Art Lesson Plan - Whimsical Ceramic Tea Pots

Whimsical Ceramic Tea Pots

Submitted by: Judie Jacobs, Holy Innocents' Episcopal School
Unit: Functional Ceramics (Japanese Tea Ceremony below)
Lesson Plan: Fun and Funky Teapots
Grade Level: High school (adaptable to middle school)


Objectives: Students will

  • Look at the tea pots through time - critique modern art examples and compare to more traditional designs

  • Implement planning - determine appropriate hand building techniques to use for construction

  • Design lid/handle and spout to be part of the overall design as well as function like a tea-pot - design an original teapot

  • Utilize additive and subtractive sculpture methods

  • Select aesthetically pleasing glazes/and or under glazes

  • Demonstrate craftsmanship in forming and glazing.

Click images for larger views


clay tea pot      clay tea pot     clay tea pot clay tea pot



Earthenware Clay. (or Amaco Buff Clay. or Stoneware Clay.)
Clay Modeling Tools.
Small Sponges.
Canvas Rolls.
Underglazes. / Glazes.
Painting Brushes.
Rolling Pins.
Wooden slats/guide sticks
Assorted medium size bowls



Functional - traditional - Glazing - Underglazes - Additive - subtractive - Slab/draped slab - pinch - coil - contemporary




500 Teapots: Contemporary Explorations. - From hand-built to wheel-thrown, functional to sculptural, traditional to funky, there’s a bit of everything in this artistic celebration. Some find inspiration in classic Asian designs or a figurative approach.

The Eccentric Teapot: Four Hundred Years of Invention. - This book celebrates some of the more sublime, outrageous & exotic teapots. Both comfortingly familiar & utterly peculiar, this fanciful, provocative & intriguing gallery includes portrait pots of Brooke Shields & Queen Elizabeth.



  1. Have the students look at many teapot examples and brainstorm ways to make their teapot unique. Browse the Internet - or have several books available as well as Ceramics' Monthly Magazines. Discuss artists' source of ideas

  2. Explain parts of the teapot - have diagram available that shows parts that should be incorporated into the design.

  3. Review hand-building techniques if necessary.

Procedures: (Note: It is assumed students already know the basic hand-building techniques for this lesson. Middle School students make needed demonstrations)

  1. Brainstorm ideas - write down objects that are meaningful to you to use as inspiration for teapot design.

  2. Make several thumbnail sketches of ideas - select one to enlarge and sketch in more detail. Develop a plan using hand building techniques.

  3. An easy way to make body of pot is using draped slab pressed inside a bowl. Using a rolling pin and wooden slats, roll out even slabs to use for construction. Each slab must be slipped and scored. Make body with slab - coil or pinch method.

  4. Create base of teapot before adding strainer, spout and foot.

  5. Form lid to fit into top of base - and mesh with design (without falling in).

  6. Use thin straw to make strainer holes in body before attaching spout.

  7. Finish by adding interesting details that fit chosen theme. Use additive and subtractive techniques to add details. Handle and spout must add to the theme.

  8. Smooth all cracks and rough areas with a damp sponge before letting it dry out.

  9. Schedule in-progress critiques

  10. After bisque firing, glaze- or underglaze and Clear Glaze. and fire again. Select glazes for their aesthetic value - must be food safe.

  11. Have class critique

Copyright Extension: Discuss copyright with students. The idea of a sculptural teapot can not be copyrighted nor can the idea of a teapot shaped like a house be copyrighted. Look at the various teapots found online. Sketch one that gives you the most inspiration (or save image to file - check site's "Fair Use"/copyright policy). Save the artist's name, title of teapot and date. Continue then with your own ideas. At the end of the project, share both the finished work and the source of inspiration. Decide as a class if the new creation is unique enough to be copyrighted. Decide as a class if the new work infringes on another artist's copyright. In general items of craft can not be copyrighted - only what that artist does that is unique. Utilitarian objects may be patented - if there is something new that is developed. Encourage students as they work to date their new ideas (for instance, once one student decided to do a baseball, that idea was taken and another could not use it for this particular lesson). Date each new idea that is added (keeping track in Sketchbooks.) then at the end of the class period, see if any other classmates can claim copyright infringement. (Note: in the classroom setting, generally there is a sharing of ideas freely - that doesn't always work in the "real world"). Encourage students to sign and date their finished work. You may want them to make their own logo stamp to mark their work. This can be stamped down towards the base or on the bottom.



  1. Did students participate in class discussion of contemporary whimsical teapots and more traditional styles?

  2. Did student implement planning to design a whimsical teapot combining hand-building techniques? Is work original? Creative?

  3. Did student exhibit craftsmanship in construction and glazing of teapot.

Sample Rubric - modified from Rubric by Marianne Galyk

Assessment Rubric

Student Name:

Class Period:


Date Completed:

Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment.




Needs Improvement

Rate Yourself

Teacher’s Rating

Criteria 1 – Designs - creativity - problem solving. Is work unique?





Criteria 2 – Construction and functionality - Does teapot work?





Criteria 3 – Aesthetics in glazing or underglazing - glaze application





Criteria 4 – Effort: took time to develop idea & complete project? (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time?





Criteria 5 – Craftsmanship – Neat, clean & complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media?





Total Possible: 20



Student's Comments:


Teacher's Comments:

Submitted by: Christa Wise, Saugatuck, Michigan
Unit: Functional Ceramics - Japan
Lesson: Sculptural Teapots - Narrative works
Grade level: Middle school through high school (and beyond!)


clay tea pot clay tea pot


Christa Wise was a winner of the Fulbright Memorial Scholarship to Japan. This is one of the lessons she developed to share her experiences with her students. Adapt lesson plan above. Many Art Ed List members have been awarded this opportunity.


The 3-D Studio class worked on teapots. We started the assignment by making tea. I put out Styrofoam cups, teabags, an electric hot pot for water, wooden stirring sticks, paper napkins, and packets of sugar. Students arriving to class were surprised to be able to gather around and make tea and for the first five minutes, class was very lively. Once everyone had their tea, I explained that practically everything they had done was antithetical to the Japanese Tea Ceremony. I read a story about a visit to a teahouse. We talked about the reverence for the experience and how all of the tea implements were very special. I shared some examples of teapots, cups, whisks, and had them all taste powdered tea. I think this lesson was very effective because of the contrast of our casual experience to the formality and meaning in the tea ceremony. I gave the assignment to make teapot with the option to complete additional pieces like teacups, a sugar bowl, and a cream pitcher.


Curiously, once one class saw these teapots, other classes working in clay begged to make teapots as well. This semester, all five classes working in clay had students working on Japanese-inspired teapots that began with a very atypical tea ceremony.


Here is an example of a teapot made by one of the students. It is based on a fairy tale about a Chinese fisherman and a large fish that gives him three wishes if he will save the fish’s life. While the story is not Japanese, I think the image was inspired by this student’s limited perception of Japan. I think the fish and water images were inspired by some of the Japanese prints I had on display on the walls. Using the boat as a handle for the lid of the pot seems to a particularly effective technique. The other example is also a narrative piece.


Resources on Japanese Culture:



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