Batley Grammar School- primary

C-Force: Clay that Moves

Science Topic: Forces

Participants: Year 3

Artist: Ammie Flexen

Cummins Buddy: Callum Parkinson

Clay comes from the ground, is millions of years old and has travelled many miles, worn down from rock by rivers as it flows downwards to the sea.  This marvellous material is the perfect material to find out about forces and the effects of gravity.

By squeezing and rolling, pressing and bending, building and stretching, we’ll find out just what this muddy substance is. What can we do with clay on a very big scale? We will be exploring, testing and discovering amazing things in unexpected ways, finding out how an artist works and discovering how fun science is when we test things out for ourselves.

Session 1

Today we worked with clay on a big scale. We met with Ammie  who is working with us to develop our creative skills and explore clay. We also met Callum, who is from Cummins and will be working with us as we learn about art and science. Ammie showed us examples of objects made from clay, that we were able to handle and learned that clay is used in all kinds of situations, including buildings. 

We explored the clay for the first half of the session – using forces we were squeezing, stretching, manipulating and seeing how different shapes can be stuck together. We discovered that if we squeeze clay through a sieve it makes a grassy texture. Next we made a long coil of clay, as long as we possibly could, then helped Ammie wrap it round a drainpipe tube to see how tall we could make it. Ammie asked what might happen when she took the tube out. We predicted that it might fall over. When we took the tube out, the clay stayed upright with some help, but the bottom began to collapse. We talked about how gravity might be causing the clay to collapse and what processes need to happen to clay to make it strong enough to build with as bricks.

Our topic this term is geography, and we have been looking at rivers and mountains. Ammie explained that rivers play a huge part in forming clay and we are going to research this. We worked together as a group to create a collaborative sculpture based on rives and mountains. We thought it was a Masterpiece!


This work is a masterpiece!

I used forces to make it into the right shape.

Gravity will pull over the clay.

If the clay gets too thin it breaks.


Session 2

Today we tried using different types of forces in our art techniques and got to try different creative activities.

We tried sip trailing using forces, this meant dripping coloured liquid clay slips onto clay tiles and swirling them around by dragging paintbrushes through them and tipping the tile up to make it move due to gravity. When we dripped one colour on top of another, it made the colours spread out due to gravity.

We made textures in clay, first by pressing our hands hard onto the clay to flatten it, this took a lot of pushing force. We used different tools and objects to press into the clay to make patterns. Ammie will use these patterns to cut up and put on our final piece of work.

We tried marbling with inks in water to create patterns on the paper. Using pipettes, we dripped the inks onto the water that had special ingredients to make the ink float. The we swished paintbrushes to swirl the ink around to make marbled patterns and then laid the paper on to soak up and ink.

It was a really busy session today, Callum showed us a presentation about his work at Cummins and we also talked about the exhibition and what we might like to make. We are thinking about how forces move water in rivers and how clay is formed over millions of years by erosion made by the force of water wearing it down.

I liked the marbling because it looked colourful as it mixed together.

I enjoyed pressing the clay because I enjoyed looking at the pattern it made.

My favourite bit was the clay making because I got to create different pictures.

I learned about different forces that we use today: strength, pushing, rolling, pressure, gravity, pinching and squeezing.

Session 3

Ammie showed us artwork by other artists to help us think about creating our design in a different way. We saw the ‘Hokusai’ wave print and we watched a short video of an installation artist named Olafur Eliasson who made a light installation showing water ripples. Then, inspired by the art we had seen, we worked on reverse charcoal drawings. This meant that we covered big pieces of paper with charcoal, and worked with a rubber to draw with light instead of dark. Using the rubber meant we used forces and rhythm, then we drew into the charcoal to make more black lines like ripples.

We worked on a bigger scale and used our whole arms and hands to create big waves and ripples to music. It made us forget about making our drawing perfect and just enjoy the movement and marks we made with swirly and circular lines. These are going to inspire our final piece of work.

Afterwards we used a technique in clay that was also in reverse. We made rolled long snakes of clay and using our hands and then formed patterns of clay formed into the first letter of our names. The we had to smooth the clay out which got rid of the pattern and made it disappear but when we lifted the clay over, the pattern as on the other side. Once we had done this as a practice on our own, then we made long snake of clay as teams, formed them into patterns that will be part of the river we are making.


We learned that the clay is formed over millions of years by rivers carrying rock and eroding it away until it became clay

I was worried that my pattern had gone, but it was amazing when I turned it over and saw it was there

I really enjoyed the charcoal, I liked making the lines

Session 4

Today we focused on finishing the components for our final piece of work for the exhibition, but still got to try out new techniques and experimental ideas. We split into groups and we did different activities.

We experimented with using ceramic oxides and stains, mixed with acidic liquids such as vinegar and lemon juice. We found that when we dropped the mixture onto the clay slip, it kept travelling through the wet slip to create spidery shapes that looked a bit like streams.

Our slip trailing, dripping and splashing on clay will be part of the wave on our final piece of work, and we made this as a team. Ammie is going to cut up the clay to form a collaborative wall piece.

One group painted with slip onto wet clay and then scratched through the slip to make textures and marks on the clay. Finally one group printed onto the clay by painting with decorating underglaze colours onto paper and then printing onto porcelain to make watery patters and textures. We are making three wall pieces based on different parts of the river, showing different stages of forces. The trickly oxides will represent the start of the river, the swirly textures we made last week will be the middle of the river and the textures we made and scraffito patterns will form a big wave.


I learned that there are different types of clay from different places and materials.

We used malt vinegar and posh vinegar and lemon juice and the posh vinegar made the oxides run better

We used different tools to scratch the clay into patterns

You can use dots on the clay as well as lines

 I learned how to spread the paint/ slip. It’s like marbling

We printed paint from the paper and pressed it onto the clay to print

I learned how to place my paper so that my print covered all of the clay