Clay, being a plastic material, is a suitable medium by which the pupil can express a thought. Modeling soon becomes a delight, a recreation, and at the same time ideas of form are received. By its means, dexterity in the use of the fingers is gained. An object can be copied in form while, at the same time, the mental image is stored in memory or imagination and becomes an actuality.
To a certain extent, at the outset, the choice of subjects should be left to the pupils' own choosing. First, however, let them become familiar with the material and with its use. Place familiar subjects before them, such as a top, a spool, a ball or an apple. Let them mold objects in clay that appear similar to those placed before them. After that, select simple forms, such as the sphere, cube and cylinder, and let them imitate them in the clay. Encourage them to model the general form rather than the minor details. Do not insist on smoothness or minute attention to texture of substance. The appearance of the general mass, or effect, is the thing most desired from the beginner.
The Models. If the modeled article is a rectangle, say four inches wide and a half an inch in thickness, it should be built up by packing and pressing the clay firmly together with the thumbs, while the edges and sides are made straight and firm by packing the clay against one thumb with the other. No attempt should be made to have the tablet smooth like a paper box. The evidence of the human hand should be apparent. The tablet may be the base upon which other objects may be placed.
More ambitious subjects may now be attempted, such as a simple leaf. Of course, the clay leaf will be much thicker than the natural one, but it should be curved to follow Nature's lines. A few of the veins may be shown with occasional indentations on the edges.
Decorative Form. The next step is the modeling of single decorative forms. These should be built on the tablet and gradually pressed down until the ornament and tablet are connected as one. Care should be taken to keep the clay sufficiently moist to prevent its drying- very quickly in the hands of the children. The Spring and Fall are better seasons for modeling exercise than the dryer months of the wiinter. Should the clay become too wet, roll it in a clean cloth and knead it until it is of the proper consistency. On the contrary, should the clay become too dry, it may be placed in a vessel and covered with water where it may be allowed to stand for two or three days. After this, the water may be poured off and the clay wedgedwedged being a technical term, meaning to cut, divide, and work together a mass of wet clay, in order to drive out air bubbles and to render it more plastic. The clay may now be formed into bricks, wrapped in wet towels, placed in an earthen jar, for further use.
Quantity of Clay. A mass of soft clay about three inches in diameter will be sufficient for each pupil. Each piece should be placed on a small piece of heavy writing paper and placed on the desk.
Cubes, spheres, cylinders and prisms may now be made into models.
Materials. A small wooden board, a piece of the oil stencil board or a slate will answer for a molding board. A little trouble may be experienced at first in getting the clay of the right consistency to work with. It should be neither too soft nor too dry. The clay may be used again, the models being broken up.