Media, materials and processes: malleable materials

Malleable materials offer accessible opportunities to engage with spatial and tactile ways of thinking and working. Because working directly in three dimensions does not require an abstraction into two dimensions, it can be experienced as more immediate than drawing or painting.

Learning Intentions

  • We are learning how to manipulate clay in 2D and 3D for different purposes.
  • We are learning about the unique qualities of clay.
  • We are learning how to add a finish to clay work.

Learning Activities

Give the pupils time to develop their modelling and building techniques. Focus on, for example:

  • using ‘pull-out’ and ‘add-on’ to create forms; and
  • creating holes and hollows which make interesting forms when viewed from different angles.

Give pupils an opportunity to model and build 3D forms by:

  • coiling,
    • making coils of even thickness; and
    • adding coils and other clay forms to create images or decoration.
  • pinching,
    • making a thumb pot in clay; and
    • joining two thumb pots to make a model, for example a head, a figure or an animal.
  • slabbing,
    • using rollers and guides to make clay slabs of even thickness;
    • draping slabs over an armature, perhaps made from small boxes, crushed paper or tubing, to create interesting forms;
    • creating patterns and images on clay slabs by impressing with objects or engraving into the surface; and
    • working on slabs of clay to build up layers in relief.

Allow the pupils to investigate how to join pieces of clay by:

  • scoring;
  • moistening; and
  • blending surfaces together.

Have them select and use modelling tools and other objects to impress and engrave into clay to create textures and decorative surfaces.

Encourage them to observe and describe how clay changes as it air dries from a soft pliable material through to a solid finished piece.

Highlight the brittle and fragile nature of clay during the making process.

Experiment with a range of finishes on air dried clay so the pupils can see the effects, for example:

  • coat it with varnish to emphasise the natural colour of the clay; or
  • apply colour in various ways, for example use poster paints or rub in shoe polish, then finish with a coat of varnish.