How to make a clay tree sculpture

Clay face sculptures forest school craft


Here’s a fantastic outdoor art idea that’s perfect for forest school. We’re using natural materials found in the forest to make clay faces on tree trunks.



How to make clay faces on tree trunks

The forest provides and abundance of natural materials that we can use for a forest school art lesson.

Here’s an idea from a workshop run by Barefoot Ceramics at the Just So festival: tree trunk clay faces. 





Ready-made forest school lesson plans

Have you got your copy of The Forest Classroom yet? It is the perfect beginner’s guide to running a successful forest school. Download your forest school guide here.

A forest classroom is a place of adventure, discovery, and imagination. It can also be a wonderful place to learn about math and science, explore art and crafts, and develop language and social skills.

The Forest Classroom is a practical guide which will show you how to engage your children in fun and educational forest-school activities. 

These ready-made forest school lesson plans are suitable for forest school leaders, teachers, childcarers and parents with children aged 4 to 10, to learn in a forest, school nature area, local park or your own backyard.

Get your copy of The Forest Classroom here and you’ll be ready to head straight outdoors and enjoy teaching, using our ready-made lesson plans.






Materials needed

:: natural clay (or play dough if you’re working indoors)

:: natural materials such as leaves, twigs, pine cones and needles, seeds, bark

:: trees!



Begin by gathering natural art materials from the forest floor.

Make sure your children know what is safe to gather and then have them collect a selection of materials to use as loose parts to make their clay sculptures.



Give each child a chunk of natural clay and get them to knead it to soften it. This is a wonderful exercise to develop hand and wrist strength.

(If you’re working indoors, you can use play dough as an alternative to clay.)

Then find a good tree and firmly press your clay on to the bark of the trunk. Use your fingers to form the clay into the outline of your sculpture’s face. You might build the shape up to create a nose, chin, and ears.

You might know straight away what face you want to make, or you might play with the clay until it begins to form into a face of its own.



Use the natural materials you have gathered from the forest floor to add details to your clay face.

You can use sticks, fir cones, leaves, and pine needles.

You might use a stick to draw marks into the clay.



You can create friendly faces or scary ones.

Maybe you’d like to make an animal?




Go on a walk around your forest art gallery and take a look at all the clay faces your group has created.

As we’re using all natural materials, the sculpture can be left to return to the forest floor once the wind and rain have done their work on the sculptures.


Free Forest School and Garden Classroom resources!

Join my weekly email service and I'll send you FREE printables, lesson plans, and activity ideas that you can use with your children in your forest school and garden classroom.

Seasons School is NurtureStore's year-round program of living and learning with nature. Our activities and resources focus on hands-on, nature-based learning that connects children with the natural environment.

If you're looking for nature study lessons, arts and craft projects, campfire recipes, foraging ideas, outdoor math and literacy activities, outdoor games, and ways to explore forests, gardens, and outdoor spaces - think of NurtureStore as your forest fairy godmother!

Whether you're in a forest school or outdoor classroom, running a school gardening club, bringing nature lessons into your class, home educating with nature, or wanting to connect with the great outdoors at the weekend, you will love the Seasons School ideas.

Pop your email address into the box below and I'll send you your free resources.

* By subscribing, you consent to our use of your personal data as per our Privacy Policy, which includes agreeing to receiving interest-based email from us.


clay tree sculpture | TikTok Search



For You



My Pots and Puppets

Took a year to make but for a weird reason. #tiktokart #artist #artwork #clay #clayart #claysculpture #mushrooms #trees #crystals

870 Likes, 36 Comments. TikTok video from My Pots and Puppets (@gaptoothstudios): "Took a year to make but for a weird reason. #tiktokart #artist #artwork #clay #clayart #claysculpture #mushrooms #trees #crystals". Little Porcelain Worlds. Solas Jamie Duffy.


Solas Jamie Duffy - Jamie Duffy


Diana Svensk

Releasing the short & sweet version in case you got some clay, time, and kids around you this weekend🤗 #claytree #treetutorial #sculpting #holiday

686 Likes, 8 Comments. TikTok video from Diana Svensk (@dianasvensk): "Releasing the short & sweet version in case you got some clay, time, and kids around you this weekend🤗 #claytree #treetutorial #sculpting #holiday". How to create bark texture in clay tree (super easy) | Use this tool | Gently press it down in a straight line | .... Nothing.


Nothing - Bruno Major


⁂ Wɪsʜɪɴɢ Wᴇʟʟ Wᴏʀᴋsʜᴏᴘ ⁂

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the studio!! 🌲🎄🌲 #wishingwellworkshop #polymerclay #claytree #christmastree #sculpture #sosatisfying

TikTok video from ⁂ Wɪsʜɪɴɢ Wᴇʟʟ Wᴏʀᴋsʜᴏᴘ ⁂ (@wishingwellworkshop): "It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the studio!! 🌲🎄🌲 #wishingwellworkshop #polymerclay #claytree #christmastree #sculpture #sosatisfying". Christmas Bells.


Christmas Bells - StudioKolomna


Amber ☽

finally completed this magical crystal fairy tree!! I love how this turned out ✨🧚‍♀️ #fyp #art #artist #polymerclay #smallbusiness #nature #polymerclayart #fypシ #crystal #crystals #fairy #sculpture

205 Likes, 7 Comments. TikTok video from Amber ☽ (@ambear__): "finally completed this magical crystal fairy tree!! I love how this turned out ✨🧚‍♀️ #fyp #art #artist #polymerclay #smallbusiness #nature #polymerclayart #fypシ #crystal #crystals #fairy #sculpture". ✨fairy dust✨. Campfire.


Campfire - Charmer & Klay


Shelby E Clark

Turning this deer into a tree trunk next🌲 #sculpture #clay #artistsoftiktok #deer #animalart #clayart #selftaught #arttok #art

1. 9K Likes, 42 Comments. TikTok video from Shelby E Clark (@shelbyeclark): "Turning this deer into a tree trunk next🌲 #sculpture #clay #artistsoftiktok #deer #animalart #clayart #selftaught #arttok #art". Sleeping Ute.


Sleeping Ute - Grizzly Bear



Yes! it's another jar! This time.. I made the fairies a swing. 🧚🌳#jarart #crystal #fypシ #polymerclay #polymerclayart #trees #sculpture #fairy

720 Likes, 23 Comments. TikTok video from KrintinCreations (@krintincreations): "Yes! it's another jar! This time.. I made the fairies a swing. 🧚🌳#jarart #crystal #fypシ #polymerclay #polymerclayart #trees #sculpture #fairy". Eyes on Fire.


Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation


Laughing Skull

Tree Man: pt. 2 Check put my insta for final pictures #sculpeyclay #sculpture #creepy #tree

TikTok video from Laughing Skull (@laughing_skull): "Tree Man: pt.2 Check put my insta for final pictures #sculpeyclay #sculpture #creepy #tree". Warm.


Warm - Joey Pecoraro



Finally finished this Tree dish #artistsoftiktok #airdryclay #sculpture #trees #nature #artistsoftiktok

TikTok video from ARTGASM (@__artgasm__): "Finally finished this Tree dish #artistsoftiktok #airdryclay #sculpture #trees #nature #artistsoftiktok". Money Twërk.


Money Twërk - Yeat & YEAT



#creepy #tree #necklace wat y think? #art #creative #pink #craft #halloween #nature #fyp #handmade #sculpture #clay #nomodel #viral #artist #artober

7. 7K Likes, 17 Comments. TikTok video from ari (@ari___art): "#creepy #tree #necklace wat y think? #art #creative #pink #craft #halloween #nature #fyp #handmade #sculpture #clay #nomodel #viral #artist #artober". Feel Good Inc..


Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz

Batzfer burning sculpture

To save a statue made with natural clay, it must be transferred to a hard material. The easiest way is to fire the dry sculpture in a special ceramic kiln. To do this, here are the instructions for preparing the sculpture for burning. The fact is that the excessive thickness of the clay mass can lead to an explosion of the statue in the furnace during a fire. To reduce the risk of an explosion, add dripping clay (clay that burns and turns to powder). The thickness of the clay required for firing varies depending on the grain size and the relative amount as a percentage of the weight of the clay.

The following is an approximate breakdown of the relationship between droplet size and clay thickness that can burn with 25% droplet presence in the clay: Drop of 1 mm - up to 3 cm
Drop of 2 mm - up to 5 cm

For more accurate and detailed information, please refer to the special literature on ceramic firing.

And one more note: preparation for the fire should be done after the initial molding of the parts, but before the final finish. Firstly, the clay is still soft, and secondly, the process of preparing a sculpture for firing is very damaging to the details.

In the statue of a female figure Made of clay with a 0.5 mm difference, the thickness of the sides of the statue should not exceed 2 cm. After cutting the sculpture into convenient pieces to empty the clay from the inside, try to work in places with less detail. When gluing parts of the statue with liquid clay, the joints should be rubbed. Watch for tight gluing of parts and squeeze out excess liquid from the material. When you're done, move the glue dots.

Watch a video illustrating the process of preparing a sculpture for burning (cutting and emptying) 2:53

Once the sculpture has been emptied and the finishing touches have been completed, it should be allowed to dry completely. Drying time depends on the type of clay and room temperature. When the clay is completely dry, its color fades and it does not appear wet when in contact with the clay. It's time to move it to the fire. If you don't have a ceramic kiln, try contacting a ceramist in your area and ask to burn the statue with them, or contact the Sculpture Burning Service in our studio for help.

After the fire, you can go toPainting the statue and give it a more noble look, such as bronze or wood.

Preparing a statue for burning

More messages about methods and techniques in sculpture:

Method of sculpture in ceramic clay

Here is the method of clay sculpture, the most common of the various methods of sculpture. The explanation is accompanied by a demo video and tips for working with natural ceramic clay intended for firing.

Making a plaster mold for ceramic clay sculpture

It is often necessary to duplicate a sculpture. The easiest way to do this is with plasticine. Here is the instructions for making a plaster mold for clay casting with a tutorial video.

statue painting

Here is Alexander Cherkov's original method of painting, a fairly simple technique that makes clay sculpture look like another, more noble material, such as bronze, wood and aluminum.

Sculptural studies at Cherkov's Studio in Givatayim - welcome to join:

Art workshops in a personal track - Study of painting, sculpture and drawing under the guidance of Alexander Cherkov for adults and youth, beginners and advanced. Group lessons with guidance and individual approach to each participant.

Art workshops for children - Classes in painting, sculpture and graphics under the guidance of Sophie Cherkov for children of primary school age, beginners and advanced. Research in small groups with guidance and individual approach to each participant.

Want to share with someone?

Thai Sculpture Clay

Thai Sculpture Clay

Thai Polymer Clay is mainly used for sculpting flowers, but can be widely used for making sculptures and high reliefs. The advantage of this clay is that it has a smooth surface after hardening and does not require firing, which makes it possible not to limit the size of the product. Also, this clay allows you to make the most delicate details: feathers, hairs, scales, which, when touched, do not break, but bend and, after crushing, return to their original shape. And the thinner the clay is rolled out, for example, as thick as a sheet of paper, the more flexible it is.

The only disadvantage of this clay is that it is not suitable for modeling a large volume in an array, because with a large thickness, the material on top dries quickly, forming a crust, but does not have time to dry inside. When the clay inside such a part hardens, the crust cracks because of this, so you can’t make the top layer too thick, a maximum of 3-4 mm, and if you need it thicker, then they mold it in stages with layer-by-layer drying or make a base with a given volume. If sculpting in layers, then each layer must be lubricated with latex glue before gluing a new layer of clay - this will prevent peeling.

If you need to make a three-dimensional figurine (doll, animals, birds, fish, etc.), or large massive parts of plants (bonsai trunk, sunflower center, lily bud, etc.), or a bas-relief / high relief, then the frame / base - required. The frame is made of wire, wood, cork, foam, cardboard, aluminum foil, papier-mâché, light clays. Before covering with clay, the frame must be smeared with latex glue and dried a little (not completely, but to a slight stickiness), so that the clay is well attached to the frame material and does not fall off.

When making a trunk with branches, it is more convenient to tape the wire to each other with tape. The volume of the figure can be given by winding pieces of toilet paper, fabrics in the right places (glued to latex glue).

Clay must be selected depending on its properties:

Clay No. 5 - ideal for topiary trunks, buds, solid bodies, bas-reliefs and high reliefs.

Clay No. 1 is optimal for sculpting figures of birds, fish, animals, etc.

Clay No. 7 is translucent and very flexible, therefore suitable for fantasy sculptures, for creating the most delicate elements (dragon whiskers, horse mane, etc.) .

Clay "Super White" is the whitest, so it is ideal for snow-white wedding figurines (doves, figurines, etc.)

To give the clay a wood texture, imitation of pile, use a tool - a textured metal brush, a plastic brush and textured silicone sheets. To create individual feathers and scales, the clay needs to be rolled out very thinly, for which it is best to use a pasta machine. For cutting feathers, it is convenient to use cutters for miniature flowers, or you can cut them out with a special cutter knife.

To color clay in solid wood, you can add a little paint (acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache). If too much paint is added, the clay will delaminate. Bright colors can be obtained by mixing colored light clays (Harty, Deco), the only limitation is that the higher the percentage of light clay, the less flexible the parts will be after drying. If you need to color translucent clay while maintaining the effect of transparency, then you can paint with ink from ballpoint pens, watercolors and oil paints.

Once hardened, Thai clay can be painted with any paint, oil pastels, waterproof markers, ink and varnished. For feathers, hair and other small details, it is better to use an aerosol spray varnish. If you need to make an imitation of gold or silver, then a special spray paint is used for this.

For wedding figurines, to add iridescence to feathers and scales and to protect against moisture, the finished painted product can be covered with a thin layer of mother-of-pearl wax.

The eyes of the figurine can be made of epoxy resin to make them shine and have depth. Epoxy can be colored with ink from ballpoint pens.

To imitate short hair and "fluff", for example, in a lemur, mouse, chicken, the finish coat with flock powder (fluff powder) looks very realistic.

The base of the sculpture can be decorated with stabilized moss, artificial snow, pieces of bark, etc.

Learn more