Art Lesson Plan: Ceramic Effigy Vessels - Elementary

Ceramic Effigy Vessels

Submitted by: Linda Wood, St. John's Lower School, Houston, Texas
Unit: Drawing
Grade Level: 3 through 6 (Examples are 3rd grade)
School Web Site: St. John's Lower School (Click Art Stories - until you see Linda Woods)

Alternate Project: Ceramic animals.



Linda allowed a lot of freedom in this project. A wide variety of responses followed: menorahs, angels, lidded jars with animals on the lids, animal bowls, etc.

  1. Make some sketches of ideas for vessel - select one to construct. Plan methods of construction.

  2. Wedge clay to remove air bubbles

  3. Make base of bowl using pinch pot method - Add coils to make larger by scoring and applying slip.

  4. Make a slab for a lid (if desired). Students then make parts of their vessel including animal head, legs, and ears using the pinch method. The coil and pinch methods are used to make animal to sit on the lid. All pieces are connected first by scoring each edge that is to be connected and applying slip. If the head is hollow, be sure to put a hole in the body of the vessel to allow air to escape. If not, the vessel will probably explode in the kiln.

  5. Make a raised lip for the underside of the lid that will fit inside the bowl of the vessel. This will keep the lid from sliding off the vessel. Don't forget to score where you are connecting the lip and lid as well as add slip.

  6. 1

    Make a face for your animal. Create a mouth and nose for the animals such as lions, dogs, cats, bears, rabbits, etc. These are created by pinching and rolling four little balls of clay. A small one goes where the nose will go, and the two biggest ones will be the cheeks and go directly below the nose, side by side with all three balls touching. The ball for the chin goes on the bottom, touching the two cheeks. Score and slip these balls before they are connected, of course. Once the balls are in place, the edges of the balls are rubbed into the clay face, thereby only leaving the hard-edge under the nose and down into an anchor-shape to form the mouth.

  7. Eyes are also sculpted using small balls. Add a small coil of clay above and below the eye balls to form the eye lids. The outer edge of the coils are rubbed into the head and cheek, thereby only leaving the hard-edge next to the eye as the eyelid, while puffing up the lid a bit.

  8. The legs should be reinforced by adding small coils around the point where they join the body. These coils will be rubbed in on both sides of the leg and body. This will make the legs stronger.

Objectives: The learner will

  • Understand a little about Pueblo native culture - respect for the land and nature. Develop appreciation for Native American Pottery

  • Exhibit problem solving skills- plan and execute plan for effigy vessel with minimal assistance

  • Understand ceramic vocabulary

  • Construct a clay effigy vessel using a variety of hand building techniques

  • Demonstrate skill and craftsmanship in working with clay and glazing


Moist Clay.
Canvas Rolls.
Rolling Pins.
Guide sticks (for slab rolling)
Clay Modeling Tools.
Slip. dishes
Glazes. - Brushes.


Instructional Resources:

Images of Southwest Pottery, images of effigy vessels from other cultures, examples of lidded vessels.



A pueblo pottery-making. - A historic print of Pueblo pottery making.

San Ildefonso Pueblo Pottery Print.



You can buy imitation Pueblo pottery at reasonable prices online. Below is pottery created by real Native American artists.

San Juan Pueblo Black Etched Fetish Bear.

Vase Mimbres Turquoise Hand Thrown.

Three Mixtec Polychrome Terracotta Effigy Vessels. - Three Mixtec Polychrome Terracotta Effigy Vessels, Protoclassic, Circa A.D. 900-1200.



Storytellers and Other Figurative Pottery. - Beginning at Cochiti and continuing in the other pueblos, the storyteller became a favorite form of pottery. Now the form is even beginning to be used by others outside of the pueblos. The storytellers have come to include not only male figures, but females, turtles, frogs, and coyotes. In this new book, the reader will find the most extensive collection of storytellers ever gathered in print. Over 400 pieces by nearly 150 artists are shown in full color, and organized by pueblo.


Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters. - Grade 3-5: A beautifully illustrated short work on the life of a family of potters from Santa Clara Pueblo.


From This Earth: The Ancient Art of Pueblo Pottery. - This book follows the pottery-making traditions from the earliest utility wares of the Mogollon and Anasazi Indians to the artistically superb pottery made by contemporary Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande Valley.



Slip, score, slab, pinch, coil, bisque, green-ware, bone dry, glaze



  1. Present examples of effigy vessels from the Pueblo culture and other cultures. show a variety of vessels with lids

  2. Demonstrate/review wedging clay and forming techniques (student in Linda's classes made pinch pot bird nests in 2nd grade). Review pinch and demonstrate coil method.

  3. Demonstrate various ways to make an animal face, legs, ears etc. - Demonstrate how to attach using Slip..

  4. Demonstrate how to make a lid fit the vessel (add a ring to inside of lid)

  5. Demonstrate glazing technique.

Alternate Project: Ceramic Animals

  1. Make two pinch pots for body- Score and slip together - smooth seams. Make small hole on bottom for air to escape

  2. Make pinch pot head - make hole in body where head is to attach. Score and slip

  3. Use thick coils for legs - pinch slabs for ears. Score and slip into place

  4. Add details for face - follow steps listed above.

4 Evaluation:

  • Did student show an awareness of Pueblo Native American culture?

  • Did student show initiative in planning an executing an original design?

  • Did student demonstrate knowledge of forming techniques?

  • Did student demonstrate skill and craftsmanship in handling clay?

  • Did student demonstrate skill in glazing



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