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Thumb Print project

Last week’s Kiln Pointer included a story by Kathy Rhoades on how she made 25,000 coin-size thumbprints in clay. She has scattered them all over the world.

After reading about Kathy’s thumbprints, Dawn Christensen wrote to me about a handprint key chain that she made for her daughter. I have included instructions below. If you don’t work with clay, you can make similar key chains from other materials, such as clay silver.


By Dawn Christensen

Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

Baby Hand Print

As a middle school art teacher I am always exploring self-portrait ideas. I recently became a grandmother and put my grandson's feet and handprints in clay. It has become my daughter’s favorite key chain and is a form of child identity should we ever need it.

Here are directions for a baby footprint or handprint with variations for bead fingerprints. This works better if you have someone to help.

1) Roll a soft freshly wedged piece of clay on canvas between two – 1/4”-thick cedar slabs. For thinner slabs use two paint-stirring sticks. As you roll out the clay, rotate and flip the slab to prevent curling during drying.

2) Make sure baby’s hands and feet are free of lotion so the clay does not resist glaze at firing. Press the feet firmly into the clay (6 inches apart if doing pairs).

3) Trim around the hand or footprint in any desired shape with a fetling knife.

4) You can make a hole for a key chain using a straw about 1/4 inch from the edge of the clay.

5) Place the clay on a small piece of construction drywall (also called sheetrock) for even, slow drying.

6) Fire to bisque. (I use 04 clay.)

7) Glaze or stain as desired. I like to wipe the glaze so it stays in the indents of the prints.

Bead variation

When I did this the first time at three months, my grandson would not unclench his fist, so I made rectangular beads out of his thumb and fingerprints.

1) Using a small amount of clay, shape 5 ovals or rectangles. Run a nail or wooden skewer through shapes and keep it there. You can also use spaghetti noodles. They burn out during firing and help keep the holes open while you impress the fingerprint.

2) Gently press each finger tip.

3) Fire to 04 on a bead tree.

4) Glaze or stain as desired. The beads can be strung on five separate macramé cords at various heights, knotting above and below to keep the beads in place.

When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.

Tips - Definitions - Clay Projects - Pottery Gallery - Pottery Tools - Glazes - All About Clay

Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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