Thumb-pot elephants

For a workshop I’m providing on 24 May, here is what you need to make a thumb-pot elephant.

Half a pound of basic stoneware clay.

elephant (1)

Quarter it, so you’ll have 4 x 2oz lumps – or 4 x 50g in metric. You need two quarters for the body, one for the head, and one for legs, trunks and everything else.

elephant (4)

Two quarters make two thumb pots. Stick them together to make a flattened sphere for the body, then add third thumb pot for the head. Then add the feet.

elephant (5)

Use some slip to stick the legs on. elephant (6)

Add ears, trunk and tail.

Burnish it when leather hard if you intend to smoke-fire it in sawdust after biscuit firing.

Running the workshop – top tips

For a one-hour workshop, including beginners and children:

  • lay lots of 50g lumps of clay on a plate and have each participant take one to make into a ball while they are waiting
  • show examples of finished work, both half-finished biscuit pieces and glazed pieces
  • stress that round-bodied animals with short, stocky legs are best: they are the least liable to get broken; turtles and hedgehogs are ideal
  • if someone wants to make a snake, make it a coiled snake: snakes – and starfish, etc – are best if then mounted on a supporting round tile
  • elephants are harder than turtles and hedgehogs because they have a cavity, which is liable to get crushed in the making; turtles and hedgehogs are best made from a single thumb pot
  • under-10s: ask them to hold out their thumb: doesn’t matter if right-handed or left-handed; then make the other hand into a cup
  • dent and rotate the lump of clay like a clock: 1 to 2 o’clock, 2 to 3 and so on – 12 turns, or one careful rev, should be enough
  • make more thumb pots if you are waiting for others to finish
  • roll a sausage for legs and cut into 4 equal, short lengths
  • if you are making ears, make one ball and cut into 2: much easier to get symmetrical ears that way
  • joining the legs: scratch, slip and stick (otherwise the legs may fall off when they dry)
  • skewer or bamboo tools are good for mark-making the body, and making holes for eyes, nostrils and mouth
  • for hedgehog quills, start at the back and finish with the ‘fringe’ at the forehead
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