Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to make a ceramic pottery owl out of clay...

I have a really fun clay project for you. I've been working on these little owls for a while now, and I think I've come up with a design anyone can make! These little owls are adorable (which I know is an oxymoron when you consider owls are one of the most fierce and deadly predators in the sky), but it's true. These little statues are downright cute, and you won't be happy with just one. With Halloween around the corner, only a slew will do...

Miniature ceramic pottery owls
A "slew" of owls is really called a parliament. Make your own by following the simple steps below... 

Step-by-step instructions on how to make a miniature owl figurine out of clay
Step 1. Roll out a small ball of clay, and put a dent on top to form the ear tufts.
The owls I've been making are tiny, which is what makes them so darn cute. They range from 1/2 inch to two inches tall, but you can make them any size. Start by rolling out a small ball of clay, then use your finger to press a dent into the top to form the ear tufts...
First step in a series on making owls out of clay.
A marble-sized ball of clay makes about a 3/4 inch tall owl, and a small superball-sized ball of clay makes about a 1 3/4 inch tall owl. Experiment with different sizes. 
Step 2. Press both pinky fingers into the clay near the top dent to make the facial discs.
Try to make the discs even, but don't go crazy if they are slightly off. You can always even out the clay later, or let them go as is--uneven eyes often give the owl more character...
This is a superball-sized ball of clay. If you want to make a tinier owl using a marble-sized ball of clay, use the eraser on the tip of a pencil to make the facial discs.
You can already start to see the shape of an owl emerging!
Step 3. Further define the facial discs. 
Press the flat end of a craft knife or other clay tool into the facial discs you created with your pinkies...
Simple instructions for making an owl out of clay.
Owls have forward facing eyes like humans do, so make sure you keep the facial discs facing forward. You can vary how deeply you press into the clay. On some owls, I go shallow, but on other, I press harder to make a deeper disc. Experiment to find the look you like.
Step 4. Create the feathers in the facial discs. 
Representations of owls often have radiating lines surrounding the eyes. We have learned to look for this clue when identifying iconic owl shapes, so go ahead and create those lines. It's easy to do with a loop tool. Start in one place and work your way around. After you've gone around once, go back again to scruff it up a bit...
As soon as you add textured lines to the facial disc, the shape is even more recognizable as an owl!
Step 5. Form the eyes. 
First roll out a tiny ball. It should be smaller than a pea. Next, using a craft knife, cut the ball in half. Each half will be an eye on the owl. Roll each half into a ball and wet the halves down a bit...
To create two equally sized eyes, split one ball in half. 
Step 6. Place the eye in the facial disc. 
Wet each tiny eye with water from a spray bottle so it will adhere to the center of the facial disc. Place the eye with your fingertip. Once the eye is in place, tamp it down with the end of a craft knife or other clay tool...
Gently place the eye in the center of the facial disc. Make sure the tiny ball of clay is wet so it adheres well. Tamp it down with the flat end of a clay tool when you're happy with its placement.
Step 7. Create the chest feathers. 
Small indentations help create the look of chest feathers and further define the front of the owl. These can be as variable as you wish. I use the curved and tapered end of a small loop tool and press gently into the clay while supporting the back of the owl. It's easy to press too hard and throw the shape of the owl out of whack. You can create a precise pattern or a random arrangement. I usually prefer random, but I like to follow the contour of the facial disc because that helps to separate the face from the body. It also helps intensify the illusion of a beak...
Creating chest feathers on a clay owl with the wooden end of a clay loop tool.
It's easy to create the illusion of feathers using the curved end of a clay loop tool. Creating this border helps make the owl's face more believable. Our minds can fill in lots of blanks. All you really need to do is supply a few hints.
Step 8. Form the wings (optional step). 
If you want your owl to have wings, make them using your thumb print! Simply press your thumb into a small ball of clay to flatten it out. Then trace out your thumbprint and give it a little flare at the top and finish with a straight line. Cut the wing out with a crafting knife...
Use your thumb to make a tiny wing.
For these miniature owls, your thumbprint is the perfect size for a wing! 
After you flatten the ball of clay to the proper thickness, trace out your thumbprint. Flare it out at the end a bit and square off the top.
Two little owl wings waiting for an owl body! (I never make these wings exactly the same. When making an owl, the body is usually not perfectly symmetrical and variances in the wing shape add to the owl's charm.) 
Step 9. Adhere the wings to the body. 
Again...wings on these miniature owls are optional. I only put wings on about 1/3 of my owls. The design does not require them, but it's fun to add the extra detail. To adhere a wing, first "score" the surface. Scoring helps one piece of clay stick to another. If you don't score the surface, the addition might fall off during firing. To score clay, use either a clay needle, a craft knife, or a pencil to rough up the surface. Then wet down the scored areas, and stick the wing on the owl...
Scoring the wing
Scoring the surface of the clay will help one piece of clay stick to another. Be sure to use a little water to help "cement" the pieces together. 
wings for a clay owl
Place the wet, scored wing on the owl and position it properly. The water helps you move the clay around a little until you find the perfect place.
Take a few swipes along the flat end piece to blend it into the body. Do not blend in the part of the wing that is in front.
Step 10. Wait... 
It can take up to two weeks for a solid clay figurine to dry completely (just because it's dry on the outside does not mean it's dry on the inside). Once it dries, it can be bisque fired. Bisque firing changes the clay into ceramic material. When it comes out of the kiln, it will be hard and white...and ready for glazing.
Cute miniature owl made out of clay
Whooooo are you?
Our little owl needs to sit and dry. It can take up to two weeks.
How to make an owl
Owls come in all shapes and sizes...tall and thin, short and square. It's fun to play around with the different shapes. Also pay attention to their ear tufts. Not all owls have the pointy feathers. Look at the guy in the background. He barely has any ear tufts. I've also left wings off him to emphasize his tall, thin body.
Clay owls waiting to dry and then be fired.
A parliament of owls waiting to dry. 
Check out all the different shapes, sizes, and ear tuft styles. You can also see some have wings and some don't. Pretty much...anything goes when it comes to making owls!  
Step 11. Glaze the owl. 
Go crazy with the glazes and mix them up. I used a combination of all the browns, golds, and beiges to create depth. Some of the designs are based on real owls, while others are pure imagination and use only iconic shapes and clues to let you know it's an owl.

Step 12. Fire it again. 
Once you've glazed the piece, fire it again. This final firing will melt the glaze (powdered glass suspended in water) and fuse it to the bisqueware. After the glaze firing, your little owl is finished!

Other ideas:
By putting a small hole in the top, you can hot glue in a ribbon or a leather strip to make a Christmas tree ornament or a necklace! For Halloween you can hang several owl ornaments on a dead branch in a vase or on a little Halloween tree for a bird lover's cute seasonal decoration.

Natural looking owl Christmas ornament.
These cute little owls make great Christmas tree ornaments. The tiniest owls look really cute on a necklace as well.

For other easy step-by-step clay projects with a birdy theme, click here.
For this project, I used low-fire clay and Colors for Earth translucent glazes.

25 comments:

Kerri Farley said...

What an awesome idea!! and your instructions are great!!! I LOVE those Owls!!!

Lynn Dylan said...

Very cute!!

Montanagirl said...

I love Owls, so this was a delightful post!

Paul Krusling said...

Thank you Kelly! You make it look easy and fun!!

Tammie Lee said...

these most certainly are adorable! wonderful to see how you made them Kelly.

Roy Norris said...

They are cute Kelly.
Is there no end to your talents.{:))

Our photos said...

I love your owls!
Greetings, RW & SK

Our photos said...

I love your owls!
Greetings, RW & SK

Janice K said...

They are so cute. It looks like fun to do also.

Sue said...

How sweet-and looks like a great project for a rainy day.

Elva Paulson said...

Wonderful post, Kelly! Your owls are sweet.

Midmarsh John said...

A simple but very effective design.

Kelly said...

Thanks, everyone. If you make one of these owls, let me know. I'd LOVE to see your creation. I've had a few requests for ideas on how to glaze these little cuties. I will try to put a post together with steps to glaze an owl where I list out the specific glazes I use. I'll also put a few examples up of what different glazes look like. Thanks, again!!

WoodSong said...

how utterly adorable! thanks for sharing the instructions on how you make these. You have a very interesting blog, I'll def. be back :)

WoodSong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thatoneoldguy said...

thats simply too cool. thank you for sharing!

Amazing wonders in my life said...

Cute ones...

Solange Belém said...

Olá, eu trabalho com argila e achei de grande inspiração esse trabalho que você fêz. Parabéns, lindo trabalho!

Congrats


Sol Belém

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

OMG, you are too talented, you paint and sculpt. I am blown away with your creativeness. Do you have a kiln?

We had to downsize to a smaller place, I would not keep up a big house and I had to get rid of my kiln and I miss it so. BUT I donated it to an art center for folks with disabilities so it will be well used.

You aught to sell your works of art.

Kelly said...

...thanks, Tammy!! I have a very small kiln at home, but I go to a pottery studio (It's Just Mud in Cincinnati) once a week, and use Pam's large kiln. I might start selling some of my pottery. I get lots of requests! :-) thanks...

Robyn Gist said...

I love your owls! Thank you so much for sharing!

sandy said...

Ohh love this post - might try it myself (probably not knowing me)....but these are darling.

Sara Balash said...

Love love love your step by step instructions on how to make these wonderful owls. They are so adorable. I will have to try this in our studio soon! thanks for sharing. I will be sharing on our Facebook Page for everyone to check out!

Kelly said...

Hi Robyn...Thank you!!

Hi Sandy....thank you....you should try it. They are so easy and cute. I have one sitting on my computer right now. He's adorable!

Hi Sara! Thank you!! You will love making these little owls. I played with the design many times and found this is the simplest way to get a cute and easy owl. :-) Hoot!

Jocelyn said...

So wonderful! They could be done in polymer clay as well, and washes of acrylic!