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Bonsai Plaque Lesson plan

Products Used

  • low-fire white clay
  • SC-15 Tuxedo
  • SC-6 Sunkissed
  • SC-97 Cant-elope
  • SC-75 Orange-A-Peel
  • SC-74 Hot Tamale
  • EL-142 Grass
  • EL-145 Ginger Root

Decorating Accessories

  • BT-910 Synthetic Sponge
  • CB-110 #10/0 Mini Liner
  • CB-404 #4 Pointed Round
  • CB-604 Soft Fan
  • X-10081 Xiem Tools Modeling & Carving Tools 

Miscellaneous Accessories


Designer: Bre Kathman


For grade levels 6-12

Bonsai is a Japanese art form involving pruning miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ. The Japanese art of Bonsai dates back over a thousand years and has evolved its own unique aesthetics and terminology. The oldest known Bonsai tree is over 1,000 years old and resides in Parabiago, Italy.

Bonsai has a set of common guidelines and styles that are followed to create an aesthetically pleasing tree. Bonsai trees can be categorized by: trunk, bark, roots, branch and overall shape.

Students will draw a bonsai tree that represents their personality, and then, using a paper transfer technique they will create a plaque out of clay.


  • Students will experience the use of clay techniques and processes.

  • Students will gain firsthand knowledge of how to transfer a drawing on paper to clay

  • Students will create textures to express real life objects

  • Students will learn the basic styles of Bonsai


  1. Roll a slab approximately ¾ inch thick
  2. Cut in a circle about 7 inches in diameter
  3. Cut the bottom of the slab straight across so your plaque can stand or be hung.
  4. Draw a bonsai tree on paper (no larger than 7 inches in any direction).
  5. Cut out the tree using x-acto knife or scissors (be sure to keep the negative of the cutout).
  6. Place the positive cutout on the slab where you want your tree and then place the negative cutout on the clay and smooth it with a dry sponge so there are no bumps.
  7. Remove the positive cut out.
  8. Using PSTS9MC-10081 tools, carve out where the trunk and limbs will be.
  9. Using a ballpoint pen, lightly tap to make indentations on the tree top.
  10. Remove the paper and clean up edges.
  11. Dry and bisque fire to cone (Δ) 04
  12. Mask off the tree, roots, and leaves with masking tape, using an x-acto knife to make the edges crisp.
  13. Paint 3 coats of a sunset in an Ombre style with the stroke and coat colors.
  14. Remove tape and paint 3 coats using EL 142 Grass on the leaves using a round brush and stippling technique to push the glaze into the small indentations of the leaves.
  15. Paint 3 coats with EL-145 Ginger Root on the branches, trunk, and roots of the tree.
  16. Paint edges with 3 coats of SC-15 Tuxedo.
  17. Let dry, stilt and fire to Cone (Δ) 06.

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