It’s October which means Halloween is on the way! 🎃 This inspired me to create a ceramic pumpkin, a lovely decorative item that, unlike a real pumpkin, won’t ever go off and need to be thrown away.
How do you make a ceramic pumpkin? You will need either stoneware or porcelain clay, a knife, water in a spray gun and a tangerine. Make a ball of clay the size of an orange, cut in half. Roll the halves into balls then make 2 pinch pots. Use the tangerine as a forma and create 2 hollow halves of a ball. Merge the halves together to create a hollow ball, decorate as a pumpkin and bisque fire.
There’s a lot to do in this project so I’ve split it into 2 parts, part 1 below explains how to make and bisque fire the pumpkin. In part 2 we’ll paint and glaze fire the pumpkin. Let’s get started!
Things you’ll need
- Stoneware or porcelain clay, which I purchase from www.valentineclays.co.uk
- Standard pottery tools such as a knife and scoring tools
- Water in a spray gun
- A tangerine, the secret tool that makes this work!
Making the pumpkin
Start with a ball of clay about the size of an orange. Wedge and squish the clay into a ball, then cut in half with your clay knife.
Roll the two halves into balls. Once you have a nice firm ball make 2 pinch pots.
We do this because putting the solid ball of clay into the kiln will result in it exploding.
How to make pinch pots
If you’re unfamiliar with pinch pots they’re really easy to make. Take the ball of clay in one hand and using the thumb on your other hand gently press into the clay (see my video for a demonstration of this).
Make sure you don’t make the sides too thin. As you keep pressing into the clay you’ll end up with a hollowed-out ball of clay, you could fire these two halves and you’d have a lovely pair of pots!
Tangerine = secret pottery tool
I bet you’ve been wondering what we’re going to do with that tangerine. We’re going to use it as a form: take one half of the pumpkin, place it on the tangerine and repeatedly pat the clay.
This helps to open up the pinch pot. Don’t leave it sat on the tangerine too long or it’ll stick.
Repeat this process for the second pinch pot and leave both to firm up (about 10 minutes), don’t wait until they become leather hard.
2 become 1
This next step can be a little tricky. Score around the top of both halves and spray with a little water.
Gently place the halves together, be careful not to press too hard else they may collapse.
Using your thumb, rub back and forth across the join. Using a separate piece of clay roll out a thin coil and wrap that around the join, smooth it over using your thumb and roll the ball around giving you a lovely smooth ball that looks like a solid ball but is actually hollow.
Adding a bottom
Take the ball and pat it firmly on the table to flatten out and create a flat base. Poke a hole through the bottom, this will ensure your new pumpkin doesn’t explode in the kiln.
Carving your ceramic pumpkin
I happen to have special carving tools…my nails! I use my nail to carve pumpkin lines from top to bottom. If you make a mistake don’t worry, it’s easy to correct using either a wooden tool or your finger to smooth over the problem area.
I also use a wood carving tool to add deeper lines. Adding both shallow and deep lines gives a really nice texture to the finished pumpkin.
Using another small clay sausage add a stem to the top. Give it a flat base, score the base and spray both the stem and the top of the pumpkin with water. Attach the stem, add detail by scraping in some lines.
If you want additional detail you can also add a small leaf. I use a shape cutter to give me a lovely leaf shape which I then slip and score.
Leave everything to dry, I recommend at least a week and then fire the clay to your suppliers recommended bisque fire.
See my video below for the full tutorial, once completed move on to part 2.