Making Miniature Pottery for 28-32mm Scale

There are a host of web pages out there providing useful tips for adding that extra touch of realism to a diorama. These range from tutorials about making miniature trees to tips for painting extra effects like rust and mud.

However, one area which seems to have been neglected is the role played in pre-modern societies by ceramic vessels. Ask any archaeologist and you will be told that such objects make up the majority of artifacts discovered in ancient and medieval sites. Partly, this is because clay is indestructible. It therefore survives very well in the archaeological record. But it is also because ceramic objects were very widely used in the past. Clay was used to make a variety of household items, including plates and bowls for serving food, chalices and goblets that served as drinking vessels, jugs that were used for serving drinks, large jars that were used to store wine and olive oil, basins that could be used for washing or for laundry and many other objects. It was even used to produce figurines that may have been used as toys, or perhaps as items of worship.

Although both metal and glass were used in the manufacture of household objects in ancient societies, these were expensive materials and only used to make valuable items for the use of  wealthy people. In ordinary households, most such items were made of clay, which was cheap and easily obtained.

Miniature ceramic items are therefore an excellent way to provide "household clutter" that adds realism to a diorama, and give a house or room a "lived-in" look. You can easily make such items using polymer clay, which should be available in any half-decent art shop. There is no need to know how to throw pottery, or learn glazing techniques. All you will need are some simple craft tools that can be used to sculpt the simple shapes that you need.
 Our favourite brand of polymer clay is Fi-Mo which makes a terra cotta coloured clay which can be used for this purpose. However, ancient pottery is known to have been made in many different colours, ranging from greenish-grey to pinkish-orange, so you can always experiment with different colours.

Generally, we prefer to mix some terra cotta coloured clay with some white or grey to give it a more realistic appearance. However, a touch of green or red can also be added to give your clay items some variety.

A real hand-made bowl from Ancient Egypt
If you are not an experienced sculptor, it might be difficult to make a miniature plate or bowl at 28mm scale that looks smooth and symmetrical. However, this really is not a problem because in ancient times, the ceramic items used in ordinary homes were usually roughly made. So you do not really have to try to make a smooth symmetrical item that looks like our own modern factory-made stuff. In ancient times, most ordinary people would have used simple, roughly made pottery like the hand-made bowl in this picture, because it was the cheapest available option.
As long as you are not making a palace or harem diorama, there should be no problem. Coarsely made pottery would fit in very well in a simple village or tavern scene.

Some miniature ceramic objects made out of Fi-Mo

A lot of ancient pottery was also painted, so you could always paint on a few decorative motifs with acrylic paint for even more variety. The decoration on most ancient pottery was not greatly detailed and often consisted of simple geometric patterns or very simple figures. The intricately detailed Greek vases that we see in our museums are exceptional examples that again were usually meant for the use of the rich and the powerful . Ordinary people would only have owned items with simple decorations . So it should be quite easy for anyone with experience painting 28mm scale miniatures to add on a few simple decorative motifs onto a miniature clay item.

Miniature Bowls

Click here to see how to make a 28-32mm scale ceramic bowl

Miniature Holemouth Jars

And here to see how to make a miniature holemouth storage jar

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