Wild & Wiry Clay Birds

As promised, the clay bird tutorial is here!

Step One:

Make lots of clay slabs for the kiddos. I use Amaco white Art Clay #25 because I love the way the glazes look on the white clay. I was able to purchase a slab roller for the art room and I LOVE IT! Not only does it roll slabs in a flash, it has saved my arm muscles lots of pain from throwing & rolling them out manually.

Step Two:

Here are most of the tools that I use to make this bird: clay slip, round cutter for making the head (or they can be cut by hand), blunt tapestry needle for cutting, mil straws for maing holes, seashell for making feathers on the wing, toothbrush for scoring & slipping. In addition, I used old marker lids for the eyes, which is shown in a later step.

Step Three:

From the clay slabs, cut out these shapes- large half circle for the body, small half circle for the wing, circle for the head, and triangle for the beak.

Step Four:

Begin assembling the parts.

Dip the toothbrush into the slip and use it to score or rough up the back of the wing and attach it to the body shape as shown.

Score and slip the head into place above the wing.

(The head can go on either end, depending on which way you want the bird to face.)

Score and slip the beak into place, pressing it slightly to the head.

Step Five:

Add the eye. I have collected a variety of old marker lids that have a star design on the top.

When pressed in to the clay, they make an awesome design for the eye.

Step Six:

Add the feathers to the wing by pressing the back of a seashell into the clay.

Step Seven:

Bore the holes using the milk straw.

Make two at the top for hanging, three in the tail, and two on the belly for the legs.

Step Eight:

Smooth out all of the edges by sipping your fingers in the slip and running them over the edges.

Step Nine: Allow the clay to dry completely and then fire as directed in the kiln.

I decided to make a differently shaped bird. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Some pics of the kiddos making their birds.

Step Ten:

After the birds come out of the kiln, glaze the body one color and the head and wing another color. Don't worry about making them match because they are wild! We used Mayco Crystalites glazes for the bodies and Stroke & Coat glazes for the head, wing, eye, and beak.

Step Eleven:

Refire the birds in the kiln, as directed.

Step Twelve:

Decorate the bird using a variety of embellishments. We used pipe cleaners (LOVE the striped ones), ribbon (organza works well), Mizuhiki Cords, Twisteez Wire (a MUST for the legs), and thin wire for hanging.

Add the tail:

Thread the ribbon through the holes in the tail. I have found that it is best to add the ribbons first, as they take up the most room. Students used their tapestry needles to push the ribbon through the holes. Line up the ribbon so that half on the ribbon is on either side of the hole, as shown.

Tie a knot in the ribbon.

Add one ribbon to each hole using the same method as above.

Next, add the other embellishments, such as the pipe cleaners. Push the pipe cleaner through the hole and twist the ends together.

Make a few curls to the pipe cleaner to add some flair.

Continue adding the other embellishments to the tail. If using Mizuhiki cords, knot them on.

Some of the kiddos decorating their birds.

Step Twelve:

Add the legs to the bird using Twisteez wire. They come in a variety of colors and are the length shown at the top of the photo below. We cut the cord in half and gave each student ONE wire. The students then cut their wire in half to make two legs, as shown at the bottom of the photo.

Put the wire through one of the holes in the belly, match up the ends, and twist the wire until you almost get to the end. Save a little wire at the ends to make the feet.

Bend the extra wire up and back in to the legs, as shown below.

Bend both loops of the foot forawrd to make the foot, as shown.

Add the other wire leg as directed above.

Step Thirteen:

Add a thin ribbon to the top holes for hanging.


View our entire aviary of birds on Artsonia.


  1. adorable - i haven't tried this, but it's now on my list. thanks for sharing!

  2. Oooh- LOVE it! Seems to be one of those projects where everyone turns out a success! And I am SO jealous of your slab roller.... every year I think about spending half of my budget on one!

  3. These are simply gorgeous- Well done! I will definitely be trying this project! Thanks for sharing it!

  4. These are TO DIE FOR!!! I can't wait to do this project!!!

  5. You are an amazing Art teacher! I really appreciate all of the time it tokk you to photograph and write up the entire lesson. I am a very visual learner (aren't all art teachers?)
    so I need the photo's! Thanks again and I will definitely send you pic's when we do the project.


  6. Thank you for your blog! What a great way to help keep art in our schools and give teachers (and parents) ideas to help. Keep up the great work.


  7. oooo this is such a love project thanks for sharing

  8. LOVE these birds!!!! You know we love anything with wings. :-) -Jill (Things With Wings)

  9. I am going to do these with my students this week! Thanks for such great photos.

  10. Man,I don't know how I missed this but it's fab! I can think of lots of variations...even tree ornaments for the holidays! Cool project!

  11. I loved this in school arts or arts and activities. I no longer subscribe...but this lesson made my subscription worth while last year. Great tutorial.

  12. And so easy! This is a great looking piece of art! Thanks for the idea.

  13. Love these!! I've just found my clay project for the term. Thanks so much for sharing and the excellent instructions.


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