Clay Fairy House and Gnome Homes with Glass Beads

Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art LessonClay Fairy House Lesson Improved!

Ceramic fairy houses have been part of my middle school art lesson plans for many years, but this year I wanted to kick it up to a higher level and stretch their clay hand-building skills! To do that we added a couple major components to the existing requirements of the project: it must have a base Clay Slab Castle with Moat and Glass Beads(flat or on a hill) and it had some type of water feature (fountain, pond, birdbath, etc). We added glass beads into the closed structured water features like we did with our Clay Castles with Moat and Glass Beads project.


  • Students will be able to define the given clay vocabulary.
  • Students will learn slab construction and hand building techniques.
  • Students will create an original clay house demonstrating good craftsmanship using slab and hand-building techniques.
  • Students will draw at least two preparatory sketches of ideas for the house, base, and water feature.
  • Students will give the appearance of water by adding glass beads to water features that are structured to hold the beads.

Supplies: Sax Low Fire Moist Earthenware Clay, small cylinder to roll slab onto for house (we used our water cups, but you could use paper towels rolls that were cut down), ceramic sculpting supplies-Sculpt Pro 15 Piece Pottery and Sculpting Art Tool Set, Masonite panels covered in canvas & secured, Mayco Stroke & Coat Glazes-(2oz set) or Pint Set A or B


Preparation: Wedge the clay into large grapefruit-size balls OR slice clay from block 1.5″ thick then cut in half for the house and a 1/2″ thick for base, two per child for the base and the house (plus a few extra).


Ceramic Techniques & Vocabulary:

  • Hand-building: building pots using the only the hands and hand-held clay tools
  • Slab: clay is rolled into thin sheets or slabs and then formed into shapes or forms.
  • 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.
  • Coil: creating ceramic forms by rolling out coils of clay and joining them together by the slip & score method.
  • Scratch and slip:  (DEMO) To attach two pieces of clay, scratch the surfaces to be joined several times with a needle tool and apply a small amount of slip or water on both sides. Press the surfaces together. Be sure not to over-wet the clay, which will cause it to become too soft and slimy. This is important to do because as slabs dry they tend to pull apart and pieces could pop apart or off. To make an even stronger bond, roll a very thin coil of clay and push it inside the joints where the walls meet.
  • Demo Subtractive and Additive methods. Demonstrate how to cut windows & doors

Stages of Dryness

  • Wet or plastic: very wet and mold-able or shape-able (will slump over)
  • Leather hard: wet but slightly stiff (a wall can stand up with out slumping), can be carved into (subtractive technique) and clay can still be added on with score and slip method
  • Green-ware or Bone dry: all moisture is dried out, will break if you try to bend it
  • Bisque-ware (first firing): stone hard
  • Glaze-ware (second firing with glaze): firing with glazes

Cylinder House Slab Construction: (Video Tutorial coming soon!)

  1. Cut a piece of paper the height of the cup (or whatever you are using as a base shape). Tape the paper onto the cup.
  2. Roll out a slab using 1/4″ slats that is slightly longer than the length of the cup.
  3. Cut the slab and roll it onto the cup. Allow about 1/2″ overlap and trim the excess clay.
  4. Score and slip the clay together.
  5. Use modeling tools to smooth the joint together.
  6. Remove the clay from the cup and use the modeling tools to smooth the inside joint together.

Shaping the House

You can either leave the fairy house in the basic cylinder shape or you can give it a rounded shape. To give the house a rounded shape, place the cylinder so the side is resting in the palm of your hand. GENTLY rub the inside of the house with wet fingers to shape it. Putting more pressure from the inside will bulge out the side and create the rounded structure. Do this carefully-make sure you don’t get your clay too wet or too thin! If you are applying texture from a roller or sheet, you need to apply it to slab before cutting out templates. You can add drawn texture or simple imprinted texture after it has been constructed.
Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson

Doors, Windows and Base

Adding Extras (Fences, Paths, Foliage, Ponds, & Water Features)

Finish the piece by adding extra special elements like fences, bridges, grass, paths, stones, bushes, logs, and flowers. You also can add some type of water feature to the design. It can be a stream, pond, fountain, or moat. If you want to use the glass beads to look like water you MUST form a solid enclosed structure that will hold the beads so that when they melt they will not leak out. In other words, there can be no gaps or spaces so that the beads are held securely in the structure.

When completely finished, scratch your name into the piece (on the base or the side of the house) & set on a bat labeled with your name & today’s date in Kiln room to dry. Leave bowls under bases for 1 day of drying. Loosely wrap plastic wrap around it to dry for 2-3 days. Take plastic wrap off and finish drying for 5-10 days until ALL moisture it out.

Glaze and Glass Beads

Completely glaze the house and base (except the bottom). For water features, apply a water color-blue (light or dark), blue-green. If you constructed a water feature to hold beads, I will add the glass beads before placing in the kiln.

Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art LessonClay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson

Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson

Finished Pieces

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Clay Slab Fairy House Gnome Home Art Lesson

  1. Kacie Schmidt

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