Art Project: Hopi-inspired Pottery

In my continued attempt to expose the boys to various cultures, often underrepresented in mainstream education, we took a trip (digitally, anyway) to the Southwest to learn about the Hopi tribe. After realizing an Art History heavy class was not going to work out for us after completing our Keith Haring project, I simplified my original lesson plan quite a bit. I also want to make the lessons I share a lot easier for parents/educators to follow so here is my first attempt at streamlining the narrative for clear lesson planning. Check me out on Facebook to let me know how I did or offer some suggestions!

My children are 7 and 9, so this is a grade school level project. However, I think it could be easily adjusted for younger or older children. I will offer suggestions for both.


I recommend checking out this Hopi Art History Fact Sheet before beginning if you don't know very much about Hopi art.

You can dive into the Hopi culture even more by checking out this video as well. Either use it to get a better understanding of the culture yourself to bring into the lesson, or watch with your older student.

Day 1 - Intro to Hopi

We started off our lesson by learning a bit about the Hopi tribe with this video.

PBS has a small lesson plan to accompany this video that is helpful for a discussion after watching.

After watching the video and having our discussion, it was time to share what our project would be; Hopi-inspired clay work. I gave them two options; pottery or a clay figurine. Both of which they will have to paint in a style that emulates Hopi pottery. I shared a video illustrating both options to help them decide.



We finished off our first day by practicing figurine making and the coil and scrape method with some modeling clay.

If you aren't familiar with the coil and scrape technique, this video teaches you everything you need to know for this project.

Day 2 - Begin sculpting

Since we don't have access to a kiln, we used Crayola Air Dry Clay for this project. Please note that this is NOT the same as Crayola Model Magic! Crayola's air dry clay more closely resembles a stoneware clay or porcelain. Model Magic is great but it does not have the same texture and consistency of an earthy clay.

The nice thing about Crayola's Air Dry Clay is that it is a lot like porcelain clay. It is very soft and easy to work with and you can create a slip and use water to control the consistency.

One of the problematic things about using air dry clay is that you cannot come back to it later, as with traditional clay. So sculpts have to be completed the same day. For that reason, I encouraged the boys to make small, manageable pieces.

Another drawback of using airdry clay is that it is more fragile than traditional clay. So I would recommend keeping your pieces thick and be gentle when painting and polishing later.

Blaze rolls a ball of clay on the table.  A small coil pot sits beside him waiting to be worked on.
Blaze making "wormy boys" to build up his pot.

Day 3 - Paint

I would like to note that we have art every other day, so we left our pieces to dry over one full day before returning to them.

We used acrylic paints and Sharpie Paint Markers to decorate our pieces. Before painting we did a Google image search of Hopi designs to get inspiration. We found that the most commonly used colors were black, red, and white with very occasional touches of yellow and blue, so that is the color palette we decided to work with.

Juju's coil a scrape bowl painted red with black spots.
Juju called his piece "Ladybug"

Day 4 - Glaze/Polish

Once dried, we sealed our pieces with Modge Podge. I used the Dishwasher Safe Modge Podge because there was some talk of wanting to use these for food items, but I doubt we will. I don't think they would hold up well, to be honest.

Juju was a little rough with his bowl so one of the sides crumbled a bit. So, we used the modge podge to glue it back together and strengthen the sides. It worked very well.

Sitting in the palm of a hand is a clay gerbil with black, red, white, and blue lines, dots, and blocks of color.
My clay gerbil, Adrienne.

Small coil pot with three scored red marks etched on one side.
Blaze wasn't a fan of the scrape method, so he decided to keep his coils and score his design.

Blue, red, and yellow lines run down the side of the small coil pot.  A black insignia is painted on the inside.
The other side and inside of Blaze's unnamed piece.

A shiny red pinch pot with large black spots.
Juju's finished "Ladybug"

We are all very happy with how our pieces turned out! Overall this was a very fun, informative, and uncomplicated project. I highly recommend to any families looking for art projects.


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