of practice, however as shown you can use a needle tool to check for the desired depth. Once the desired thickness is reached the next step is for equaling out the stress that was placed on the clay during the opening up phase. This is achieved through using your right hand and moving your fingers with even pressure along the bottom of the pot, going form outside wall to the center. You will be able to see the clay moving so that you will be able to know when this is accomplished. 

Wall pulling: To get the desired results from the clay even pressure is used with the finger tips. Your fingers should be even with each other on the outside of the wall and the inside of the wall. 
Key Points to think about: Even pressure of both hands creates a cylinder shaped vessel. Pressure that is greater on the inside of the vessel will create a bowl shape vessel. Pressure greater on the outside of the pot will create a cone shaped vessel.  Just about all ceramic pots thrown start out as a cylinder. 

Shaping the Vessel: Shaping of the ceramic article can be achieved through the use of either your finger pressure or by the use a rib of some kind. This is a technique that is up to you and what you prefer to work with. I feel that you should learn to use your finger pressure first then move onto some other technique as you so desire. 

Finishing the pot: The use of the trimming tool was over emphasized to show the technique for trimming the base of a pot.  When picking up a finished pot off of the wheel your hands should be inverted as shown here. This will allow for the greatest amount of pressure to be exerted on the base of the vessel and not on the walls themselves. 

Key points to remember when throwing pottery

  • Time involved
  • Not skipping the process
  • Always using constant and equal pressure
  • Not getting in a hurry
Special thanks to the Class of AMT Ceramics and Barney Breinza, and recognition to Ryan Kakalecik for the time and effort for the Demonstration and time involved. 

Above 'Teapot Tower', four 'dragon' teapots, wheel thrown porcelain, carved and incised under a celadon glaze, mounted on a Left 'Pasta Server with Two Spoons', porcelain with under glaze carved plinth and stacked one upon another to a total height of 25 cm decoration, by Dorothy Hafner (USA), 1984. with the largest being 19 cm wide, by Jane Smith, 1993.  Photograph by S. Baker Vail. Photograph by Andrew Morris.

Porcelain Plate, wheel thrown and incised with a pattern of cranes under a turquoise blue celadon glaze, 40 cm diameter x 6.5 cm high, by Elaine Coleman, 1993.

Left 'Viking 11' by Shellie Jacobson, 1993. Hand built porcelain body Above Ewer, hand built porcelain body with glazes, stains and metal with glazes, stains and metal additions. Bisque and glaze fired to cone additions, bisque and glaze fired to cone 04 and reduced in sawdust, 04 and reduced in sawdust, 14.5 high. 19.5 cm high, by Shellie Jacobson, 1993.  Smith. Photograph by Philip W Smith. 

Clay Tiles
  • Knead (wedge) the clay to a workable consistency.
  • Spread the damp cloth on a smooth table top.
  • Place the two sticks on the damp cloth parallel to each other. The space between the sticks will be the width of the finished tile.
  • Roll a ball of clay and place it between the sticks (Ill. 1).
  • Flatten the clay by running the rolling pin along the parallel sticks. The clay will be flattened to the thickness of the sticks (III. 2).
  • Cut the slab of clay into tiles, and allow it to become almost dry, or leather hard (111. 3).
  • Plan a design on thin paper, the size of the clay tile.
  • When the clay is almost dry, place the paper design over the tile and transfer the design by retracing the lines with a sharp pencil or instrument.
The following three methods of decoration are possible:
  • Incised-scratch the design into the leather-hard clay with a sharp tool.
  • Relief-carve away the background areas and allow the design to stand out.
  • Inlaid-carve out areas of the design and replace with clay of a different color, making sure both clays are of the same consistency.  See pages 00 and 00 for firing details.
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Two sticks, 1 inch thick
  • Damp cloth
  • Knife or scissors
  • Thin paper
  • Sharp pencil

Pocket Pot
  • Knead or wedge clay, local or commercial.
  • Roll out the clay to form a slab, using the rolling pin. water-base clay
  • Cut one large piece from the slab, using an open paper clip. This is the back.
  • Rolling pin of the pot.
  • Cloth
  • Cut a second piece from the slab, one-half the size of the first piece. Paper clip patterns may be used to facilitate this step.
  • Soda straw - Using a soda straw, make a hole close to the top center on the larger slab bed
  • Two flat sticks, 1/2 inch thick piece. Press and carve designs into the top half of this same piece of clay.
  • Press or carve patterns in the smaller slab bed piece.
  • Pressing tools-spools, wad a tight piece of newspaper or toweling and place it on top of the bottom forks, nails, screws, etc. portion of the larger slab. Score or scratch the bottom face edge of this larger
  • Water container piece of clay.
  • Newspaper or paper
  • Score or scratch the inside (or underside) edge of the smaller piece of clay. toweling 
  • Moisten the fingertips with water or slip and apply to the scratched edges.  Now put them together. Seal by pressing both slabs together at the edges.
  • The newspaper wad keeps the shape open while the pot air dries. When the pot is completely dry, remove the paper and fire in a kiln.

Wind Chimes
  • Knead or wedge clay.
  • Slab clay. (See Clay Tiles, p. 55.)
  • Cut largest piece, the top of the wind chimes, from the clay slab by using an open paper clip. Any shape may be cut, but be careful of thin projections they tend to break while drying.
  • The top shape will need one hole for each chime near the lower edge. It will need at least one hole near the upper edge. These holes are made by pushing and turning a large soda straw into the clay. Make sure the holes are far enough away from the edge of the shape so that they will not break. Press and carve designs on both sides of the hanger by using pressing tools.
  • Cut the chimes from the rest of the slab. Put a hole at the top of each. Put patterns on both sides of each chime. Remember different shapes are more interesting.
  • Allow the pieces to dry at room temperature-fire when completely dry.
  • String chimes to hanger by using cords and tying overhand knots.
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Cloth
  • Paper clip
  • Two flat sticks, 1/2 inch thick
  • Pressing tools-spools. forks, nails, screws, etc.
  • Soda straw
  • Fishing line

Slab Pot
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Two sticks, approximately /2 inch thick and 12-20 inches long
  • Damp cloth
  • Knife or scissors
  • Water container for mixing slip
  • Cardboard pattern
A slab pot is built with flat pieces of clay which are joined together to form a container.


  • Knead (wedge) the clay to a workable consistency.
  • Spread the damp cloth on a smooth table top.
  • Place the two sticks on the damp cloth, parallel to each other. The space between the sticks will be the width of the finished tile.
  • Roll a ball of clay and place it between the sticks (111. 1).
  • Flatten the clay by running the rolling pin along the parallel sticks (111. 2). The clay will be flattened to the thickness of the sticks.
  • Place cardboard pattern over flattened clay. Using it as a guide, cut around pattern with a knife (111. 3).
  • Using the same cardboard pattern, cut three more slabs and allow to stiffen to a leather-hard condition.
  • To assemble a pot, score the edge of each slab with a knife (111. 4).
  • Put slip on scored edge (111. 5) and place two pieces together.
  • Prepare a small roll of clay and press into the joint of each corner (111. 6). Continue this procedure until all four sides are together and smoothed inside and out.
  • Score the edges of a fifth piece, which will be the bottom. 12. Press the four sides on the bottom and complete (111. 7).
Note: A cylindrical slab pot is made from one slab (111. 8) placed on a round base (111. 9). Decorations can be done with a syringe filled with slip of a different color. Squeeze syringe and trail design. Stamp any design in leather-hard clay.


Clay pieces that have just been completed are called green ware and should dry naturally before being fired in a kiln. Artificial heat is likely to cause the piece to crack. All decorations must be completed on the product before the piece is completely dry.  When the clay is completely dry (bone dry), it is ready to be placed in the kiln for firing. Firing will not only vitrify, or fuse, the clay but will burn out any impurities.  There are numerous kilns of all sizes, shapes, and prices, which are fueled with gas, oil, coal, or electricity. Most electric kilns use 220-volt current.  The inside firing chambers of table model kilns have a large range and usually a maximum of 2300F, which is more than adequate. Several inside firing chamber sizes of electric table model kilns are: (111. 1) 143/8 inches opening, 13'/2 inches deep, 1.37 cubic feet; (111. 2) 17.5 inch opening, 18 inches deep, 2.63 cubic feet; and (111. 3) 233/8 inch opening, 27 inches deep, 7 cubic feet. 


  • Kiln shelves
  • Shelf supports
  • Kiln furniture (stilts, triangles)
  • Pyrometric cones
  • Kiln wash (Glaze drippings are easily removed from shelves coated with kiln wash.)
  • Kiln cement (for repairing cracks and chips in kiln wall)


Most kilns will have a switch control for low, medium, and high temperatures. Some will come equipped with a pyrometer, an indicator for reading the kiln temperature. These are ideal, but much cheaper and equally accurate are pyrometric cones (111. 4), which are used to indicate fusion.  Three or four of these cones with different fusing points are placed at a slight angle to one of their faces (not on their edge) in a piece of pliable clay (III. 4). The clay is allowed to dry, then placed in the kiln so the cones can be seen through the spy hole in the kiln door. A piece of fire brick may be necessary to lift the cones high enough to be seen.  The kiln will heat slowly and a periodic check of the cones through the spy hole will let you know the approximate temperature of the heat as the cones begin to melt. When the last cone (111. 5) is beginning to melt, the kiln can be turned off, as the desired temperature has been attained.  A piece fired only once is called bisque, or bisque ware, and it can be glazed and fired again. A glaze will give the pieces a glasslike finish. Glazes can be purchased from a commercial company that will give instructions for use and the temperature cone at which the glaze matures. (Avoid any glazes not certified by the manufacturer as being free of lead and nontoxic.) The glaze is applied by spraying, brushing, or dipping. Dipping a piece in and out of a bowl of glaze may be the most practical method. Finger marks are removed by daubing glaze on the spots with a brush. 

Cone Temperature Chart
Pyrometric Cones-Fahrenheit-Centigrade 
Cone 01                   2093       1145 
Cone 02                   2057       1125 
Cone 03                   2039       1115 
Cone 04                   1940       1060 
Cone 05                   1904       1040 
Cone 06                   1859       1015 
Cone 07                   1814         990 
Cone 08                   1742         949 
Cone 09                   1706         930 
Cone 010                 1661         905 
Cone 011                 1643         894 
Cone 012                 1607         875 
Cone 013                 1580         860 
Cone 014                 1526         830 
Cone 015                 1481         805 
Cone 016                 1463        795 
Cone 018                 1328        720 
Cone 1                     2120      1160 
Cone 2                     2129      1165 
Cone 3                     2138      1170 
Cone 4                     2174      1190 
Cone 5                     2201      1205 
Cone 6                     2246      1230 

Temperature equivalents figured at firing rate of 300F or 149C per hour.

Coil Pot


  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Modeling tool
  • Small container for mixing slip
Method A
Coils built on a pinch pot base as done by the American Indians 
  • Knead (wedge) the clay to a workable consistency.
  • Roll a ball of pliable clay between the palms of the hands to form a sphere approximately the size of a small orange.
  • Hold the sphere in the fingers of both hands. The thumb should be free to press the clay to form the pot. Keep thumbs pointed up and form the pot upside down.
  • Press the thumbs gently into the center of the sphere and at the same time press with the fingers on the outside while rotating the ball of clay (111. 1). 5. Continue pressing with both the fingers and the thumbs while rotating the clay until the ball is hollowed and the walls are of uniform thickness (approximately 1/2 inch). Cracks may appear if the clay is too dry, or if pressed into shape too quickly or forcefully. Repair any such cracks immediately by gently rubbing the fingers over the clay until they disappear.
  • The pot, if built correctly, will not have any flat areas. To flatten the bottom of the pot, hold it gently between the fingers with both hands and tap it lightly on a table top.
  • Roll another piece of clay into round strips or coils of approximately 1/2 inch in diameter, making sure the strip makes a complete turn to insure its roundness (111. 2).
  • Scratch the top edge of the pinch pot base (111. 3) and apply a thin coat of slip (liquid clay) over the scratches (111. 4). The slip helps the coil adhere to the pinch pot base.
  • Place the coil on the slip-covered edge of the base (111. 5). Cut both ends at the same angle so that they fit snugly (111. 6). Gently press the coil to the base and fuse the joint both on the outside and inside (111. 7).
  • Scratch the top edge of the first coil, apply slip (111. 8) and add the second coil (111. 9). Remember to fit the ends together tightly. Gently press the second coil to the first coil and fuse them together.
  • Repeat procedure ten until the coils create a completed form. 12. Allow the pot to dry slowly at room temperature.
  • Check pages 59 and 60 for firing details.
Method B
  • Knead (wedge) the clay to a workable consistency.
  • Roll the clay into round strips or coils of approximately /z inch in diameter, making sure the strip makes a complete turn to insure its roundness (Ill. 2).
  • Wind the strip into a tight coil to the desired size for the base. Fuse the coil together with a small tool or the fingers until all traces of the round strip disappear (111. 9). A ball of clay flattened on a damp cloth to approximately 1/2 inch thickness also makes a good base for a pot when cut to the desired diameter.
  • Scratch the outside top edge of the base and apply a thin coat of slip (liquid clay) over the scratches. The slip helps the base adhere to the first coil.
  • Place another coil on the slip-covered edge of the base. Cut both ends at the same angle so they fit snugly. Gently press the coil to the base and fuse the joint both on the outside and inside.
  • Scratch the top edge of the first coil, apply slip and add the second coil. Remember to fit the ends together tightly. Gently press the second coil to the first coil and fuse them together.
  • Repeat procedure six until the coils create a complete form.
  • Allow the pot to dry slowly at room temperature.
  • Check pages 59 and 60 for firing details.

Folded Clay Animals
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Cloth
  • Knife
  • Two flat sticks, '/2 inch thick
  • Paper, pencil, and scissors
  • Knead (wedge) the clay to a workable consistency.
  • Spread a damp cloth on a smooth table top. Place the two sticks parallel to each other on the damp cloth. The distance between the sticks will determine the size of the finished animal.
  • Roll a ball of clay between the palms of the hands to form a sphere and place it between the sticks.
  • Flatten the ball of clay by running the rolling pin along the parallel sticks. The thickness of the clay is determined by the thickness of the sticks.
  • Draw an animal on a piece of paper that is the size of the clay slab. If desired, the drawing can be scratched directly on the clay.
  • Cut the animal pattern out of the paper and place it on the slab of clay.
  • Hold the paper in place and cut the clay with a knife, following the outline of the pattern (Ill. 1).
  • Gently remove the clay animal from the slab and curve it into position (111. 2). The legs will be bent down to make it a self-supporting unit. Parts of the clay animal can be twisted into various attitudes.
  • Smooth out any rough edges and add textures or features with any modeling tool.
  • If the clay is too soft to support itself, prop it up with a wad of paper or clay.
  • Allow the animal to dry slowly at room temperature (111. 3).
  • See pages 59 and 60 for firing suggestions.
  • A simple, low fire glaze can be purchased commercially.
  • If no kiln is available, the green ware can be finished by waxing, painting with enamel, shellac, or varnish, or with tempera paint. Clear plastic spray, varnish, or shellac can be applied over the tempera paint for permanency.
  • Slip (liquid clay) of different colors can be painted on damp ware for decoration. The piece must then be dried and fired.
  • Over handling of the clay will cause it to dry rapidly, which in turn causes cracks or crumbling.

Pinch Pot Procedure
  • Local or commercial water-base clay.
  • Hold the sphere in the fingers of both hands. The thumb should be free to press the clay to form the pot. Keep the thumbs pointed up and form the pot upside down. (See Ill. 1, p. 56).  Knead (wedge) the clay until it is of a workable consistency and the air bubbles have been removed.
  • Knead (wedge) the clay until it is of a workable consistency and the air bubbles have been removed.
  • Roll a ball of pliable clay between the palms of the hands to form a sphere approximately the size of a small orange.
  • Hold the sphere in the fingers of both hands. The thumb should be free to press the clay to form the pot. Keep the thumbs pointed up and form the pot upside down. (See Ill. 1, p. 56).
  • Press the thumbs gently into the center of the sphere and at the same time press with the fingers on the outside while rotating the ball of clay.
  • Continue pressing with both the fingers and thumbs while rotating the clay until the ball is hollowed and the walls are of uniform thickness (approximately 1/2 inch). Cracks may appear if the clay is too dry or if it is pressed into shape too quickly or forcefully. Repair any such cracks immediately by gently rubbing the fingers over the clay until they disappear.
  • The finished pot, if built correctly, will not have any flat areas. To flatten the bottom of the pot, hold it gently between the fingers with both hands and tap it lightly on a table top.
  • Press the end of a key, hairpin, paper clip, etc., into the top edge of the pot, creating a single and interesting decoration.
  • Allow the pinch pot to dry slowly at room temperature.
  • See pages 59 and 60 for firing details.

Bells and Beads
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Cloth
  • Rolling pin
  • Two flat sticks, 1/2 inch thick
  • Soda straw
  • Tools for pressing or carving into the clay
  • Empty cardboard cone from inside yarn
  • Paper clip
  • Cord or jute to string bells
  • Knead or wedge clay.
  • Roll out the clay to form a slab, using the rolling pin.
  • Wrap the slab around a cone by laying the cone on the center of the clay, bringing the sides around the cone. Trim away the excess clay with an open paper clip so that the edges overlap. Seal the edges together by pressing with fingers.
  • While the clay is wrapped around the cone, trim the bottom and the top, remembering to keep a small hole in the top of the clay cone. Apply designs and patterns by pressing and carving with any tools (nails, scissors, spools, spoons, forks, etc.) available.
  • When finished with patterns, gently remove clay cone from cardboard cone with a twisting motion. Allow to air dry.
  • With the scraps of the slab left, or a new slab, make the clapper for the bell by cutting out a shape with an open paper clip. Make sure the shape will fit inside of the cone. Apply designs or patterns to both sides of clapper and put a hole near the top by using a soda straw.
The clay can be manipulated in various ways with common objects or instruments to achieve special effects. Textured objects such as a thimble can be pressed into the clay to produce a textured surface. Glasses, bowls, and the like can be forced through the cloy for cut-out shapes. Large pieces of clay can be drawn across a shredder to produce clay slivers to be used in building up or decorating pieces. Toothpicks, nut picks, sticks, and other similar items can be used to manipulate or texture the clay. 

Special Effects

  • Make at least two beads (more are nice) by rolling clay into bead size balls or other shapes and inserting a soda straw through the shape. Make patterns on the beads and gently remove the straw.
  • Allow all pieces to dry slowly. Fire in a kiln.
  • String bells by putting one end of cord or jute (about 36 to 40 inches) through the hole in the clapper. Bring the ends of the cord together with clapper in the center. Make an overhand knot approximately 2 inches above clapper.
  • Push both cords through the hole in first bead with a twisting motion. Make an overhand knot just above the bead. String cord ends through the top of the cone from the inside.
  • Make an overhand knot in cords and string a second bead. Make an overhand knot (if additional beads are to be added, always put an overhand knot between the beads). Finish with a final overhand knot at the loose ends of cords.

POTTERY: History, Equipment, and Materials

History: Pottery is a very ancient form of art. Unlike a painting or a sculpture, which serves a decorative or viewing purpose only, pottery served a particle function in the societies where it originated. 
In the Southwest of the United states, the first potters were Native American ancestors, the Anasazi, dating back to A.D. 1200. They built all their pottery by hand and fired it using a wood fire gathering "earth 
colored clay from the local area.
Porcelain was first used in the Orient around A.D. 800. It was later used in a lower firing form in England in the middle of the eighteenth century. 

What is clay?
Geology is the basis for the art of pottery. Clay is made up of a fine earthy powder created when erosion, or weathering and disintegration of rocks containing granite and feldspar. Between the soil surface and 
the rocky core of the earth is a thicker layer made up of clay, sand, and gravely mineral deposits. As the granite and feldspar decompose they deposit alumina and silica particles. Haolinite is a clay mineral with a thin plate like formation. It is the most valuable clay for pottery . When wet, these thin particles stick together like wet playing cards. This is what gives clay its strength and support. This natural clay found in the Earth's surface contains impurities, or particles that must be taken out, such as twigs and other organic matter or larger pebbles.  For pottery making, natural clay is usually amended by adding the right amount of sand, kaolinite, wood ash, and other ingredients. 

Clay Bodies:
Raku- uses a stoneware clay and grog, containing more sand then earthenware. It is fired at a much higher temperature than earthenware and is usually porous after the glazing firing.  Earthenware- are typically reddish brown in color due to the iron in the clay. It has a lower firing. This is a good clay for hand building and sculpture. 
Stoneware- is a very durable clay body that can range in color from light tan to dark brown. Stoneware is fired at a higher temperature than earthenware. It is popular for hand building as well as sculpture. 
China- Bone china is similar to porcelain, yet actual bone ash is added to the clay to lower the firing temperature. It is very hard, white, and translucent when thin. It is week when throwing and tends to warp during firing. 
Porcelain- is the highest firing ceramic ware. They are smooth in texture, white, and easily textured with fine detail. They are very hard when fired. This makes porcelain a prime choice for commercial products and castings. 
Pottery Vocabulary:
Bisque firing-first firing without glazing.  Bone dry clay that is completely dry and ready to fire. Burnishing- polishing the surface of leather hard clay. 
Coil Built-using rope-like lengths of clay to build ceramic ware. 
Cone- a three-sided pyramid shape made of clay that is used to detect the temperature of the kiln which will bend and melt at specific temperatures. Cones are numbered for firing temp. 
Feldspar-.mineral that is main ingredient in clay bodies. 
Firing- heating a clay object in a kiln to a specific temperature, like baking cookie dough into a cookie. 
Glazing-surface coating of mineral content which is applied in liquid form which becomes glassy when fired for decoration or sealing of porous surface. 
Grog- coarse, medium, and fine ground clay bisque used to give clay body strength, reduce shrinkage, and warping. 
Kiln-furnace lined with special clay bricks designed for firing ceramics. Leather hard- clay partly dried but still damp, firm, and easily carved. Plastieitv- damp clay that is easily formed and holds its shape. 
Pug-Mill-machine used to mixing clays and ingredients. 
Scoring- scratching lines in unfired clay to allow attached pieces to bond. 
Slab- hand built technique made from rolling out clay with a rolling pin, creating flat sections of clay. 
Slip- a watery clay mixture used as a surface effect or for adjoining wet clay pieces together. 
Throwing- creating ceramic ware on a potter's wheel. 
Wedging-twisting clay in a rotating kneading manner to remove air bubbles and insure a uniform consistency. 
Wheel- a rotating wheel for throwing clay containers, electric or manual. 

CERAMICS: A Guide for Clay

Clay is an excellent manipulative art medium that every child, and adult alike, will love to create with. Included in this lesson packet are many ideas you may mix and match. It is important that you order clay ahead of time so that it will be available when you are ready to work. Included are a few forms for ordering from art distributors. You may have sources available in your school as well. 

The main ingredient in these lessons is clay, yet it is important to note our featured artist, Frances Senska, who is a Montana artist from Bozeman, Mt. She won the Governor's Award in 1988 in Visual Arts. She is primarily a pottery, but uses other media as well.
Included is a packet of tools used for making ceramic ware, but many tools can be created from ordinary objects found in the home or classroom. Use your imagination. But remember, clay is a wet substance that dries hard, yet fragile until fired in the kiln. You will also notice mineral and clay samples. These are helpful in that the students can feel and see these basic elements of pottery through the plastic bags. Please stipulate that the bags must remained closed at all times. Also included is a video on wheel throwing. Wheels are not always available for classroom use; nonetheless, it is intriguing to see how the wheel is used to make containers. 
A video on Frances Senska also gives a first hand view of a professional potter, and how she has become what she is today. If there is a potter in your area or a pottery exhibit in a local museum it would be a great opportunity for your students to observe these works of art, and possibly, how they are made. 
There are several lessons taken from the A Handbook of Arts and Crafts for elementary and junior high school teachers, by Wankleman and Wigg. These can be done in a sequential or a pick and choose manner. Feel free to add your own ideas and let the students contribute their own also. You will need to have access to a kiln. If there is not one available in your school, many times there is a person or hobby shop that does molded ceramics which are fired in the same kind of kilns. They may be willing to fire your clay items for you. If not, there are some clays that can be baked in an oven (school cafeteria,) or air dried. 


Making Clay
Any local clay can be easily transformed into pliable clay for classroom use by the following method. This same method is used in reconditioning any unfired clay. 
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
  • Two containers for mixing clay (galvanized or plastic buckets, crocks, earthenware crocks, etc. A tightly fitting lid is desirable.)
  • Hammer or mallet 4. Cloth bag
  • Sieve or piece of window screen
  • Plastic bags or aluminum foil for storing clay
  • A plaster slab is ideal for absorbing excess moisture from the clay
  • Break the moist clay into small pieces and allow them to dry thoroughly.
  • Place the pieces of dry clay into the cloth bag and pound them with the hammer or mallet until they are almost a powder.
  • Fill the container half full of water and pour the broken or powdered clay into it until the clay rises above the surface of the water. Moist clay will not disintegrate when placed in water, so be sure it is bone dry and broken into pieces. The smaller the pieces, the more quickly the dissolving process will take place. This process is called slaking.
  • Allow the clay to soak for at least an hour. This period will vary according to the size of the pieces.
  • Stir the clay thoroughly with a stick or the hands until all the lumps are dissolved. This clay mixture is called slip.
  • Pour the slip into the second container through the sieve to remove any foreign matter and allow it to stand overnight. If there is any excess clear water, pour it off.
  • Remove any excess moisture by placing the clay on the plaster slab. Allow the water to be absorbed until the clay can be kneaded without sticking to the hands.
  • Store the clay in a container with a lid, or cover the container with a damp cloth. Small amounts of clay can be kept moist by using plastic bags or aluminum foil.
Suggestions on Handling Water Clay
  • Pliable clay should be kneaded (wedged) to remove all air bubbles before working.
  • Clay objects should dry slowly to prevent cracking. Thinner forms will dry more quickly than thicker forms. The thin form may be wrapped with a damp cloth to equalize the drying.
  • Cover the clay objects with a damp cloth or plastic bag to slow the drying process, or to keep the clay moist from day to day.
  • Moist clay will not adhere to dry clay due to shrinkage.
  • Clay appendages, or details that are to be added to pots or figures, must be of the same consistency as the piece to which they are to be attached. The two areas that are to be joined should be scratched with a tool and covered with a slip (liquid clay) before being placed together. Then, the joints should be fused into one piece with a smooth tool or the fingers.
  • If hanging plaques are to be made, carve or pierce any holes while the clay is leather-hard.
  • Dry clay objects (unfired clay is called green ware) must be fired to a temperature of at least 1500ø F, or 830 C, to be hardened. An electric kiln is the best method for firing. However, the primitive open campfire method can be used.
  • Glaze can be applied to bisque (a piece of clay that has been fired once is called bisque) by dipping, spraying, or with a brush. The piece is then refired. All glaze must be wiped from the bottom or the foot of the piece with a sponge or cloth before firing.

Clay Modeling
  • Local or commercial water-base clay
Method A
  • Beginning with a basic shape of the object to be modeled, squeeze or push the clay to form the features (legs, arms, head, etc.). Think of the object as a whole, rather than as separate parts.
  • Between working sessions, wrap with a moist cloth to retain plasticity.
  • Allow the piece to dry slowly at room temperature.
  • Check pages 59 and 60 for firing details.
Method B
  • Beginning with a basic shape of the object to be modeled, use a modeling tool to carve away all unnecessary parts until the piece is formed.
Note: Combining parts or sections is another method of modeling, but not recommended for children. Assembling parts is very important; unless the two pieces of clay are of the same consistency and combined together properly, they will shrink irregularly in drying.


Andrews, T. 1994., Raku a review of contemporary work, Chilton Book Company, Pennsylvania. 
Ball, F. C. & Lovoos, J., 1965., Making pottery without a wheel, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., NY. 
Cardew, M., 1969., Pioneer pottery, St. Martin's Press, NY. 
Lane, P., 1995., Contemporary porcelain materials, techniques, and expression, Chilton Book Co., Pennsylvania. 
Nelson, G.C. 1978., Ceramics, 4th edition, Holt, Reinhart, & Winston, NY. 
Rottenberg, P. 1972., The complete book of ceramic Art, Crown Publisher, NY. 
Wankleman, W. F. and Wigg, P., 1989., A handbook of arts and crafts for elementary and junior high school teachers, W.C. Brown Co. Dubuque, Iowa.