Sunday, December 4, 2016

Modern Clay Nativity

This year Grade 6 did a modern clay nativity.  I'm still firing them but my sample is done so I can show you.

The original inspiration was a picture on Pinterest that was unglazed and with no instructions so this my adapted version for school.

It comes in 3 pieces that nest together.  That way you can put Mary and Joseph out early and then add baby Jesus on Christmas Day.


- clay, I have a kiln at school so I use a low fire buffstone.  You could try this with an air dry clay just make sure to seal it with a good sealer to help protect it.
- fabric mat, nail, skewer, rolling pin, little cup of water
- small star cookie cutters
- ceramic glaze in brown, yellow, blue, and pink or tan


Each student gets a fabric mat for their desk.

They also get a nail and a wooden skewer.  They work in groups of 4-5 and share a large rolling pin and a star cutter.

Every 2 students share a little cup of water.

I give each student some clay.  They roll a slab about 1 inch thick.

With their finger they gently trace out a triangle shape.  Round the sides of the triangle. No taller than the size of their hand.

Using the nail the cut out this shape.  Here you can see the thickness of the clay.  I use the width of my finger as a guide.

Now I fold the sides in a bit for a nice curve and then I tap the bottom on the fabric.

I'm making the base wider and flat.

If I turn it over you can see the base has become wider and by tapping I get that nice flat bottom for stability.

I spent a little time smoothing the clay so I don't have any creases on the inside of my Joseph body from where it goes from thin to thick at the bottom.

Now I make his head.  Roll a small ball out of clay.  Tap on the bottom to flatten it.  I make an indentation at the top of Joseph's body where the head will attach.  The students and I review the "scratch, scratch, water,water" chant for attaching 2 pieces of clay together.  Surface scratches with the skewer on the 2 parts that go together.

....and then a brush of water using our finger over the scratches.  Then the scratches have "to kiss".

When I explain it this way the kids always understand.

Attach Joseph's head.

On the back of Joseph we added a star or 2-3 cut from clay with our little cookie cutters.

Make sure to "scratch,scratch,water,water".

Now it's time to make Mary.  Roll a ball about the size of a small mandarin orange.

Pinch a pot using your thumbs.

Pinch about 2 inches from one side of your pot in and tap the other end on the mat to create a flat bottom.

Check size to that of your Joseph so it will nest in nicely.

Roll a small head and attach to the pinched end.

It should look something like this now.

Roll a small ball about ping pong size.

Pinch a cradle and then add small head and body for baby Jesus.

The pieces should all nest together but for drying leave them apart.

Set aside to dry for about  1-2 weeks depending on how dry and warm your location is.

When the clay has dried out, put the piece on your cheek to test.

I find here in Calgary it always feels a bit cold but it should not feel damp or clammy.

Bisque fire in the kiln.

Now it's time for glazing.  I have about a million of these little plastic containers with lids holding my glaze in multiplies of 8-10.

The may eventually dry out (over the summer)  but I just add more of the same colour and a touch water and reconstitute them.

Have the students glaze their pieces using 2-3 coats of colour.

Before glazing I brush some wax resist on the bottom of all 3 pieces.  This prevents the glaze from staying there so we don't get any stuck on pieces on our kiln shelves.

Some of the Joseph's have hair some don't but we stayed away from adding faces.

When the glaze is dry you can fire them again.

That's it.

I can see this becoming a very popular project for my Oct and Nov residencies!


1 comment:

  1. This is so beautiful. What a great Christmas craft for school. Thank you for sharing.