Aztec Ceramic Suns

Submitted by: Judy Decker
(Adapted from one found online)
Unit: Ceramics - The sun in art: Art of the Aztec (math integration)
Project: Sun Relief Sculpture
Level: 6th-Ceramics/Sculpture (Adapt for younger grades)
Art Style: Pre-Columbian Art
Duration: 2 to 5 class periods (Depending on details) - 1 to 2 days later for glazing
Multicultural: Hispanic, Native American, African, Chinese
Alternate Lesson: Ceramic Folk Art Suns - Mexico


Objectives: Students will:

  1. Successfully create a slab project - a sun image based on sun images throughout history — Show craftsmanship in working with clay

  2. Glaze their sun plaque—demonstrate craftsmanship (or use alternate finish)

  3. See the significance of the sun image in various cultures—explain meaning of some of the symbolism used in various cultures. Create own symbols and explain meaning

  4. Show understanding of radial balance in creating patterns


Low-fire White Sculpture Raku Clay. or Terra Cotta Clay., Styrofoam soup bowls, plastic wrap
Aztec Sun sculptureCanvas Rolls.
Rolling Pins. & slats
Clay Needle Tool.
9" circle templates, Slip.
Straws (to cut hole for cord)
boards, with paper and plastic
Ceramic Tool Set.
Texture tools, stamps, gadgets
Glazes., Brushes.


Note: Plaster humps can be made from bowls. No separator needed.


Instructional Resources:

Teacher-made packet with sun images from Aztec, Chinese, Southwestern, New Mexico, Native American, African, and contemporary cultures.

Legend of the 4 suns (teacher info):

Legend of five suns - teacher info

Stone of the Five Suns

Clay suns are still made in Mexico in a place called Metepec by the Nahua Indians, who are descendants of the Aztecs



Slab, coil
Glaze, Undergalze
Crosshatch or score
Radial balance, concentric


Motivation: Teacher will:

  1. Show and lead discussion of sun images. (optional) Lead Internet lesson.

  2. Show examples of Sun Plaques.

  3. Guide students in drawing practice sketches.

  4. Demonstrate slab rolling- draping slab- textures—facial features

Instructional Plan:

  1. Day 1: rolling and cutting slab. Cut template circle—drape over bowl hump (small water cups work, too--use plastic wrap as separator). Transfer to board –cut rays if desired—begin stamping designs (use hand made stamps - or various gadgets and found items)—radial balance—concentric--and cover with plastic.

  2. Day 2: sketch drawing with needle tool. Cut straw hole. Begin adding textures, carving designs, and adding pieces (in relief). (Teacher demo facial features)

  3. Day 3,4,5, etc. Continue adding pieces and incising designs (depending how elaborate you want to get). Leave uncovered to dry. Bisque fire.

  4. Glaze with one good coat of a contrasting color. When dry, sponge off glaze on raised areas, leaving glaze in lines and textures (Mishima) Clear glaze on top. Glaze fire.

  5. Alternate finishes: Underglaze then coat with clear -- paint with Acrylic Paint. — or paint black then highlight with gold Rub 'n Buff..

Elementary lesson:

This was a one day lesson. Students used a sun face mold for the face. Circles were cut from slab and humped over small water dishes (using paper towel separator. Student used all sorts of gadgets to stamp designs (LEGOs, patterns stamps set and hand made stamps) - radial balance. After bisque firing, suns were painted with India ink. which dried fairly quickly - then the students applied Rub 'n Buff. to the raised surfaces.


Evaluation: Did Students:
1. Successfully create and glaze a "Sun" plaque using the ideas gathered? Does the sun show understanding of Radial balance? Did students understand and explain symbolism?



Accommodation: Use small face mold for center face

Extension/Enrichments: Make own stamp—own symbolism


Related Web Sites:

Web Site Title: The Aztec Calendar
URL: (Archive)
Description: Graphics—explains symbols of the Aztec "Stone of the Fifth Sun"


Web Site Title: Mesoamerican Art Page- Aztec Art
URL: (Archive) (Archive) (Archive)
Description: Three pages of images with explanation— Click on thumbnails to see larger image


Web Site Title: Thorshof


SUN From the 'Gods of England' series by Thorskegga Thorn.
Thorshof is the Norse word for a temple of Thor, the best loved god of the pagan Icelanders. Myths of the Germanic Tribes, the Scandinavians, and the Anglo-Saxons.


Core Knowledge Lesson Plan: Aztec, Inca, Maya - no longer online.
Picasso Suns (or Mexican Folk Art) Lesson Plan



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