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6-8: Facial Studies Through Creation of a Face Jug

by Lori Shepley, Melissa Thibault and Nelle Hayes, Learn NC

Students study the anatomy of a face and use what they have learned about rendering faces and three dimensional objects to create thumbnail sketches of expressive faces on jugs.

They learn to blend values to create the illusion of volume in both facial features and clay jugs. Three dimensional understanding is reinforced by adding expressive facial features to coiled clay jugs. Earth Science is integrated through the study of clay. Social Studies in integrated through the study of face jugs found as far back in history as Pre-Columbian times. Artistic meaning is explored through facial expression and the psychological implications of color.

They look at examples of face jugs. They learn about types of clay. They learn to roll clay coils and create a jug using coil construction. They score, slip and blend facial features to the jug. They choose either underglaze decoration followed by a clear glaze coating or colored glaze decoration applied after bisque firing as a finish.

A lesson plan for Grades 8–12 , Visual Arts I and African American Studies

Students will:

  • -increase their understanding of the art elements Shape, Form, Value and Color
  • -build technical skill in realistic rendering
  • -increase their understanding of clay as an artistic medium
  • -build skill in the technique of coil forming method
  • -build skill in the technique of joining pieces of clay
  • -better understand the potential of clay art as an expressive medium
  • -better understand how man has always used the materials of his environment to express himself creatively
  • -better understand ways to add meaning to functional works of art
  • -learn the meaning of form follows function as it applies to jugs

Time required for lesson: 8 Hours


  • -Earthenware clay, cone 05 (approx. 4lbs.ea)
  • -Assorted underglaze colors
  • -Assorted glaze colors
  • -Masonite work boards
  • -Tongue depressors for blending
  • -Clay modeling tools
  • -Paint brushes
  • -Face jug examples (attached)
  • -Mint Museum Poster

Supplies For Each Student:

  • -Students need pencil, paper and mirror for thumbnail sketches.
  • -Each student needs two plastic grocery bags: One for keeping coils moist. One for keeping jug moist while working on it.
  • -Each student should have a masonite work board. (approx. 9X12)
  • -Each student should have access to a tongue depressor and/or clay modeling tools for scoring, adding slip and blending.
  • -Small containers are needed for slip.
  • -Soft inexpensive watercolor brushes will be needed for glazing.


Introduce the lesson by showing examples of face jugs throughout history. Pre-Columbian, native American, and fairly recent folk examples can be found in a wide variety of resource materials. Discuss the African-American origins of the style of American Face Vessels.

Discuss examples, clay, and “jugs.” Promote class discussion based on the word “jug” to enhance understanding of the physical characteristics of “jugs.” Make sure that students understand that jugs have larger bellies and small necks because of the purposes they serve. (form follows function)


Demonstrate rendering techniques

1. Demonstrate drawing jug designs by starting with jug shapes (flat images) and gradually blending shades from dark on the edges of the shapes to lighter in the middle in order to create the illusion of the volume of the jug.

2. Demonstrate making faces in a mirror in order to make sure students are thinking about making creative, exagerated facial expressions.

3. Remind students to look for and render the volumes of the facial features they are trying to represent. Allow students to work on sketches for about 90 minutes. They should create at least three thumbnail sketches of ideas for jug designs with creative facial expressions on them.

4. Designs are discussed. The best design should be selected as a model for the clay work.

Introduce coil method

Coil rolling is demonstrated and students are given instructions on coil forming method. Roll coils using hands from heel to finger tips, keeping each round and consistent in thickness. The width of the thumb is a good size.

Step By Step

1. Roll all clay into coils before beginning to build jug. (approx. 4 lbs. Makes an 8-10 inch jug) Keep coils in plastic grocery bag so they will stay plastic.

2. Spiral base on masonite clay work board. Blend spiraled coil base both inside and out before beginning to build on it.

3. Add no more than two coils to the construction at a time before blending.

4. Coils laid on the outer edges of each other will move the form outward. Coils laid on the inner edges of each other will move the form inward. Blend coils inside and outside. Use tongue depressor to blend and smooth coils. Use hands to support jug walls while blending.

5. Keep jug on clay work board and wrap with plastic grocery bag between work sessions. Be sure to press bag up next to clay to keep air from drying the jug at the top. It must stay plastic in order to work with it. The masonite work board will drink some of the moisture out of the base, enabling it to better support the jug.

Students work on coil constructed jugs about 2 hours.

Facial Features

Creating and applying clay facial features is demonstrated when jug form is complete. Demonstrate creating facial features and properly attaching them to the jug surface. Score (scratch) Slip (brush with creamy mixture of clay and water) wiggle and blend to force air out of join and blend clay into one piece. If air is trapped between feature and jug it will blow apart during the firing process. Students should refer to sketches while working on jugs.

This part of the lesson takes students at least another 90 min. Wrap well between work sessions.

Introduce finishing processes

Examples are shown which illustrate the two finishing techniques students may choose. Students select a finishing method and apply finish as directed. Finishing takes approx. 90 min.

When construction of face jug is complete, paint features with underglaze colors, continue to let dry. When jug is bone dry, fire it to cone 05. After cooled, rinse and apply a coat of clear gloss glaze, then re-fire to cone 05 Example One | Example Two

When construction is bone dry, fire to cone 05. After cooled, rinse and apply base coat of colored glaze. If decorative detail is desired, add colored glaze details. (see image for example)

If no detail is desired base coat covering is all that is needed. (see image)

Finished face jugs are discussed and evaluated.


After all jugs have been glaze fired, present, discuss and evaluate in writing. Use the opportunity to review all objectives and concepts presented previously in lesson.

Written evaluation is offered in handout section.

Supplemental information

Mint Museum Face Jug Poster, featuring a face jug by Dorothy Cole Auman

Related websites

American Face Vessels This Encyclopedia Smithsonian article provides print references for learning more about the African-American origins of the Face Jug tradition. See also the Smithsonian’s site “Legacies” at

Crafting North Carolina In the Look @ Gallery you will find more bacground history of the Face Jug in North Carolina Craft History.

Hands on Crafts In the “virtual pot throw” you can “make” a face jug

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