Soup Can Textured Mugs: Clay project for grades 2-5

Roll out a 1.5 pound slab of clay
Every week, I try to either borrow a published lesson plan or make one of my own for my kid’s clay classes. This week the idea came to me from some tumblers I had made in the past few months. I asked each child to bring an empty can with them to class – though it’s wise to bring extras since there’s always a few who forget. I pre-rolled 15 1.5 pound slabs of low fire earthenware clay and brought them to class with me in the interest of saving time since our class time is only 2 hours long.

Use rolling pin to add texture
To make the mug a little more interesting, I used one of my special textured rolling pins to add a little design to the slab. Click here to read about how I made the rolling pin.

Use paper templates to cut out clay for the body and handle
I also pre-cut 20 4″ x 11″ pieces of paper to use as a template to cut out the body for the mug. One 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper will make 2 templates and 1 – .5″ handle template. Using a needle tool and the paper template, gently cut out the 4″ x 11″ slab of clay for the body being careful to leave enough room to cut out a handle and a bottom for the mug.

Roll the paper template around the can and tape in place
Roll the paper template around the bottom of the can and tape. The paper template should be able to move up and down the can. This will be important later for ease of removing the can from the mug.

Roll the pre-cut clay around the paper sleeve and can, smooth seam
Wrap the 4″ x 11″ slab of clay around the paper sleeve and can. There will be extra clay. Using the needle tool, gently slice through the overlapped clay seam and remove the 2 little extra pieces. Overlap the seam and smooth using your fingers. This might obscure some of your imprinted texture, but can be hidden later when you add the handle.

use the clay wrapped can as a template for the bottom of the mug
Reposition the can and clay back onto the slab to cut out the bottom.

score and slip the circle and the bottom of mug
Using a needle tool, gently cut out a bottom for the mug using the can as a template. Note, the clay is still wrapped around the can at this time.

After attaching the bottom to the mug body, smooth the seem with fingers and damp sponge
Gently remove the bottom from the body of the mug and can. Using the needle tool again, score and slip the bottom piece and also the bottom of the body. Attach the bottom to the body of the mug. Use you finger to smooth the seam where the two pieces meet.


Use a damp sponge to wipe around the bottom of the mug to ensure that both pieces are securely attached and for aesthetic reasons.

attach handle to mug
Either make a handle from a coil, or use the .5″ x 11″ paper template to cut out a handle. Determine a good length for your handle and attach to the body of the mug.
remove the can, leave paper sleeve voila a mug
Gently remove the can from the body. The paper template will remain in the mug until it’s set up a bit more. It’s easy to peel away later. Use a 1″ paintbrush dipped in water to run along the inside bottom of the mug to smooth out the interior joint.


Once the mug has dried 24 hours, run a damp sponge along the edges of the lip and the handle to smooth out any burrs. 14 of my student’s mugs are now drying and will be bisque fired on Monday. My class is comprised of 2nd through 5th grade elementary aged students. The 2nd and 3rd graders needed a little bit more help than the older kids, but over all it was a successful project and one I recommend.

Alternate uses are for pencil holders, tumblers and vases.

C’est tout pour aujourd’hui,

~Cynthia

We’re Back…..

Looking towards downtown Crested Butte

View from our hotel room

Looking down “main street” Crested Butte

Can you say snow? Not snow as in inches, but feet. When we left for our mini ski vacation to Crested Butte, CO on Thursday afternoon, we enjoyed free sailing all the way to Monarch Pass about 65 miles east of Crested Butte at which time the snow began falling. The ride up Monarch Pass was a bit hairy and all commercial vehicles were required to have chains on their tires. It snowed for our entire trip and when we checked out 2.5 days later, 4 feet of snow had fallen on the village. The natives and most skiers rejoiced at their good fortune.

I, on the other hand, am a fair weather skier in the most basic sense. I like it to be sunny with lots of snow. I know I shouldn’t whine – it’s better than rocks and grass peaking through the ski runs. Did I mention, I also had my daughter and her buddy along for the ride who are beginner skiers who were having a tough time of it. I did enjoy the hotel, fireplace in our room, the hot tub, sauna and all the amenities of The Lodge at Mountaineer Square.

I had hoped to hit a couple of galleries and shops in town to scope out the possibilities, but we didn’t leave the resort but once and that was to eat dinner in town. I did pick up a couple of local publications that have businesses listed that I’ll try to follow up with in the near future.

Meanwhile, I’m subbing a few days the next couple of weeks before school breaks for the holidays, am gearing up for my last couple of kid’s clay classes for the year and I’ve been given a jury summons for this coming Wednesday. I know it’s my civic duty to serve when called, but it’s really a bad time of the year for me. I don’t think it will matter to the judge though if I’m chosen for a trial.

I’m glad to be back home,

~Cynthia

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Ack!! My studio is a mess, and art career musings…

©Berkeley Breathed - creater of Bill the Cat

Berkeley Breathed created Bill the Cat in the 1980′s Bloomsbury Cartoon Strip

It’s a little difficult to be productive in the studio when I can’t find anything which I attribute to the current messy state of affairs in my studio. See below:

Disaster Zone

Despite cleaning before going on our camping trip in July, I’ve managed to whip the place into a frenzy. I must be the equivalent of a human tornado! Many things have conspired to literally trip me up ie., the up coming home tour (the studio will not be open for viewing) and the purchase of a gazillion jewelry findings. See below:

A gazillion jewelry findings and beads

These items are impeding my already cramped studio space which also doubles as storage for my family’s belongings. Enough is enough already!

Holy smokes, Batman, we’ve got more jewelry findings and beads than we know what to do with!

I’m pleased to say that our contractor, Jim Wilkinson of American Home Remodeling (he needs a website!), was over last Saturday to give us an estimate for insulating and drywalling the garage/studio. Yay, won’t that be nice? I’ll be able to work in my studio through the winter! Initially, we were going to add solar panels to the studio so that I could power my kilns, add ample lighting and for heat, but after meeting with REC Solar, we’ve decided to postpone. It’s a good investment, if you plan on staying awhile….

We’ve decided that we will be moving cross town in 8 months – 2 years or so, depending on the needs of our tenants. You see, we own a home that we’ve been renting out over the years in a less trendy, more diverse neighborhood in Denver. It’s larger than our current home and has a large 2.5 car garage to boot! Read – Bigger studio space! The good news is that we can cash out on the equity we’ve built in our current house and live much more comfortably in the other one, which we ARE going to solarize – both the house and the garage/studio.

Why add insulation and drywall to the current studio if we’re planning on moving? It could be a couple of years before we move and I need a comfortable working environment. I’ve talked my husband into renting a storage unit to accomodate our stuff that we can’t seem to part with, including 2 vintage 1980′s Motobecane bicycles that my husband can’t seem to part with that hang above one of my work tables and that generally annoy the hell out of me. Though, I’ve made a peace of sorts with them, by hanging my clamp lights from the pedals of the bikes.

Also, we’re going to add an outdoor shed for our gardening equipment to free up even more space. To his credit this was my husband’s idea, and not mine. I’ve weighed renting studio space, but that gets so expensive and with my mommy duties, it sure is nice to be able to walk out the back door and stroll 20 steps to work whenever I have the time and inclination.

As to the jewelry findings and beads, Mary Cay and I are going to begin sorting through our stash tomorrow. Whatever we can’t personally use, will be listed on Etsy for sale. Hopefully, we can start whittling these down fast.

In other news, I was contacted by a wonderful art center here in Colorado to teach a kid’s clay workshop next summer. I’m working on a proposal right now and will announce the venue when I’ve signed the contract. I know I said I wasn’t going to make any more dolls, but guess what? The art center wants me to teach making clay effigy dolls to kids, so I’ll be working out more than a few proto-types in the next few months. I’m thinking of some different ways to make the limbs movable and to perfect my technique.

Buoyed by the opportunity, I contacted the enrichment committee at my daughter’s school about teaching an after school kid’s clay class and they’re interested. I submitted my proposal to them yesterday and fingers crossed, this will come to fruition too.

Making a living at being an artist involves searching out multiple streams of income and making your own opportunities. Back in college, I took a philosophy of art class and our professor told us that only about 20% of student’s graduating with a degree in art actually end up working in their chosen field. My friend, Mary Cay, thinks it might be closer to 5%. It sounds like such a bleak and disheartening statistic, doesn’t it? How do you make it work?

That’s all for today,
Cynthia Guajardo Ceramic Artist
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