Art Activity

Making Matters – Vietnamese Toad

Make Your Own Vietnamese Toad

This activity can be scaled up or down according to grade level, but is best for grades 4-12. For younger students, perhaps you will just make a small, simple frog. Older students can make larger, more intricately decorated toad and add a glaze.

Objectives

After completing the activity, students will be able to:

  • Work with clay
  • Create a clay pot that is both decorative and functional
  • Make the connection between art and household objects
  • Gain insight into the needs and creation processes of the Neolithic era

Discussion/Motivation

As early as 1500 BCE, frogs and toads have appeared as decoration in Southeast Asia. The frogs and toads are believed to represent rain and may have played a role in ceremonies that brought (and maybe even stopped) the monsoon rains. 

Frogs and toads are believed to live very long lives and as such, frogs and toads are incorporated into traditional Vietnamese medicine.

In ceramics, the frogs and toads are portrayed in very realistic detail. There is careful attention paid to their size, skin patterns, and even bumpy warts. 

The BMA has a toad water dropper in its collection. A water-dropper is a small device used in Asian calligraphy as a container designed to hold a small amount of water. In order to make ink a few drops of water are dropped onto the surface of an inkstone. By grinding an ink stick into this water on the inkstone, particles come off and mix with the water, forming ink.

A water-dropper typically has two small holes for water and air, and is designed so that only a few drops of water can fall at one time.

Question

 Why do you think it was popular for water droppers to be made in the form of toads and frogs?

Materials

  • Air dry clay or Crayola Model Magic (no need for a kiln)
  • Sculpting tools (can substitute plastic spoons and forks)
  • Water
  • Crayola Model Magic Glossy Glaze (optional)

Procedure 

  1. Prepare the clay by gently forming it into a ball 
  2. Roll ball of clay around in hands to get the air bubbles out
  3. Begin to pinch the side of the ball to form the legs of the frog
  4. Pinch the top of the clay ball to form the V-shaped face
  5. Flatten the back
  6. If needed, grab some additional clay, roll into small rope the size of a finger nail and add to both sides of the frog face to add the ridge over the eyes
  7. Then pinch in the eyes to create depth
  8. Smooth out the body of the frog
  9. Use sculpting tools to draw in area for eyes and lines in the foot to resemble webbing
  10. Use sculpting tool to create bumps on the back of the frog
  11. Using additional clay, roll into two tiny  balls 
  12. Score (create cross-cross lines) in the clay where the eyes will go, wet the clay, and attach the  balls to the frog to form eyeballs 
  13. Smooth or add any additional decoration desired 
  14. Cover with Crayola Model Magic Glossy Glaze (optional)

Evaluation

Have the students compare their frogs. Then ask them to say or write a description about the frog and where they would display it on their house.