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Rattles are the only muscial instrument found in every country around the world. Most cultures have some sort of rattle that is given to an infant as a toy, or as a protective talisman. Traditions in Africa, Asia, and North America all included rattles for ritual purposes. Whatever the reason, rattles are easy to make and fun to use. This project shares how to work with clay in a slab form, as well as clay carving, creating textures and patterns, and finally, to use clay beads, beans, rice, and other sound-producing items to complete the pieces.

Preparation

  1. Cover a table with canvas to keep the clay from sticking.
  2. Divide the clay using a wire clay cutter.
  3. Assemble the texture-making supplies.
  4. Have a bowl of cornstarch and brushes available.

Process

  1. Roll slabs of Blick White Moist Talc Firing Clay or Amaco Stonex air-dry clay no thinner than 1/4". Clay thickness strips positioned on either side of the rolling pin will help you roll slabs of even thickness.
  2. Impress or roll various textures into the slabs while they are still soft. Use texture molds, embossed wallpaper samples, press tools, leaves, wire mesh — any interesting texture will work. Remember, the fun is in the experimentation!
  3. Roll small clay pellets to be enclosed in the rattle. Brush the pellets with cornstarch to keep them from sticking. Vary the sizes in order to alter the sounds they will make. If using air-dry clay, substitute rice, beans, beads, or small pebbles.
  4. Form the clay slab into any shape. Ideas:
    • - Experiment with shapes that might fit the hand well, long shapes such as rain-sticks, or rounded shapes such as gourds. Make rattles that look like seed pods or cocoons.
    • - Slabs can be formed around bunched-up paper towels. Remove the forms if using air-dry clay; if the clay is to be fired, the paper towels will burn away.
    • - Round shapes can be made by rolling a ball, slicing it in half with a wire clay cutter, then carving the clay from the inside with a loop tool. Join the two hollow halves back together.
  5. Whenever pieces of clay are joined, they must be "scored" in order to seal properly. Score the edges by scratching the surface with a fork or needle tool where the two parts meet. Apply a mixture of a small amount of water and a little clay (known as "slip") over the score marks to act as a "glue" between the joined pieces.
  6. Firing clay will require that a very small hole be pierced with a needle tool somewhere in the body of the rattle to allow steam to escape. Before closing the form completely, insert the clay pellets.
  7. If using firing clay, allow the pieces to completely dry and fire to bisque temperature (cone 04) or above. If using air-dry clay, the pieces should dry for at least two days.
  8. Finish the rattles by applying acrylic paint. Using a dry brush and paint with no added water, lightly cover the higher textures on the surface. Leave the lower areas of the imprint the natural color of the clay for a beautiful contrast that emphasizes the design.
  9. Discover the various sounds your rattles make!

Options

  1. Use metallic acrylic paint to make rattles that appear to be cast from metal. Recommend Sargent Art Metallic Acrylics, 8-oz, assorted colors
  2. Paint the entire rattle a dark base color first, then brush over raised areas with a light or metallic color.
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