Blue Hippo

Re-create an iconic Ancient Egyptian sculpture! Models like this hippo were made from faience; a type of glazed ceramic, usually in blue or green and decorated with patterns and plant designs.  The hippo roamed freely around the River Nile and was feared and respected by Ancient Egyptians.

Skill Level

Beginner

Time to Make

1 hour + drying time for clay (24-48 hours) + paint

Adult Supervision Needed

Yes

How to Make

  1. To make the hippo’s body, break off a piece of clay using ¼ pack. Wrap up the remaining clay in a plastic bag so doesn’t dry out. Press the clay into a ball then roll it between your hands to make a 10cm smooth shape like a long pear or skittle.
  2. Carefully bend the thinner end for the hippo’s head. Try not to squeeze the clay too hard so it stays in a smooth, rounded shape. Keep a bowl of water handy while you make the model. If the surface of the hippo starts to dry out as you shape it, rub some water over the top to keep the clay smooth and easier to work with.
  3. Unwrap the block of clay and break off a small piece for making the legs and ears. Shape 4 2cm balls for the legs and press them underneath the body. Use a modelling tool to make score lines in the clay at the top of the legs and in the body. Add some water then press the legs to the body, blending the clay where they join. Add a small amount of extra clay to cover the joins if necessary.
  4. Shape small, flattened balls for the ears then press them onto the head. Use the end of a modelling tool to blend the ears onto the head and make a hole in the middle, adding some water if they start to dry out. Add some small clay pieces for the hippo’s eyes.
  5. Leave the clay to dry overnight. If the head starts to drop down, support it on a marker pen, or a book underneath to keep the head raised up a few centimetres. The model can take up to 48 hours before the surface is dry enough to paint.
  6. Paint the hippo all over with a base colour and leave to dry.
  7. Use a thin brush to paint patterns and a face onto the hippo. Leave to dry.

Top Tip

Once the hippo has dried out, any uneven areas can be filled in with small amounts of clay, for example, around the tops of the legs or anywhere else the shape needs to be refined. Press some new clay onto the dried surface, and smooth it down with your fingers. Leave to dry.

What You Need