Visual Arts Planning: Clay

You can see all current topics in our visual arts planning series here.

If you are a member of AccessArt please use the form at the bottom of that page if you would like help to integrate visual arts around a particular theme or topic.

The following AccessArt resources, contributed by artist-educators, have been selected to try to illustrate what a progression pathway might look like for children and young teenagers working in clay.

While thinking about progression, please do consider that:

  1. Skills can only progress with frequent opportunity and practice, and

  2. Progression is not linear but the result of multiple routes, rich with unexpected outcomes, and

  3. Creativity is a fragile process that is hard to measure and assess but instead should be nurtured and supported.

With these points highlighted, here is what progression might look like. Follow the thumbnails to take you to AccessArt resources.

Early Years and Key Stage 1

woodland exploration

Artists Caroline Wendling and Deborah Wilenski encourage young children in a woodland exploration using art and imagination as their discovery tools.

Clay Nests

AccessArt Creative Director Paula gives children the tools to both draw and make. Children worked with hard and soft pencils, graphite, wax resist, watercolour, clay and sticks.

How to Play clay

This resource, commissioned by Cambridge City Council, encourages being together through making and introduces the basics of working with Scolaquip air-hardening clay.

Ofsted are coming tomorrow!

Primary school teacher, Sue Brown, shares her experience of an Ofsted Deep Dive in Art and gives advice to other teachers on how they might prepare themselves.

Quick clay figurative sketches

Paula Briggs provided young children with the opportunity to explore clay as a “short term” construction and modelling material. Without being fired, the dry clay has a limited lifespan, and the sculptures will crumble, but it can still be regarded as a valuable sculptural material.

Decorative clay coil pots

This simple clay pot making resource is not the traditional way of making coil pots but it’s lots of fun and by using different paint effects, the end results can be very interesting. We worked on this project for two, two-hour sessions.

Making plaster reliefs

This resource describes how to create plaster reliefs using clay and foamboard moulds. It is based upon a session which took place at Bourn Primary Academy with a group of Year 5 children.

clay art medals

In this three stage resource, Artist Sharon Gale invites students make a circular medal from clay depicting their own profile, look at examples of fun lettering and devise a short, fun or meaningful phrase to paint inside their portrait profile.

making sushi - recycled style!

Inspired by research into Japanese culture, children explored the potential and limitations of paper and recycled materials, learning through play and experimentation to make 3D forms.

Textured clay tesselations

In this five or six week clay project, children learn how to make shapes out of clay that can be displayed in a tessellated pattern either as a tiled wall or floor panel.

An Exploration of Pandora's Box

A series of activities centred on the Ancient Greek myth Pandora’s Box.

Key Stage 2

inspired by japanese ceramics

Specialist Art teacher Jan Miller shares a Year Three class project that uses the work of a contemporary Japanese ceramicist to inspire vibrant paintings in a variety of materials.

clay portrait miniatures

This two stage clay project explores Portrait miniatures: small painted images, usually of monarchs and wealthy or important figures.

clay slab work by andy cairns

This resource explores how to make an armature and use clay slab to build a form. Based upon the legend of “Black Shuck”, a ghostly dog that roams the coast searching for its drowned masters.

fruit inspired clay tiles

Ceramicist Rachel Dormor shares a workshop idea suitable for primary or secondary aged children. Working in clay, pupils take their inspiration from drawings of fruit to make decorative clay tiles.

fruit pinch pot

Ceramicist Rachel Dormor shares a workshop idea suitable for primary or secondary aged children. Working in clay, pupils take their inspiration from drawings of fruit to make simple pinch pot mugs.

exploring clay and water

An activity offering the chance to explore and PLAY with clay – encouraging tactile investigation of the matter, with no end result intended or prescribed.

Key Stage 3

Chimera drawings into terracotta tiles

Using the Sgraffito, or ‘scratching’ technique when creating leather hard red clay tiles.

painted clay

Artist Melissa Pierce-Murray shares this activity inspired by the Japanese art of dorondongo, where mud and dirt are shaped and buffed into highly polished spheres.

exploring portraits

In this resource artist, Eleanor Somerset shows how she led students in The Little Art Studio, Sheffield, to explore and discover portraiture through various media.

Introducing SGRAFFITO

Exploring how to make beautiful sgraffito, or ‘scratched drawings’ with artist Eleanor Somerset.

bones, body, structure and form

Artist Melissa Pierce Murray worked with teenagers from AccessArt’s Experimental Drawing Class on a series of workshops which physically explored drawing and sculptural responses to form, forces and anatomy.

simple clay moulds

Artist Melissa Pierce Murray, shows, step-by-step, how young teenagers explored plaster casting by making simple clay ‘waste moulds’ and then moved on to making simple ‘two piece moulds’

creating a negative space in plaster

Resident artist at ArtWorks Studios, Cambridge, Rachel Wooller, introduces teenagers at AccessArt’s Experimental Drawing Class to the process of casting and creating negative shapes in plaster from clay positives.

clay coiling technique to make penguins

Students from a Cambridge Arts Centre show how they made clay birds using a coiling techniques and with a plaster mould for the birds’ bases.

making a clay bird from a mould

Students show how they made a collection of ceramic birds, from robins and dotterels to ducks using a plaster mould and coloured slip glazes to create individual and unique pieces.

modelling the head in clay series

A series of five resources delivered by Artist Melissa Pierce Murray showing the techniques and process of modelling the human head in clay.


Students, from the DesignLab at the V&A, London, worked with artist Phoebe Cummings over a three month period to create a site-specific, group piece, from unfired clay which was inspired by the historical 2D designs found on 19th century British tableware in the collection.

Resources for Brilliant Makers

Making is important. Knowing how to use tools, and materials is key to unlocking the imagination and has the potential to transform the world. See all AccessArt resources to support Brilliant Making!
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial