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Products Used


Cone 04 Terra Cotta Earthenware Clay

Molds/Press Tools

CD-776 Circle Slump/Hump Molds, CD-1222 Egyptian Design Press Tools, CD-1218 Egyptian Design Sprig Molds


Choose any assortment of Stroke & Coat Glazes or Mayco Underglazes

Additional Materials
Pencil, Paper Towels, Palette, 1⁄4” Wooden Slats, Rolling Pin, Canvas, Fabric-covered, Sandbag, Synthetic Sponge, Fettling (Plastic, Wooden) Knife, Toothpick (Pencil or Clay Carving Tools), Smoothing Rib, Shaping Ribs (for the neck), Compass, Wooden Dowels–Assorted Diameters (or Press Tools), Vinegar (or Slip), Glaze Brushes

egyptian vase


For grade levels 5-8

Pottery is one of the best sources of insight into ancient history. Students will create a piece of pottery in the style of Egyptian pottery, reflecting on the vessel’ s function and decorative symbols used in Egyptian culture. They will use molding forms (slump or hump molds) to shape the clay and use sprig molds and carving tools to create surface textures. Students may choose to use glazes and/or non-fired color to complete their piece.



  • Students will investigate the significance of early Egyptian pottery as a cultural document and recognize Egyptian pottery as a functional art form (burial purposes, food containers, vases, lamps)

  • Students will select historically accurate ancient Egyptian symbols, motifs , and subject matter to create a symmetrical ceramic vase.

  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of surface relief in Egyptian pottery by incorporating incised and applied (sprig) elements to their original hand built work

National Standards

  • Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
  • Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
  • Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas


Construction Technique:
  1. Use a slab roller to roll two slabs of clay to 1⁄4” thickness using wood slats as thickness guides. Alternative option: give each stu- dent two pounds of clay to make their own slabs. Place clay on canvas with 1⁄4” wooden slats to the left and right of the clay ball. Use a rolling pin to flatten the clay until it is a 1⁄4” thick slab. Slabs should be slightly wider than the outside perimeter of the mold. Note: Excess width is needed as the clay will be forced down into the concave mold. CD-776 circular mold is 5 3⁄4” in diameter – the outside perimeter of the mold can serve as a minimum cutting template.

  2. Form the Vase Halves: This project requires two slump halves (the concave portions) of CD-776 Circle Mold to create the vase. Center each slab on the mold and use the fabric-covered sandbag to lightly pounce the clay slab into the form 

  3. Carefully trim away excess clay from the top of the mold using fettling knife. Gather up the trimmings which will be used to cre- ate adornments. Note: Mayco’s molds are made of plaster and can be damaged if too much pressure is applied while using the trimming tool. Use a plastic bag or moist paper towel to prevent trimmings from drying out. 

  4. Create the Sphere: Leave the vase pieces in the mold until they are firm enough to handle (approximately 30 minutes). Note: The construction of the sphere may take one full class period. If it is necessary to keep the project moist until the next class period: wrap the sphere in moist paper towels and place inside a Ziploc bag. If the sphere is too dry to cut and carve next class pe- riod you can moisten the clay with a sponge.

  5. Score the top edge of each piece with a toothpick or needle tool. Lightly apply vinegar to the top edge of each piece. Note: The acetic acid in the vinegar “fizzes and bubbles” with the clay to create a glue-like sticky surface. Avoid excessive application of vinegar.

  6. Remove one half of the sphere by flipping one mold over onto your hand. Place this piece onto the other half which is still set- ting in the plaster mold. Adjust the halves until properly aligned.

  7. Let the sphere set for approximately one minute. Remove the completed sphere by flipping the mold over, dropping the sphere into your empty hand.


  8. Use a moistened sponge to smooth and clean the center seam. Place the sphere back into the mold half.Note: Should the sphere stick to the mold, lightly tap the mold to release the sphere. Be careful not to squeeze the sphere as too much pressure could cause the seam to burst. 

  9. Make Slip (Option to Using Vinegar): Take a small marble size piece of clay from the cut-away excess and place it in the small cup. Add about 3 tablespoons of water and mash the clay with your fingers until the clay/water mixtures is smooth and creamy. Note: The slurry created is called “slip”, which is liquid clay. Use instead of vinegar to attach clay additions and seal the center seam.

  10. Create a Design Plan & Tools: The exterior vase surface offers endless choices for decorative elements. Students should prepare a drawing of their design intentions that reflect learning objectives, classroom discussion and/or student preferences. Any design element based on sym- metry needs to be carefully planned. Note: A piece or cord or clay wire cutter can be used to line up and mark places for sprig add-ons.

  11. Design plans must also reflect the tools available to the stu- dents. Depending on student skill level design tools can be created using wooden dowels. Students can carve the ends of dowels to make specific symbols or designs. Cords, pieces of rope, edges of coins, also can be used. 

  12. Create and Apply Sprig Designs: Create sprig shapes using CD-1218. Press the clay into the sprig mold. Lay the fettling knife flat against the mold and trim away excess clay.

  13. Remove the sprig shape by flipping the mold over onto the palm of your empty hand and lightly slap the back of the sprig mold. Note: If sprig shape sticks to mold press a small ball of clay against the shape and pull it from mold.

  14. Place shape against bowl and outline the shape using a carving tool (toothpick or sharpened pencil). Remove shape and score the bowl’s exterior inside the outline just created.

  15. Score the back of the shape. Lightly apply vinegar to both scored areas and reattach the shape to the bowl. Brace the wall of the vase by placing a finger inside the vase at the loca- tion where the sprig will be attached. Smooth the edges around the sprig shape using a clay shaping tool. Note: The handle of a small brush can also be used to smooth the sprig’s edges.

  16. Surface Carving & Etching: With the clay sphere still in the mold gently press and carve de- signs into the exterior. Excessive carving pressure may punc- ture the wall of the vase. Note: The mold provides stability and strength during the texturing process. 

  17. Vase Neck: Mark the location and size of vase opening with a compass.

  18. The neck of the vase can be hand built or wheel thrown. Prepare a clay coil and create a ring the size of the neckopening that you will make. Place the coil on the vase and shape it using the tools available to you. Note: Any type of turntable or banding wheel will greatly assist the neck formation process. 

  19. Cut Vase Opening: Use a fettling knife to gently pierce a hole in the center of the vase opening area. Work the knife towards the inner edge of the vase neck, then gently work the knife completely around the inside edge of the vase. Work the knife slowly to avoid tearing the body and neck of the vase. Note: Only after all carving and surface markings are complete should the vase opening be cut. Removing the center excess clay may also be accomplished using a compass.

  20. Use finger to smooth the seam between the neck and interior of the vase. Note: Dab a little slip on cut edges or dip a finger in water if clay has become too dry. 

  21. Final Touches: Place a finger or thumb in the vase opening and gently flip the mold towards your finger to remove sphere from the mold. 

  22. Gently place your hand on top of the vase neck and push down ever so slightly. The objective here is to flatten the bot- tom of the vase until the vase sits on a table without rocking. Note: An alternative method to flattening the bottom is to lift the vase 1” to 2” above the table and drop the bowl once or twice. You can flatten the bowl after it dries by dipping the bottom of the bowl into water and then lightly twist repeatedly to the left and then to the right against a flat surface.

  23. Touch up any design work that might have been marred dur- ing the mold removal process.

  24. Smooth the lower exterior surface of the vase using a plastic rib or moistened sponge.

  25. Allow clay to completely dry and bisque fire together to shelf cone 04. Note: If glazes are used, bisque fire and glaze fire once after the glazes are applied.

  26. Glazing Options: Students may choose to add touches of color by highlight- ing the sprig add-ons and/or carved design work. Mayco’s Underglazes or Stroke & Coat® glazes can be applied to greenware.


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