Storyteller Figures from the American Southwest

Objectives, Time and Materials

Learning Objectives

  • Students will discover how artists create their work.
  • Students will identify and describe characteristic features of Native American storyteller figures.
  • Students will listen to or read stories from Pueblo culture of the sort that a live storyteller - representated here in clay - might tell.
  • Students will identify a person that has been important to them.
  • With this person as inspiration, students will construct a clay sculpture depicting one large and several small human figures.
  • Students will add decorative color elements to their sculpture.
  • Students will write about the process.

Time required

Completion of this center will take four to seven class periods: 

  • one or two for the introduction, hearing stories and planning
  • two (or, optimally, one longer period) for sculpting
  • one or two for glazing or painting
  • one for assessment, sharing and display

Integral to planning a glazed clay project is an understanding of the drying time necessary before being fired and the teacher's work outside of the class period firing the kiln, first with the green ware (bone dry clay pieces) and then the glazed bisque ware (already fired once).  Firing can take 24 hours from loading to unloading. If you are using clay that will be fired in a kiln, there will need to be a drying period of a week or two between the sculpting and firing steps. Glazed bisque ware also needs at least one day to dry before it can be fired. This is vitally important, as any moisture in the green or bisque ware will turn into steam and the works will explode in the kiln during firing.

If, however, you are utilizing self-hardening clay, clay that hardens without being fired, you will not need drying and firing time.

Classroom Resources

  • Clay Sculpture Plan document (see classroom activities section) or paper for planning sketches
  • Pencils, erasers and colored pencils.

For fired clay projects

  • A kiln, terracotta or white clay, 1/2 to 1 pound per person
  • Clay tools and/or pencils, popsicle sticks, tooth picks, and plastic forks and knives
  • Water dishes
  • Semi-moist underglaze decorating color sets
  • Small, medium and large soft bristle brushes
  • Clear transparent liquid gloss glaze
  • Paper to cover the work areas, a large plastic trash bag for each group, paper towels and a spray bottle for water
  • Sponges for clean-up

For air-dry clay projects:

  • Self-hardening clay such as Marblex
  • Clay tools and/or pencils, popsicle sticks, tooth picks, and plastic forks and knives
  • Water dishes
  • Tempera or watercolor paints
  • Small, medium and large soft bristle brushes
  • Matte or gloss medium
  • Paper to cover the work areas
  • Sponges for clean-up