Clay thumb owls are a great way to introduce clay making to little kids because they’re small, portable and setup is easy. In the classroom I use Long Horn White with grog (tiny particles mixed with the clay ) and fire to cone 5.
First make a small clay ball, about the size of your palm and flatten the bottom by gently tapping on the table.
Next, twist the ball of clay onto your thumb, slowly pressing down, until the bottom of the ball reaches your knuckle.
Then slowly squeeze the middle of your clay ball around your thumb, the bottom of your clay ball should now reach the bottom of your thumb. Since clay shrinks during firing, make the hole in your owl larger then your thumb by wiggling your thumb around, slowly stretching the base.
Carefully twist the owl form off your thumb and, again, tap the bottom against the table. At this point you can shape your owl using nimble fingers. Remember clay absorbs moisture, the more you touch the clay the drier it gets so work quickly but be gentle. I tell my students it’s like holding an egg.
Now it’s time to decorate your owl. You can use anything that’s close at hand, I like to use marker caps for eyes because my owls have LARGE eyes.
You can go the traditional route, or more modern, but I like my owls textured with feathers. Any sort of fine tool can be used to jab into the clay like a sharpened pencil or a toothpick.
Don’t forget to date and sign the bottom…
Now it’s time to let your clay thumb owl dry, about a 3 day process. If your owl isn’t finished then wrap it with a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic bag or Ziplock. No kiln, no problem, you can do the same project using air dry clay or Crayola’s Model Magic and color with markers.
For glazing in the classroom I use Mayco’s Stroke & Coat which can be used on greenware (clay that has has not been fired) or bisque (fired for the first time). Stroke & Coat saves time and energy as it needs only one firing, but remember always follow directions, use a minimum of two coats even for the smallest detail, and never paint the bottom as it can stick to your kiln shelf.