Lucky Clay Cat
The Maneki Neko cat, with its beckoning paws, is shaped with newspaper and covered with clay.
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Project by Cynthia Brown from Tulsa, Okla.
Materials and Tools:
white low-fire clay
medium sized paintbrushes
1/2" dowel rod
bowl of water
any tool that adds texture
clay firing kiln
wire or material to make cat whiskers
small gauge wire to hang bell
*Slip is clay mixed with water and used to adhere clay together.
1. Cut off a couple of clay slabs. Roll out the slabs to about 3/8-inch thickness using a rolling pin.
2. Make an armature the shape of the cat's body and head out of newspaper (figure A).
3. Piece the slabs of clay around the armatures covering the pieces entirely. When joining pieces, score the clay on both sides using a serrated rib, add slip and smooth out joining edges of clay using fingers (figure B).
4. Allow piece to dry (set up) for a couple of days to a leather hard stage.
5. Make the cat's head by shaping a ball of clay around newspaper (figure C) and attaching it with slip to the neck of the clay body.
6. Shape the face by creating indentations for eyes and nose (figure D), sculpt the eyes and add clay ears.
7. Form the cat's paws from clay and attach, positioning one paw in a raised position.
8. Form the back legs and tail from clay. Attach to the body with slip and score parts onto the body.
9. Make the little "prosperity" sign the cat will hold by rolling a sheet of clay and stamping with rubber stamps (figure F).
10. Make a collar by rolling a thin strip of clay, texture it with desired tool and wrap it around the cat's neck to attach (figure H).
11. Poke a hole in the bottom, with a needle tool, to allow air to escape while in the kiln. Caution: The piece could explode while firing if bottom is not punctured.
12. Also, poke a few holes on each side of the cat's face for inserting whiskers.
13. Apply the under glaze with a 1-inch flat brush. Add yellow and black spots, pink for ears and nose, eyes green, black around the eyes, green for the tablet and the lettering in black (figure I).
14. Cut a off a small length of thin gauge wire, bend into a semicircle and push piece into the front of the cat's collar beneath the face. The cat's bell will hang from this wire.
15. Air-dry for 10 days or more, depending on the humidity.
16. Fire the piece slowly in kiln to cone 4 (1,945 degrees) and let cool about 10-12 hours.
17. Apply red glaze to the collar and clear glaze on the body.
18. Fire in kiln to cone 06 (1,830 degrees) and let cool 10-12 hours.
19. Attach whiskers with epoxy (figure J).
20. Attach a small bell to the lucky clay cat collar for a finishing touch.
Cynthia Brown considers herself many things including artist, teacher, storyteller and cat lover. She has been rescuing stray cats ever since she can remember. So it comes as no surprise to find out that her studio is filled with cats, real ones and clay ones. Her clay cat creations with their raised paws are part of an old Japanese legend. They are called Maneki Neko. Some beckon with their left paw, which is said to attract visitors. Others with a raised right paw invite wealth and good fortune. A cat with both paws in the air summons protection for the household or business that displays it. The Japanese say that the higher the paw, the greater the invitation--and the luckier the cat!