Pottery Pigs

28 Oct

I just finished teaching three separate 6-week pottery classes. One of our favorite projects was these Piggy Banks:

The kids did a spectacular job . . . don’t you think? And some of them were very young. The boring one with the “normal” eyes is mine. I was going to teach the kids to do eyes like that, but they got way out ahead of me, and I’m so glad they did! They required a lot of help inputting the bodies together, but they figured out on their own how to do the embellishments such as eyes and noses and tails. The pigs’ legs are coil-built and were added to the bodies along with the eyes and such.

To make these pigs, I had the kids pound thick clay slabs over some bisqued bowls I had made earlier. (I had trimmed the bottoms of the bisqued bowls round so that they could be used either as slump or hump molds.)

They each made two bowls.  We hardened the clay in our little cheapie microwave oven for one minute at a time, a total of two minutes per piece, with a waiting period between hardening sessions. The first time in the microwave, you can leave the clay on the bisqued bowl, but you should take it off the bisqued bowl the second time, or it might shrink too much and crack.

Once both bowls are hardened, you can scratch and slip and join the two pieces to make one hollow form. This is where the kids needed the most help. It’s a tricky operation, especially for little hands. Adding the features is the fun part. Mostly, we did that at a second session (our classes are an hour and a half). When the pigs’ bodies have set for a week, even wrapped in plastic, they will be stiffened up a little and a lot easier to work with.

Be sure that any hollow enclosed spaces (such as the pig’s nose) have a hole in them. Nostrils are a good place for this. Also, if your kids use any thick pieces of clay, poke some air channels in them with a needle tool to allow moisture to easily exit the piece. I try to do this in a spot that won’t be visible, but really, these tiny holes seldom show through the glaze.

The piggy banks have a slot in the top for coins and a hole in the bottom to let kids get their money out. You won’t want to break these pigs! You can get stoppers at most ceramic suppliers. For cone six stoneware, the total shrinkage of the clay will be usually around 12-13%, but ask your clay supplier. You need to know for sure. Measure the circumference of your stoppers (make sure they’re large enough to let quarters fall out) and add 12-13% or whatever your clay shrinkage percentage is, then make a hole that size. Don’t make it too big–if it’s a wee bit small, that’s okay because the stoppers have some give to them. I gave the kids a patern to cut around.

When you make the slot in the top of the pigs, be sure to allow for shrinkage there, too, and make it wide enough as well as long enough.

Oh, and when figuring out how big to make the coin holes, you need to keep in mind one more thing. Cone 6 clay has accomplished half of its shrinkage when it has reached firm leather hard stage. Therefore, if you have allowed your banks to reach leather-hard stage before cutting the holes, you need to add half the shrinkage percentage instead of the total shrinkage. So if your supplier tells you that your clay will shrink 12.5%, and your clay has reached firm leather hard stage, it has already shrunk 6.25% (or thereabouts).

If you find that some of your kids have cut their holes a little large, you can get a larger stopper or a tapered stopper like a natural cork. If you’d rather not do that, you can add a bead of silicone around your stopper’s rim, and smooth it to a taper and let it dry. This will most likely be sufficient to fix any loose stoppers.

This isn’t my usual detailed tutorial, and if you have questions that I haven’t addressed here or covered in an earlier post, feel free to ask. I had really intended to only publish the photographs, but this is such a fun project, I thought you might want a few more details.

God bless,


4 Responses to “Pottery Pigs”

  1. teaescapade November 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm #

    It must be wonderful to work with children, especially teaching them art. When the kids were younger they used to enjoy art projects of all kinds from making soap to drawing and everything in between. I wish I had your skill with clay.

    Keep up the excellent work – the kids did a great job with their pigs.

  2. cindyinsd December 3, 2008 at 4:54 am #

    Hi, Teaescapade

    Yes, it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy teaching my one adult class, too, though. If you’re interested, you should think about taking a class near you. It’s a great way to relax.

    The pigs are a particular favorite of mine. It’s so much fun to see what my little teachers/students will come up with next. 🙂


  3. Helen December 17, 2008 at 10:13 pm #

    Hi Cindy
    Thank you so much for putting your work & tips etc on the internet – browsing your pages have been invaluable & inspirational truly!
    I am an artist educator and recently got thrown in the deep end teaching pottery to gifted & talented pupils…finding your site has just proved a total blessing!
    Thank you so much for helping me & not even knowing it.
    Warmest regards
    Helen Ward

  4. cindyinsd December 18, 2008 at 3:51 am #

    Thanks, Helen!

    It’s really encouraging to know this site is helping people. If you have any questions as you work through any of the projects (or other projects), please feel free to ask.

    I’m hoping to post some new projects soon–as you can imagine, this season is keeping me busy. We’ve done a lot of cute things since I posted the pigs and I’m eager to share them.

    God bless,


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