Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Accenting the Negative Space in Ceramics

Deborah Walther
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students apply knowledge of the elements of design and hand building techniques in clay to illustrate the concept of negative space by cutting shapes out of the form to create an intricate pattern.


The student uses two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, techniques, tools, and processes to communicate an idea or concept based on research, environment, personal experience, observation, or imagination.

The student uses tools, media, processes, and techniques proficiently, knowledgeably, and in a safe and responsible manner.

The student knows how the elements of art and the principles of design can be used to solve specific art problems.


-Clay (at least 5 pounds per student)
-Needle tools, xacto knives, or other piercing and cutting tools
-Examples of pierced pottery with intricate patterns (actual pieces or poster & slides)
-Plastic wrap to keep pottery from drying out between class times
-Paper and pencils for students to plan and sketch their designs
-Glazes or paints (may be used to finish the project)


1. Gather background information on pierced ceramics and have examples to show the students. You can do this at Interlude Ceramics (See Weblinks)
2. Have materials listed above readily available.
3. Download and preview the Art Production Criteria Checklist located in the Associated File. Make a copy for each student or have available for students to copy from overhead or board.


1. Review the principles and the elements of design and elaborate on the element of space and how it can contribute to the design and function of a ceramic form.

2. Review the slab (uses flat sections of clay cut out and joined together) and coil (uses coils of clay joined together) methods of hand building and stress the importance of the form being well constructed with consistent thickness of the formís walls.

3. Show various examples of ceramics that have negative spaces that result in a planned pattern. (The examples may be actual pieces or prints).

4. Show the art of paper cutting to promote understanding of using negative space to create intricate details and patterns.

5. Ask the students to plan and create a ceramic form that stresses the principles of pattern, unity, balance, and repetition with an emphasis on negative space.

6. Demonstrate how to draw a specific pattern onto a leather hard form and proceed to cut out the negative spaces between the design as the students build their ceramic form (draw onto the pottery at this time or demonstrate later in the process). Allow to dry to the leather hard stage.

7. Write the criteria for the finished project on the board, or reproduce the Art Production Criteria Checklist and hand out to each student to keep and use later for self-evaluation upon completion of the project. (See Associated File)

8. Have the students decide what shape their ceramic forms will be and draw a simple sketch of the form with a design that has open or negative spaces emphasized.

9. The students begin wedging their clay to remove air pockets and distribute moisture. They then begin shaping their ceramic forms after deciding which method would be best for their particular form. The form is covered loosely to allow it to dry to a leather hard stage that is firm yet can still be cut or pierced. At this time, the students transfer their design onto the leather hard form and proceed to use various cutting tools to remove the clay from the negative areas of the pattern. Much care must be used in handling the form while the pattern is progressively cut out. It is fragile at this time and must be kept moist enough to cut throughout this process. If allowed to dry, it becomes too brittle to cut the remaining areas.

10. Load the bone-dry pierced ceramic forms very carefully into the kiln and fire at the appropriate temperature for the clay used.

11. The students may finish their pierced ceramic project with glazes or paints. If glazed, they must be fired a second time for glazes to vitrify.

12. The students assess their projects upon completion, along with the teacher, who guides them through this process giving and receiving feedback when needed. (See Associated File for the Art Production Criteria Checklist and Evaluation Checklist handouts)


1. Each student should have a plan for their project as evidenced by their simple sketch.
2. Each student should show mastery of the use of tools, materials, and techniques noted by teacher observation. (See Evaluation Checklist in the Associated File)
3. Each student should have completed the project in accordance to the art production criteria and have completed a self-assessment evaluation based upon the Art Production Criteria Checklist. (See Associated File)


In assigning this project to students, the teacher can have the students communicate a particular theme incorporating symbolism in their cutout shapes.

Web Links

Web supplement for Accenting the Negative Space in Ceramics
Interlude Ceramics

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