Ceramic Slab Lanterns Cut-Out Design

Ceramic Lantern Slab lesson

High School Art: Ceramic Slab Lanterns

Everybody needs a good challenge to help them grow! Cut-design was a new technique that I wanted to introduce my high school students to. They were ready for a challenge! We had done slab construction and the throwing wheel in the past and we had done lots of additive hand-building, but it was time to take it to the next level! They needed to learn some advanced techniques. So the cut-out design lanterns project was exactly what they needed.

While researching cut out-design techniques I cam across Lakeside Pottery Studio (Pagoda Lantern), this is an AWESOME website and valuable ceramic resource for any teacher or ceramic artist! I wrote this lesson building upon previous slab lessons and adding the new Cut Out-Design technique.

Resources: Lakeside Pottery Studio (Pagoda Lantern), Amaco-Lantern to Light.

This lesson plan was written by Michelle C. East


  • Students will be able to define the given clay vocabulary.
  • Students will learn slab construction and hand building techniques.
  • Students will draw at least two preparatory sketches of ideas for their lantern.
  • Students will create a slab constructed lantern while exploring cut-out design and texture.
  • They will demonstrate good craftsmanship using slab and hand-building techniques.

ceramic supplies (canvas boards, clay (low fire earthenware), modeling tools, rolling pins, slats, glazes-low fire), Exacto knives, paper towels, newsprint for tables

Ceramic LanternPreparation
• Wedge the clay into grapefruit-size balls, 3-4 per child plus a few extra. OR **show them how to cut from the blocks of clay
• Cover the work area with Masonite boards or canvas.
• Set out the clay, needle tools, containers of slip or water, and the guide sticks “slats”

Day 1 Delivery: Ceramics Intro

Overview-Clay Building Methods: (all of these may be used)
1. Hand-building: building pots using the only the hands and hand-held clay tools
2. Slab: clay is rolled into thin sheets or slabs and then formed into shapes or forms.
3. Pinch: shaping clay by inserting the thumb of one hand into the clay and lightly pinching/ pressing with the thumb on the inside and fingers on the outside while slowly turning the clay to enlarge the center opening of the clay.
4. Coil: creating ceramic forms by rolling out coils of clay and joining them together by the slip & score method.

Stages of Dryness
  1. Wet
      2. Leather hard
      3. Greenware or Bone dry
      4. Bisquesware (first firing)
      5. GlazeWare (second firing with glaze)

The Ten Golden Rules of Ceramics Submitted by Joe Cox

Day 1 Activity #1-2: Slab Construction Into –Teacher Guided Demo
1. Teacher will demo each technique then have student practice rolling out a slab. (Save & store wet for next class)

a. Rolling the Clay: Place guide sticks the thickness of the desired slab on each side of the clay ball. The guide sticks need to be positioned so that a rolling pin can ride on top of both of them. Throw the clay down at an angle to get the flattening process started. Starting from the center of the clay and roll away from yourself. Roll only to the edge of the clay. Return to the center and roll towards you using the same pressure. Pick up the clay & flip it over, this helps prevent the clay from sticking to the canvas board. Repeat these steps, until the clay is flush with the guide sticks and cannot be flattened any more.
b. Demonstrate to students how to store their slabs (on boards, in bags & how to twist & wrap the rubber bands).

2. Students will work on designs for their clay lanterns in their sketchbooks.

Day 2-6: Template & Construction of Lantern

Go over project handout.
Project Objective: Explore Slab Construction (BOX or cylinder), Cut-Out Design, & Texture

SLAB Construction Method: Teacher Demo (Day 2-3)

Ceramic Slab Construction Box with theme art lesson forSee Ceramic Box with Lid Lesson for Slab Lesson

1. Create a template: on a piece of paper draw out the EACH of the separate pieces to your clay lantern.

  1.  Activity: Create a paper template for each structural piece you will cut out of clay. Get out a ruler and make precise measurements of the dimensions of your piece.
  2. Draw a template for EVERY slab piece the EXACT size you need it to be:
    1. 4 Sides (2 sides can be different)
    2. Bottom
    3. Top or Roof- can be slab or pinch pot
  3. Roll slabs (it will probably take several depending on the size of your lantern) & use templates to cut all the pieces for your lantern
    1. Apply Texture to slab before cutting out templates. (Day 4)
      a. Two ways to apply texture:

      1. Use texture plates to press into the slab. Best done BEFORE construction of the lantern. Make sure clay is not super soft or the plates will stick to the slab & mess it up.
      2. Press texture into the clay using various hand tools or objects. Best done AFTER construction of the lantern.

        Ceramic Slab Construction Box with theme art lesson for

        Cut 6 slabs all the same size (we will trim later)

4.Score and Slip – (DEMO) In order to attach two pieces of clay, you must use the score and slip method. (Day 4-6)Ceramic Slab Construction Box with theme art lesson for

  1.   Score or scratch both of the surfaces that will be joined several times with a needle tool and apply a small amount of slip or water on both sides. Be sure not to over-wet the clay, too much water will cause it to become too soft, slimy, and unworkable.
  2. Press & wiggle the surfaces together. If the pieces are not attached with the score and slip method, the slabs tend to pull apart and could pop apart as they dry.
  3. To make an even stronger bond, roll a very thin coil of clay and push it inside the joints where the walls meet.
  4. Smooth out all joints with a modeling tool or “rib”.


1. Cut-Out Design can ONLY be done when the clay is leather-hard. You must leave it out for 30+ minutes to let it get leather-hard
2. Demonstrate how to cut openings-windows & doors. Demo Subtractive and Additive methods.


1. When completely finished, scratch your name into the piece (side or bottom) & set on a bat labeled with your name & today’s date in Kiln room to dry. Dry 5-10 days,
2. Bisque Fire: The term bisque refers to ceramic ware that has been fired once without glaze.

Day 10-12: Glaze

ceramic clay lanternGlazing –
Applying liquid glazes to the ceramic pieces. Glazes are made from finely ground glass suspended in a liquid. In the presence of heat, the glaze becomes a glassy coating which fuses to the surface.

Glaze Firing – Firing done after glaze has been applied to bisque or (occasionally) green-ware to produce a glass-like surface.
Activity: Apply glaze to bisque-ware lanterns 3+ coats



Student Gallery (at various stages of the project)

This lesson plan was written by Michelle C. East.  If you choose to use any of this lesson (written or photos), please link back to this blog Create Art with ME!

Ceramic Lantern Slab lesson

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