Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

14.3 Making Stone Tools and Art From Clay


14.3: Making Stone Tools and Art From Clay

Clay is the mineral kaolin, and it‘s been used throughout human history and prehistory because it‘s soft and easily shaped when moist yet bakes rock hard to create water-tight vessels and other tools. Using designs you find in books on North American Indians, lead your kids in fun activities fashioning pots, vessels, and beads from clay.

a) Pots and Vessels. In leading kids in this activity, first stock up on a big supply of modeling or pottery clay that‘s either self-hardening or that may be fire-hardened in a standard oven (or, if you have one available, a potter‘s kiln). Have kids start by flattening a circle of clay for a base, using their hands or a rolling pin. Next, have them make long 'ropes' of clay by rolling a lump of clay between their palms. They then coil their clay rope around the base, building upwards and making and adding new lengths of clay rope as needed until they have a pot or vessel of just the right size they want.

Your kids then have several options. They can leave the pot just as it is. Or they can make hash-mark (///////) or X (XXXXX) patterns or other interesting designs all around their clay ropes by pressing into the clay with their fingernails, feathers, or twigs. Or they might massage the sides of their pots smooth with their fingers and paint a design on the outside. Then bake the pots hard in an oven or let them self-harden.

If you have pottery artists in your club, get together with them for more creative ideas and for more sophisticated techniques.

b) Beads. Have kids roll clay into small balls, ovals, cylinders, etc., for beads, and pierce holes in each bead with kabob sticks before baking them hard. Combine them with other natural materials such as wood, seeds, shells, and feathers and string them all together to create necklaces and bracelets.

Note: You might consider applying this activity toward the Lapidary Arts badge, as well (Activity 4.4).