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Wiggly House

See how Tod Van Duren combines his love of architecture and his artistic abilities to make whimsical clay houses.

Todd Van Duren has always had art and architecture running through his veins. For as long as he can remember he has been fascinated by sky scrapers and buildings of all shapes and sizes. It wasn't until he found clay that he was able to combine his love of architecture with his artistic inclinations to make his whimsical clay houses.

Materials and Tools:

sculpture clay
pottery glazes
slab roller or rolling pin
MDF drying boards (called 'bats')
fettling knife
bevel cutter

clay stamps
serrated metal rib
rubber rib
wooden modeling tools
paint scraper
tape measure
straight edge

electric kiln for bisque firing
raku kiln for raku firing
garbage cans
protective gear for raku firing:
- asbestos gloves
- leather cape
- face shield
green scrubby pad


1. Roll clay through a slab roller to a uniform thickness of 5/8 inch.

2. Place clay slabs on paper lined bats (MDF boards). Allow slabs to stiffen to soft leather-hard stage.

3. Remove slabs from bats and smooth the clay surface with a rubber rib.

4. Trace and cut out the wiggly side of the house using a fettling knife. Replicate the wiggly side by tracing and cutting two matching pieces, one for the front and one for the back.

5. Use a tape measure to determine the length of the straight sides of house. Trace and cut out sides with a straight edge and a fettling knife.

6. Impress the sides of the house with clay stamps to produce doors and windows.

7. Turn the slabs over and use a bevel cutter to bevel the sides where the clay slabs will be joined.

8. Select one wiggly side to start, wet the beveled edges of this piece and then score the beveled edges with a serrated rib. Place the slab on the table with the beveled side up.

9. Wet and score the edge of one of the straight sides. Attach the sidewall to the wiggly side. Press the sidewalls together firmly. Squeeze out any air in the joint.

10. Repeat step 9 for the remaining two sides to complete the box.

11. Allow the completed box to dry and stiffen a little, then clean up the edges using wooden modeling tools.

12. Use a paint scraper, (or knife) to cut the roofline of the house.

13. Measure and cut clay slabs to form the roof. Wet and score the roof and attach to the house.

14. Cut a small rectangle of clay for the chimney. Wet and score and attach the chimney.

15. Set aside the completed house and allow to dry.

16. Place the bone-dry house in a kiln and fire to bisque stage. Allow the house to cool again to room temperature before removing from the kiln.

17. Apply ceramic glazes to the house using regular paintbrushes. Apply different color glazes to the body of the building, roof, door and windows. Then allow the glaze to dry.

18. Apply a clear coat glaze, which will give the building a crackle appearance.

19. Place the glazed house in a raku kiln. Fire the kiln. Periodically check the glazing progress through the spy hole.

20. When the glaze is complete, don protective gear, remove the house from the kiln using fireproof gloves and place in a newspaper-lined garbage can and close the lid.

21. Allow the house to cool to room temperature. Remove the house from the kiln and clean with a kitchen scrubby pad.


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