Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to Make a Clay Polar Bear

This is a clay Polar Bear project I just completed with Grade 3.

Take a slice of clay and roll to about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut a nice oval base with a wooden skewer.

Using your finger dipped in water smooth the jagged edge left from cutting.

I explain to the students that if we leave this edge that once this piece is fired this could be very sharp and might cut someone.

Take some clay and form 2 back legs and 2 smaller front legs.

Using the "scratch, scratch, water, water" chant we attach these legs to the base.

We want to be sure the 2 surfaces that are touching have been sufficiently scored and moistened so that our clay will "glue" together.

Taking a fair lump of clay (palm sized) form a pear or gourd shape for the body.

Place it on the 4 legs and continue refining until you are happy with the shape.  Attach to the 4 legs with the "scratch, scratch, water,water".

Continue to define the shape and pinch out some ears.  You want a pointy nose.

I had reference photos for the kids to look at while sculpting.

Using a toothpick we added our names and the year to the base.

Leave bears to dry out for about 2 weeks.

After completing a bisque fire in the kiln, glaze using white and blue underglaze with a clear topcoat.

and that's it!  The grade 3's did an awesome job.
See you next time.


  1. Wow, what a cool project, you are so good at explaining the process, it is a real skill that you have, cheers Marie

  2. I LOVE this! I'm always looking for new clay projects. I've never considered adding the legs to a base first. I've always had the kids attach legs after. This looks easier. Thanks!

  3. This brings back the first ever clay project that I did with kids- I made the most magnificent polar bear. I sent them all off to the high school for firing. I am sure they were still very wet inside. _ HIdeous result !! Now we make all hollow forms - no breaks for 20 years now

  4. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [05 May 03:00pm GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  5. These are so great. Will have to wait till our kiln is set up though

  6. Pretty good post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  7. What a terrific idea. I always enjoy stopping by to see what you are teaching as I am an art docent in my kids' school. I was wondering how they did not blow up in the kiln being solid? The message at our kiln is that the items should be hollow. Any info would help a ton. Thanks!

  8. Hey everyone thanks for the comments!
    As far as the bears not blowing up in Calgary we have a very dry climate (cold but dry). I let the bears dry out for a good 2 weeks and not one of them cracked or blew up. That was with 45 bears.

    If you are concerned you can take a pencil and insert it in the body (stomach side starting at about where the back leg starts) making a hole lengthwise. This will help ensure that the body dries out.
    Take care.

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  10. What a great tutorial, I love the way you go over each step in detail! All your polar bears turned out great! :)

  11. Do you ever worry about them blowing up in the kiln since the bodies aren't hollowed out?
    Looks like a great project!

  12. As Gail mentioned if you are worried about cracking or blowing up let them dry thoroughly and then what we do is"candle"them for a few hours. If you have a computerized kiln take the load up to a few degrees below boiling and let them sit for 4 to 6 hours.

  13. can't wait to create these with my kids this winter! such an awesome project! Thanks so much for sharing! I'll be following your site. Love it!

  14. Wow! I am doing this for my art class! I am a student and my teacher assigned it.