Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Realistic Leather Projects in Clay

Deborah Walther
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students bring an object made of leather and recreate it in clay, relying on observation skills and problem-solving skills to make it as realistic as possible.


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 uses effective control of media, techniques, and tools when communicating an idea in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of art.

The student understands that works of art can communicate an idea and elicit a variety of responses through the use of selected media, techniques, and processes.

The student knows how the elements of art and the principles of design can be used and solves specific visual-art problems at a proficient level.


-Modeling tools
-Shoe polish
-Plastic wrap to keep projects moist in between class periods
-Leather items that students can bring from home or teacher can provide
-Criteria Checklist for each student (See Associated File)
-Evaluation Checklist for each student (See Associated File)
-Examples of work by Marilyn Levine


1. Gather background information about Marilyn Levine and have examples of her work to show the class. (See Weblink.)
2. Obtain actual leather objects for students to compare and contrast with the ceramic ones.
3. Have materials readily available. (See Materials List.)
4. Download and preview the Criteria Checklist located in the Associated File. Make a copy for each student or have available for students to copy from overhead or board.
5. Download and copy the Evaluation Checklist located in the Associated File. Use the Evaluation Checklist to determine if each student has met the targeted standards.


1. Show examples of descriptive sculptures that look like leather by Marilyn Levine and give a brief biography. This way of creating familiar objects in different media was pioneered by Dada and Pop artists.

2. Show real leather objects and lead the class in a discussion on which objects are considered as art.

3. Have students state reasons to back up their responses as to which items should be considered art. Students may compare and contrast the two objects by identifying elements /principles of art evident in each of them.

4. Following the discussion, ask students to think about what problems may arise when trying to create a leather object realistically, but out of clay, and how they might solve these problems.

5. Assign students to bring in an object made of leather. Tell students they will recreate the object using the medium of clay and the various tools and techniques used in working with clay. The emphasis of this assignment is on realism, and students must use observation skills to create all the details needed to make the project a successful one. The student should keep the proportions as accurate as possible.

6. Write the criteria for the finished product on the board or reproduce the criteria and hand out to each student to keep in their notebooks. This is located in the Associated File.)

7. Review basic ceramic techniques, such as scoring and slipping clay that is to be joined and how to create impressions in the clay for details.

8. First, have students wedge their clay to remove air pockets and distribute moisture before beginning their project. Students may use whatever method is most appropriate for their choice of project: slab, coil, pinch or a combination of the three.

9. Next, students add details, such as stitches, handles, buckles, and zippers by impression or applique. In some cases, students may want to use some actual details, such as shoe strings, which are not applied until after finishing the surface.

10. Bisque fire the projects and have the students apply their choice of finish. Shoe polish comes in various colors, and when applied to bisque, results in a leather like finish. Colors may be added with acrylic paints if needed. Some students may elect to use a matte or shiny glaze if they want a smoother surface as seen in patent leather objects.

11. The students may work in pairs or in small groups to critique each other's finished projects using the Criteria Checklist and/or complete a self-evaluation using the Criteria Checklist. (See Associated File.)


Each student should participate in the class discussion on the actual leather projects and the descriptive sculptures of leather objects created in clay. This can be assessed by teacher observation or have the students compare and contrast the two and turn in their work. (See Evaluation Checklist in the Associated File.)

Each student should show mastery of the use of media, tools, and techniques noted by teacher observation. The Evaluation Checklist located in the Associated File may be used to assess the targeted standards.

Each student should complete the descriptive sculpture of a leather project in accordance to the Criteria Checklist and complete a self-assessment based on the Criteria Checklist. (See Associated File.) Students may work in groups or pairs to critique each other's finished project as well.


Extensions of this lesson include creating descriptive sculptures out of paper or cloth which has been painted and stuffed.

Web Links

This site contains information about Marilyn Levine: Artist Biography, Image of Painting, and Portrait.
Marilyn Levine - artist biography

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