Home Studio: National Indigenous Peoples’ Day

October 11, 2021


National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated on October 11th commemorating the Native American peoples’ histories and cultures. One of the traditions that have been passed down through generations of Native Americans as well as many other indigenous cultures is using clay to create functional objects like bowls, vessels, and cooking pots. This activity uses hand building, a technique used by many cultures to create a pot or bowl made out of clay coils. The pot you create will be inspired by nature which is also an important part of Native American culture and continues to inspire artists all over the world.

Material Suggestions

  • Clay
  • Cup of water
  • A tool to carve with (the example used a needle tool, but a toothpick could work just as well)
  • Paper towels
  • Acrylic craft paint and brush to decorate (once dry)


1. First, you may want to know what a coil pot is? It is a type of pottery that is hand-built by coils. Coils are just strips of clay rolled out. You can also use these strips of clay to make spirals which we will use for the base.

To begin, roll out your first strip of clay using your hands in a back-and-forth motion. This one should be pretty long since it will be our base.

2. Then roll the strip into a spiral shape, like a cinnamon roll.

3. Smooth out the bottom of the base using your fingertips and some water.

4. Next, roll out the next strip of clay. To attach it to the base, you will need to make a crisscross pattern with a sharp tool (if that be a needle tool or just a toothpick) onto the side of the base and on the strip of clay, and then add water onto the areas marked. Repeat this all around. Then with your fingers smooth it out.

5. Continue adding these strips of clay onto each other and attaching them to make the walls of the pot. How smooth or rough the sides end up is the artist’s decision, have some fun with it! As you continue adding the walls, if you want to also smooth out the base, you can!

6. Once you have a decent wall height, in the example it is around 4 or 5 coils high. You can now begin decorating!

7. The example is inspired by rivers which the middle loops around and creates a wave shape. The walls are supposed to be rock-like with the roughness of the clay. Just have fun with it and create something that is inspired by nature (even in your backyard). Lastly, let your pot air dry for a few days. You can then use acrylic craft paint to decorate it.


We love seeing your creations! If you would like us to share your work on the Museum’s website and social media outlets, please email images of your finished works of art to education@mmfa.org.

Make sure to include the following information in the email: the name and age of the artist, the title for your word art, the title of the original artwork from the MMFA’s collection that inspired your creation.

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