julianna kunstler logo
ceramics 1

.5 Credit

Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Art 1
Course available to: Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors

This is a beginning ceramics-pottery class for individual students who are interested in acquiring knowledge and skills in clay.  Students will be introduced to all basic aspects of sculptural and functional pottery.

Course outcomes:
Students will understand the procedures of working with clay
Students will understand the process of pinch pot method
Students will understand the process of coil pot method
Students will understand the process of slab method
Students will understand how to use ceramic tools properly.
Students will understand what glazing is and how to use glazes appropriately
Students will understand the process kiln firing
Students will understand the basic elements and principles of design in creating a 3-D object (texture, shape/form/, contrast, variety, texture, etc.)
Students will be able to produce decorative and functional ceramic pieces utilizing the understanding of the Art Theory.
Students will understand and use art vocabulary pertaining to ceramics media.


Clay is an earthy material of fine grained minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter.

Pottery can be created without the use of a potter's wheel. The potter's wheel did not appear in history until only 4 000 years ago. The main construction methods were pinch and coil methods.

Clay has been used for many things throughout human history: a writing surface, building material, money, storage containers, cooking vessels and serving plates, electronic device parts, ceramic shields or tiles are used on space ships. Ceramics is a major tool for dating cultures in archeology studies.

the three hand-building techniques


Pinch pots are created by using your hands to shape the clay. Pinch pots are some of the oldest archaeological artifacts found on the planet.

  • Begin by forming a smooth ball that fits in your palm (fist size).
  • Press the thumb into the center half-way to the bottom.
  • Revolve the ball while pressing the walls out evenly with the other hand.


Coil pots are created by pressing coils of clay together.

  • Keeping the fingers flat, form clay into sausage shapes.
  • Roll them into ropes (coils)
    1/4" to 1/2" thick
  • Coils are pressed together creating a design. Gaps are filled in with small balls of clay.
  • Inside of the wall can be smoothed.
  • Join the walls & the bottom.


The slab building technique involves rolling out clay to an even thickness - usually 1 cm - then cutting shapes, folding, bending, manipulating and joining together to form a finished object.

  • Roll slabs of clay
  • Cut out the sides
  • Join the sides (score and slip!!)
  • Attach the bottom
  • Cut out the excess clay from the bottom slab.

Other techniques include:

wheel throwing, relief (high, low, sunken), mold making & slip casting, carving, sculpting, etc.

before you start:

(remove air bubbles)



beat to form a ball

drying stages of clay


(liquid form of clay)
casting and cementing pieces


wedging, manipulating, sculpting,
throwing on the wheel...

leather hard

most decorating is done, carving, stamping, building, etc..

bone dry

the driest stage of clay, 0% moisture, ready for bisque firing

firing stages


unfired pottery that is bone dry (most fragile state)

bisqueware (bisque)

unglazed pottery that has been
fired once


ware that has glaze applied and is waiting to be glaze fired

joining pieces

1. score

Roughen both surfaces that you are joining. Use a cross-hatching pattern. Use a needle tool, wedge tool with "teeth", etc.

2. slip

Apply enough slip to both surfaces. Slip will "cement" the pieces together as a glue.

3. rock & press

Rock back and forth while applying some pressure on the piece. This will ensure that the slip will fill in all gaps and removes air pockets.



cut-off wire

knife and needle tool

needle tool and fettling knife

modeling tools

modeling tools

rolling pin and guides

rolling pin and guides


Clay project should dry for at least 7 days before bisque firing to ensure it does not blow up in the kiln.

Moisture (sudden change of water into steam) and air bubbles (trapped air expands) can cause the explosion.


firing chart

bisque firing

we use low-fire clay
Cone 04
Temperature 1940 F

glaze firing

we use mostly low-fire glazes
Cone 05-06
Temperature 1830-1914 F


  • apply at least 3 coats
  • apply coats evenly, wait for a coat to dry before applying the next one
  • do not apply glaze on a bottom surface - the one that will be in contact with the kiln's shelf.
    wipe it clean with a wet sponge before turning in for glaze firing
  • if your finished piece will be in contact with food - look for food safe marking on a glaze jar.
    All glazes that are safe for food contact are labeled with one of the following signs:


the 10 golden rules of ceramics
  • Clay must be thoroughly covered up with a plastic bag to keep it from drying out. This applies to works in process and moist clay.
  • Clay dust can be harmful if you are exposed to it for long periods of time, so keep your area clean, clay scraps off the floor and clean with water and sponge.
  • Clay should be no thicker than your thumb.
  • In order for clay to stick together it must be scored and and slipped together while the clay is moist (plastic) or leather hard.
  • Wedge clay to remove air bubbles, achieve uniform consistency, and to line up the clay particles.
  • Trapped air can cause clay to explode. So hollow out sculptural forms and put needle holes through enclosed forms for air to escape.
  • Don't glaze the bottom of the piece.
  • Wash the piece before glazing.
  • Handle your project with two hands at all times. In other words - be careful! - it's your hard work.
  • NEVER handle another person's work even if it looks cool!


Hand-building techniques



pinch pot

pinch pot 1

pinch pot

pinch pot 2

coil pot

basic coil pot

coil plate

coil plate

coil pot

coil pot

slab box

jewelry box

slab house


slab dish or plate

slab platter

sculpting & decorating

animal grotesque sculpture


candle holder

candle holder

tile sgraffito

sgraffito tile

underglaze painting on plate



Wisconsin essential standards rubric

  no evidence Beginning Emerging Proficient Advanced

AA1 Cr10
aesthetics & problem solving

Artwork does not show use of given elements and principles of design or there is no evidence. Artwork shows limited understanding and use/application of given elements and principles of design. Artwork represents some understanding and use of given elements and principles of design. Artwork demonstrates an understanding and a proper application/use of given elements and principles of design. Student used elements of art /principles of design to achieve unified, balanced, exciting, and effective space that goes beyond the task.

AA1 Cr.11
planning & experimentation

Work is not complete and/or does not show the process from specified instructions or there is no evidence. The artwork does not fulfil the task. Steps were not followed. No evidence of careful planning and experimentation. The artwork is lacking the proper planning. Student did not follow all steps of the process and did not demonstrate effort and attention to details. Student followed the process, did accurate planning, experimented with Elements and Principles of Art. Artwork demonstrates effort and attention to details. Artwork demonstrates a careful planning. Work represents an advanced use of given elements and principles of design. Student displayed an outstanding effort in regards to application and understanding of the content. Artwork shows individual style, careful planning, multiple revisions and attention to details.

AA1 Cr.12

Work is not complete and/or does not show the process from specified instructions or there is no evidence. Student somewhat followed the process. Some steps are skipped or incomplete. Work requires major improvement. Student mostly followed the process. Work shows some skills and basic/partial understanding of the process. Student followed the process exactly as the instructions specified. Work shows proper use of skills and techniques. Student followed the process exactly as the instructions specified and, in addition, the piece exhibits evidence of creative experimentation beyond the required task. Craftsmanship and attention to details are flawless.


1. All assignments must be completed on or before the due date.
2. Unfinished artwork is graded as such.
3. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to make up all work. You can sign out art supplies if needed.
4. If your project requires extra time to be completed, you have to make arrangements with me prior the due date. This is your responsibility.
5. Each project has a rubric with specific requirements and guidelines. Follow them.
6. Unless an assignment specifically requires copying, it will be interpreted in the same manner as plagiarism.
7. You are also graded for your in-class studio work.


1. Food, drinks, candy, gum are not allowed in the Art rooms. A bottle of WATER is permitted in room 206 (only).
2. Cell phones are not allowed at any time. Phones should be turned off and put away.
3. Be in the room before the bell rings. Dropping your stuff and leaving does not qualify you as being on time.
4. Sit at your assigned seat unless I give you OK to move. That means you do not walk around the room during the class.
5. Talk quietly with students at your table. Do not talk during the instructional time.
6. Draw, paint, etc. on your artwork only!
7. Use materials from your tote-tray only... don't go into other people's trays.
8. You can bring your work home anytime. You are responsible for having it back next day.
9. If you must swear, please do it elsewhere... Thanks.
10. You are responsible for cleaning your work area and the tools that you used.
11. If you are in the Graphics lab, use the printers for the current ART assignments only!!!
12. Encourage your fellow classmates in a positive way... treat them fairly and nicely. This room should be a fun and comfortable place for everyone.

Final study-guide:

  • What is clay?
  • History of ceramics and invention of potter's wheel.
  • Uses of ceramics
  • Three basic hand-building techniques
  • Preparing clay for work
  • Steps for pinch pot technique
  • Specifics for coil technique and coils
  • Specifics for slab building techniques
  • Joining clay pieces
  • Drying time before firing
  • Other clay building techniques
  • Two types of firing that we used in this class
  • Definitions: greenware, bisqueware, glazeware
  • Clay drying stages
  • Glazes. Safety information
  • Firing, kiln, temperatures
  • Tools
  • Storing "in-progress" projects
  • Clay: safety information
  • Best practices for working with clay