Cross Contour Geologic Tiles

Lesson Plan, Grades 7-12, Geography, Art, Science, Math, Ceramics & Sculptures, 3-D


Lesson Plan & Artwork by Eric Orr

We live in a world of varied and interesting land forms. These forms were created over millions of years as a result of tremendous pressure under the earth's crust. Magma from the earth's mantle pushed up, folded and sculpted the earth. Many of these geometric and linear forms are visible from the air. Mountains were formed both by volcanism and the movement of tectonic plates pushing against one another. Erosion over millions of years by weather and glaciers worked to wear down forms creating hills, planes, valleys, moraines and rivers.


  • Students will create 3-D land forms on soft clay tiles. Forms can be pushed up from under the tile, or added as geometric forms to the tile surface.
  • Tiles will be glazed with colorful Mayco® Stroke & Coat® Glazes and then decorated with a cross contour linear pattern using Mayco® Designer Liner.
  • Cross contour is a drawing technique which produces often parallel lines similar to those found on a U.S. Geologic Survey contour hiking map, where lines trace areas of similar elevation.

Supplies Needed

Supply #1 446432 Sax® Low Fire Moist Non-Toxic Earthenware Clay, 50 lb, White
Supply #2 409782 Clay Slabmaking Complete Kit
Supply #3 406224 High Quality Rust Resistant Tile Cutter, 6" x 6", Stainless Steel
Supply #4 406223 High Quality Rust Resistant Tile Cutter, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", Stainless Steel
Supply #5 411101 Mayco® Continuous Design Press Tool, Decorative Patterns, 5/8", Set of 2
Supply #6 1289972 Mayco® Continuous Design Press Tool, Native American Design, 1 3/4" Dia, Set of 2
Supply #7 385145 Kemper Fettling Knife, 4 1/2" L, Hard Tempered Steel, Wood Handle
Supply #8 1464323 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Black (Kit includes 4)
Supply #9 1464325 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Red (Kit includes 2)
Supply #10 1464326 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Blue (Kit includes 2)
Supply #11 1464327 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Green (Kit includes 2)
Supply #12 1464328 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Brown (Kit includes 2)
Supply #13 1494606 Mayco® Designer Liner 1.25 oz, Orange (Kit includes 2)
Supply #14 1289641 Royal Brush® Ceramic Handle Classroom Value Pack, Assorted Size, Pack of 16 (Kit includes 2 packs)
Supply #15 229167 Mayco® Stroke & Coat® Wonderglaze Non-Toxic Glaze Set - A, 2 oz Bottle, Assorted Color, Set of 12
Supply #16 229170 Mayco® Stroke & Coat® Wonderglaze Non-Toxic Glaze Set - B, 2 oz Bottle, Assorted Color, Set of 12
*Here are the supplies needed for this lesson plan for reference. Find a convenient carousel of shoppable products for this lesson below.


CONTENT Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
CONTENT Standard #2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
CONTENT Standard #3: Define and complete artistic work.
CONTENT Standard #5: Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
CONTENT Standard #10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.



Roll out a pound of clay (orange size) into a disc 1/4 to 5/16 inch thick. (White clay will show color best).


Using a tile cutter or cardboard template, cut slab into a 4, 5 or 6 inch tile. Tile does not have to be square.


Make the tile 3-D by pushing up land forms gently from the bottom side of the smoothed clay tile. Geometric Forms may also be added to the surface by scoring and slipping them before pressing to the surface. Forms may be realistic or imaginary. Hollow out any that are thicker than your index finger, and be sure to pierce an air escape hole.


The tile clay surface should be smooth to facilitate later Mayco® Designer Liner pattern. However, an interesting tile border or frame may be created with press tools.


Dry the tiles and bisque fire to cone 04, (1945 degrees F.)


Using Mayco® Stroke & Coat® Glazes, brush on 2 to 3 coats of glaze, making sure to allow glaze to dry between coats. Glaze may be used to emphasize or connect the land forms.


Choose several Mayco® Designer Liner colors and use them to create linear patterns on and around your forms. Parallel lines work best.


Wipe glaze off tile bottom and glaze fire to cone 05 or 06 (1888- 1828 degrees F.)