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Fairytales, Fables, Nursery Rhymes & Folklore: Hand Built Clay Lesson Plan

By thatbluegirl

A fun clay lesson where high school students will use hand-building techniques in order to create a character based on a story of their choice.

Lesson Procedures

For this project, students will reflect back to their younger days and the stories that they read, or were read to them. Many artists base their work on literature and/or writing. One artist is Carrianne Hendrickson. The first picture (in the images) is an example of her work. Check out her work on the Internet at:

Hendrickson Sculpture

Carrianne frequently creates work based on story characters. An example is with her figure “Malcolm McGee.” For this project, students are going to choose a storybook character and create him/her/it, out of clay.


  • Choose a character from a fairy tale, fable, nursery rhyme, or other favorite story you have read or heard as a child.
  • Before working with clay, develop sketches.
  • Create the sculpture out of clay.

The character must be from a story, can be posed in any way, and be a person or animal. The character should have something to make it identifiable, for example Red Riding Hood has a red cape and basket. Students should also be made aware that they are creating THEIR OWN character and not copying the work of another artist. For example, Disney turned The Little Mermaid into a cartoon classic. If students were to choose the story The Little Mermaid, their sculpture should not resemble Ariel from the popular Disney cartoon.

The job of an illustrator is to tell a story, using only pictures. For this project, the character should be able to tell us, a part of a story. It might help for students to think in terms of cartoons rather than realistic and use exaggerated features. Using bright colors and patterns while glazing helps add to a storybook feeling. Adding texture while sculpting is easier than adding texture with glaze.

Things Students Should Contemplate:

  • How they are going to arrange their figure: standing, sitting, etc. and how to do that. They may want to have some kind of a pedestal.
  • Thickness of clay: some areas may need hollowing out or allow for excessive drying time.
  • How they are going to join arms and legs: they can all be joined with clay, or joined with fishing wire after firing puppet/marionette style, or other ideas.
  • Will they glaze, use underglaze, or paint their sculpture?


Malcolm McGee by HendricksonStudent Sample: Ugly DucklingStudent Sample: One of the 3 Blind MiceStudent Sample: ThumbelinaStudent Sample: Tinkerbell