Ocarina Project

For our first project in Ceramics 1, we created an ocarina—a wind instrument with a mouthpiece and holes for your fingers. The ocarina has appeared worldwide, across many cultures.


To begin, we were told to create at least ten sketchbook pages of research, ideas, and possible designs for our ocarina. So I scoured the web, searching through natural forms that I found both interesting and appealing. Then I printed out these images and pasted them into my sketchbook, and then added my own personal sketch/design to the side. Here’s the sketchbook pages….

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To make the ocarina, we started with a piece of clay, wedged it to release any possible air bubbles, and then created two pinch pots (roughly the same size). From there, we connected the two pinch pots—using a technique called score, slip, and blend—creating a sphere. Once the sphere was created, we proceeded to shape the clay into whichever natural form we had chosen…in my case, an owl.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was the mouthpiece. I chose to place the mouthpiece at the tail in order to create the best airflow. I attached a piece of clay—using the score, slip, and blend process—to the project, shaping it into the tail. Then, using popsicle sticks, I created airflow within the piece by pushing the popsicle stick through the tail and into the sphere. Using another popsicle stick, I opened up the mouthpiece to allow air through. Getting sound was tricky, but after some adjustments the ocarina worked just fine.

Here’s the project at a chocolate hard state….

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I chose the owl as my natural object for the ocarina because I was inspired by the perceived wisdom of the bird. Also, I felt the shape of the owl would form nicely for the ocarina. As you can see, my ocarina is much larger than the average ocarina. I made my ocarina larger in order to make a deeper sound. When playing the ocarina, it has a deep sound similar to that of an owl.

When working on this project, I brought a lot of past experience with me. However, I did learn some new things. For one, I learned the under-cut technique of carving into the piece. I used this technique on the wings, the eyes, the beak, and the feathers. If I ever made another ocarina, I would like to make a smaller one (which would produce a higher pitch) in order to have a variety in the sounds that my ocarinas make.


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