Animal Sculpture with Air-Dry Clay

Kids LOVE using clay, maybe more than any other art medium, yet most schools and homes do not have a kiln for fir­ing. If this is your sit­u­a­tion, don’t let this stop you from shar­ing the expe­ri­ence of work­ing with clay with your stu­dents! Cray­ola Air Dry Clay is a good alter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional clay that requires kiln fir­ing. We used the art of French sculp­tor Fran­cois Pom­pon as inspi­ra­tion for this fun sculpt­ing project.
“The Polar Bear” by Fran­cois Pompon


Check out these adorable ani­mal sculp­tures we made using Cray­ola Air Dry Clay!

First we learned a bit about French artist Fran­cois Pom­pon, who was an assis­tant to sculp­tor Auguste Rodin (“The Thinker”) before becom­ing a suc­cess­ful sculp­tor in his own right.

Pom­pon was known for his styl­ized ani­mals and his abil­ity to cap­ture the essence of an ani­mal with sim­ple shapes and a min­i­mum of detail.


Pom­pon is con­sid­ered to be a fore­run­ner of mod­ern sculpture.

Inspired by Pompon’s sim­pli­fied ani­mal designs (and lots of ref­er­ence pho­tos of ani­mals) we mod­eled our own unique ani­mal creations.


Fol­low these easy steps to cre­ate clay ani­mals of your own:

1. First, choose an ani­mal you would like to make, but be will­ing to allow it to “morph” into some­thing totally dif­fer­ent while you are work­ing on it!
2. Then, hold­ing your clay loosely in both hands, form your clay into a shape like a potato.
3. Next, squeeze one end slightly to cre­ate first a pear-like shape, then a
bowl­ing pin.
4. Use a craft stick to press a deep “+” into the “body” of your “bowl­ing pin”.
5. Stick your thumb into the cen­ter of the “+” and gen­tly pull out each
sec­tion to cre­ate four “legs”.
6. Finally, squeeze the other end to form the neck and head of your ani­mal.
Pieces of clay may be joined or added as needed by scor­ing and damp­en­ing the area with water. Be aware that any pieces that are less than 1/4” thick will be more frag­ile.
7. Add any details or tex­ture you would like and use a dull pen­cil to carve your
ini­tials on the under­neath side.

Cray­ola Air-Dry Clay is a fine, nat­ural white earth clay which air dries to a hard solid. Some­times it feels a lit­tle stiff when you first take it out of the con­tainer, but if you add a lit­tle water it soft­ens right up. (For small hands it helps to cut stiff clay into smaller pieces before adding the water, and then com­bine the pieces back together again.) You can use tra­di­tional clay tech­niques such as coil, pinch, slab, score and join, etc. You can also add tex­ture by carv­ing it or press­ing it with rub­ber stamps. You can even press beads or small stones directly into the clay, which is some­thing you can’t do with pot­tery clay that has to be fired. Then paint your cre­ation with water­color, acrylics or tem­pera when dry. Its main lim­i­ta­tion is that it can­not be used near heat or flame, so you can’t put it in the oven or make can­dle hold­ers with it. (Cray­ola Air-Dry Clay comes in 2.5 lb. and 5 lb. tubs or a 25 lb. value pack. One of the 2.5 lb. tubs was enough to make four of these ani­mals. A 2.5 lb. tub sells for about $6.)

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2 Responses to Animal Sculpture with Air-Dry Clay

  1. ThatArtTeacher April 27, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Here’s an Egypt­ian clay project! I adapted the 4 canopic jars into a 2nd grade level clay project. Each jar even has a sim­pli­fied “organ” that cor­re­sponds with it.

    http://artistecommon.blogspot.com/2013/04/canopic-jar-heads.html
    ThatArt­Teacher recently posted..Canopic Jar Heads!!My Profile

    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Canopic jars with an “organ” that goes with each one — what an awe­some idea!! I bet your stu­dents LOVED this project!

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