Orange pumpkin planter with a sprout.

Create your own pinch pot inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama.

Time: One hour (plus time for drying)
Skill Level: Intermediate
Topic: Pattern and Repetition

Drawing of Yayoi Kusama by Anne Matlock for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

As a young girl growing up around her family’s plant nursery, Yayoi Kusama fell in love with the round, playful and lumpy shape of the pumpkin. She began creating art at a young age, despite her mother’s disapproval. For most of her life, she has experienced hallucinations involving dot-covered surfaces, and her work in recreating these mental images has been a form of therapy for her. Dot-covered pumpkins are a common theme in her work. Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama (2016) is an eight-foot tall sculpture covered in repeating patterns of different sized dots.
Want to learn more? Read more about Yayoi Kusama’s life and work.

Watch the video and listen to Layla. What do you see? Describe the colors and shapes. Do you notice any patterns? Talk together about the pumpkin. Does it look real? Why, or why not?


This project requires a day between sculpting and painting in order to give the pinch pot time to dry.

  1. Gather materials. You’ll need clay or play dough, sculpting tools (pencil, toothpick), paint, and painting tools (brush, toothpick, dry spaghetti).
    Materials for this project. Clay, paint, paintbrush.
  2. Pinch the dough. Roll the clay into a ball, then use your thumb to pinch a hole in the center.
    Hand shaping a clay pot
  3. Shape your pot. You can make a pumpkin or any other shape you like! Use a sculpting tool (a pencil or toothpick will work fine!) to add details.
  4. Paint your pot. Once the clay dries, add a few coats of color to your pinch pot.
    Clay pot being painted with orange paint
  5. Add pattern. Use another paint color to add a repeating pattern, like the dots Yayoi Kusama loves so much. Dry spaghetti and toothpicks are great tools for adding dots!
    Orange clay pot being painted with black dots.
  6. Give it life. Plant a seedling or add a flower to your pinch pot.
    Orange pumpkin planter with a sprout.