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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