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Unit 2 Lesson Plan

"IMPRESS"ive Pinch Pot Vases

Print Version [MS Word] [Rich Text File]

Alternate Plan: Good for use if time is short or for leaving with a substitute.

[A descriptive form of the lesson can be found on the Overview of Unit 2 page.]

Pinch pot vases are reasonably simple to make and so, are a great first project. These vases incorporate the construction method of scoring and slipping with additive coils. Students learn the parts of a vase, devise several types of their own creation drawing them as thumbnail sketches, and produce at least three. Designs are impressed, or stamped into the clay in a pattern on two sides of each vase. Finally, students will test different glazes on the vases.

Primary Learning Outcome:

Familiarity with the qualities of the medium one is working with is important in the creation of art. Students will understand and practice manipulation of the type of clay available to them. They will discover and perfect basic construction methods and decorative methods, as well as observing the qualities of basic commercial glazes over textured and smooth surfaces. This is also a good time for students to learn how to set up, put away, and properly use the equipment, materials, and tools they need to create their products.

Materials and Equipment:

Liquid wax for wax resist, Commercial glazes, Clay, Kiln, Work surface for clay, Clay tools, Cups, Water Supply, At least one small bowl for each student for pouring glazes, Internet connection

Handouts and Worksheets Needed:

  • Ceramic Glossary
  • Pinch Pot Handout
  • Pinch Pot Rubrics


  • The student will create vases using the pinch method,
  • The student will use stamping and impressing methods of decoration on his/her vase,
  • The student will use pre-made glazes to glaze his/her vase,

Technology Connection:

Students view the pinch pots of 2 contemporary artists through the use of a TV and scan converter and Internet connection.


  1. Using a scan converter and TV and an image of a vase or a real vase or some other form of demonstration, go over the parts of a vase. The definitions of the parts of a vase are on the Glossary web page or the Glossary attachment.
  2. Have needed materials listed on the board and have one station (teacher demonstration) set up properly. For example, there should be an appropriate surface, whether a board or tabletop; ceramic tools; small cup of slip; clay; etc. Point out where materials are located and have them set up their own space. I always have students learn where to find their materials and how they are stored and even let them reorganize them if they like. This seems to work better for set-up and put away duties. Once each station is set up, demonstrate how to form the clay into two small balls about the size of golf balls or small tangerines. Be sure that they understand not to overwork the clay by continuously flattening it, breaking it apart, etc. as that will dry it out and may work in air bubbles.
  3. Demonstrate how to make a pinch pot and have students start to make their own. Explain how to work in a spiral from the bottom up. Another tip to give is to have them work the pot up side down so that the movements of the thumb do not widen out the mouth of the pot. The two pots should be half-sphere shaped and as identical as possible. Look at this web tutorial on making pinch pots if you have forgotten how or want to show a student. Walk around and make sure that the thickness of the pots is about ¼ inch and fairly even. They may need to practice this step.
  4. Once most students have two pots made, have everyone stop for a moment to watch another demonstration. Show students how to score and slip the edges of the two bowls together to create a sphere or egg shaped form. Again, walk around among the students to see that they are doing it correctly. The Ceramic Glossary has a good explanation of what scoring and slipping is.
  5. Demonstrate how to carefully cut a hole in the top of the sphere/egg shape for attaching the neck. Again, walk around and ensure that students are correctly and carefully cutting their holes. You can use the Pinch Pot Handout for this step.
  6. Demonstrate how to attach a coil to the hole in the top and how to pinch it out into a longer, narrower shape. Make the lip of the mouth a little thinner than the rest of the vase. Check student progress.
  7. Demonstrate attaching a coil to the bottom for a foot. Again, check student progress. If these steps take more than one class period, ensure that student mark their initials or name on the bottom of the vase. Wrap the incomplete works snugly in plastic [grocery bags will do] and put them carefully in boxes. I use one box labeled for each table of three or four students. This makes it easier for students to find their own work the next day without damaging each other’s work.
  8. Demonstrate to students how to use the top or bottom of a small plastic or paper cup to impress overlapping circles or curves into the pot. Create patterned textures in the shapes created by the cup by means of stamping an object over and over in each. For instance, the back end of a ballpoint pen cap can be pressed over and over in one shape, the side of a button repeated in another. Have them leave some shapes smooth for contrast.
  9. When demonstration pots are completed, loosely lay a piece of plastic over them and set them aside to dry. This will cause the pots to dry a little more evenly. If plastic is not lightly draped over them, the tops will tend to dry too quickly.
  10. Hand out the Pinch Pot Rubrics and go over the expectations. If you have students keep their rubrics in their notebooks, they can refer back to them when needed. As projects are completed, students can bring the completed work to the grading area with the rubric. An online rubric can also be displayed or used for reference.
  11. Explain that they will be creating 10 thumbnail sketches of possible pinch pot vases that meet the rubric criteria. Hand out the rubric and go over the criteria. Make sure students have their sketchbooks or paper and pencils to sketch with. Let them know that they do not need to start sketching yet; that you are going to show them the pinch pots of two contemporary artists. Make sure everyone can see the TV with the scan converter attached to your computer and show the work of Kristen Doner [PowerPoint Presentation] and Ava Bhavsar [online].
  12. Once students have viewed the work of the above artists, get them started on their thumbnail sketches. Let them know that anything goes when jotting down ideas, but that at least 10 must meet the stated criteria. Leave the computer set up so that students can go back through the work of the artists if they like. This step should be done thoroughly.
  13. Once thumbnail sketches have been approved, allow students to get started on their work. Work with students checking the thickness of the sides, the smoothness of the seams, etc. If a student is making the sides too thick, hand him/her the demo piece to feel as you explain again how thick it should be. It is important to have the student see and handle correctly done pieces as much as possible. It is also important for them to see that you are interested in having them do their work neatly. A common mistake is students scratching designs into the clay. Demonstrate the difference in how each feels after firing. Scratched looks and feels rough and amateurish; impressed feels and looks smooth and professional.
  14. In the meantime, while students are working on their vases, fire the practice vases. After they are fired, you will do this step even if you need to interrupt student work on their vases. Demonstrate the pouring method of glazing, using wax resist on the bottom of the pots if you have it. You can even have students water down the glaze a bit and pour two coats over one area so that they can see the difference the quantity of glaze makes on a fired piece.
  15. Fire the glazed pieces while students continue to make their three pinch vases. Once the demonstration pieces are fired, set them out for a critique of technique and glazing. A student worksheet is supplied for individual critiquing.
  16. When critiquing applied art -- art objects that will be used, as these vases will -- use the same four steps of description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment. The final step, judgment, has the added criteria of “how well does it fulfill its purpose?”

Student Work: This is a gallery of student pinch pot vases.

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Page last modified: 02 February, 2013