Self-Portrait Sculpey Sculpture Pen Toppers: Elementary Clay Project & Art Lesson Plan

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C****onceptual Basis for Lesson:

Using Sculpey clay, students will utilize hand-building techniques in order to create a self portrait pen topper. This project is an introduction to self-portraits for students and working with clay. A good way to begin to get to know students, it is ideal for 4th and 5th graders.

Art Resources:

Various examples of self-portraits both drawn and in ceramic (Greek & Roman busts).

Art & Other Materials:

paper, pencils, colored Sculpey clay, clay tools, Bic Round Stic (white body) pens-1 per student, ink & tips removed until after baking, mirrors or photographs of students


  • Self-portrait: A picture/drawing/photograph done of a person by that person
  • Proportion: The size relationship between one part of the whole and one part of another.
  • Realistic: Looking true to life

Students may also need clay vocabulary depending on how much knowledge they have of clay.

Motivation For Lesson:

Students begin lesson by drawing a self-portrait. They either use mirrors or photographs of themselves as references. Before starting, it is helpful to have a class discussion about portraits/self-portraits and viewing the works of selected artists. The teacher also points out/discusses tips with students about portrait drawing:

  • Shape of the head: Pay attention to the shape of their head/face. Is it round? Is it heart-shaped? More square-shaped?
  • Eyes: Generally the eyes are placed just above the center “middle” of the head.
  • Nose: The top of the nose is even with the top of the eyes, while the bottom of the nose is about halfway between the bottom of the chin and the top of the eyes. The bottom of the nose is the same width as the space between the eyes.
  • Ears: The ears are between the top of the eyes and the bottom of the nose.
  • Mouth: The mouth is almost as wide as the distance between the pupils of the eyes.

Requirements & Steps

The teacher should also demonstrate ways to work with the Sculpey clay for this project: (some discussion examples)

  • How to roll clay into balls
  • How to roll coils of clay for hair
  • How to cut the clay
  • How to build up and shape ball into face by pinching and pressing

Students will start building their self-portrait with a ball about the circumference of a quarter. If they work much smaller, it will be difficult to add details.


  • Students complete a self-portrait sketch before starting work with the Sculpey clay. Portrait should contain eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair. Students should attempt to be realistic and show detail.
  • A Sculpey clay pen topper. Students are required to have a head and attempt to show details in clay. Ex. creating eyes by using white and eye color, trying to make their hair realistic by rolling out strands, or showing curls, or a part as opposed to two black dots for eyes. Students also need to find a way to personalize the pen. They could add a favorite hat, something sports related like a soccer ball, or other accessories to personalize their pen.

Steps in Summary:

  • Lesson discussion & motivation.
  • Students work on paper self-portraits.
  • Once they complete the paper portraits, students begin clay work, starting with a ball of clay for their head.
  • After they have facial details completed and hair, students can place their “head” on the top of the pen. *NOTE-ink & pen tips should be removed by this time until after baking.
  • Students can now add personalization details. With a coil of clay, they can add a neck under the head & shirt. Or they could add arms holding something that has special meaning.
  • Once project is completed, pens need to be baked in an oven for 15 minutes at 275 degrees.
  • The ink/pen tip is then replaced.

Your students will have a “blast” making these self-portraits. Sculpey clay is so much fun!