Saturday, April 25, 2015

Let's hear it for the Greeks!

 Although red clay is not my favorite form of clay to work with, I had to keep this project as authentic as possible, so red clay it was. The art studio classroom was covered with fine red dust and my sinks were a mess for several weeks, but the results were worth it!

The sixth graders were ready to begin their history unit on Ancient Greece, so I met with their classroom teacher to make sure my project ideas would fit in with hers. In the end, we decided that the pottery was a perfect fit, as was the iPad project based on her "Greek Day" event that I will post about soon.

 The students already knew how to make coil pots, so we used that technique to create these lovely urns, pitchers, and bowls. I found some great resources posted by other art and history teachers, which we used to see the various designs and styles used by the Greeks at different times in their history.

One of the most useful resources is a PowerPoint created by Kevin J. Benoy. Great photos and lots of information are presented in a format perfect for middle school students. Another excellent site for all things Greek is a website created by Mr. Donn, called Ancient Greece for Kids. Both the history teacher and I used this site extensively during this unit. There are also numerous resources online for images of the various patterns commonly found on Greek pottery, which the students used to create a preliminary sketch for their own project.

We used AMACO Velvet Underglaze in white and black for the designs. I bisque fired the clay first to avoid any issues with breakage trying to apply glaze on greenware. Before the final firing, the students had the option of leaving the piece this way, or adding a layer of clear gloss glaze to add shine to the piece. The results were stunning either way!

This is one of my favorite pieces, simply because of all the details this student took the time to include. She worked an extra art class to complete it, but it was well-worth the time and effort!

Now that the red dust has settled, and we're on to other things, I can honestly say that I agree with the students who said this was "the best clay project yet". Chances are good that I will repeat this one again next year!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fabulous Face Jugs!


One of my favorite clay projects to teach to my fifth grade students is this one! Face Jugs have a fascinating history tied to the days of slavery and the Civil War, which they study in the middle grades. I first learned about Face Jugs on a visit to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, several years ago. This regional art museum was hosting an exhibit of face jugs, some found at historic sites and on loan from collectors, and others created by contemporary artists living and working in the Carolinas. I immediately knew that this would make a great cross-curricular project and have done it ever since! In past years, we painted with acrylics, but this year I was fortunate enough to have the funds for glaze...yay!

Alien Face Jug

Love this fierce Face Jug!

Sometimes they get a bit silly!

Kitty Jug's whiskers are bits of leather lacing, hot glued after firing.

Although our face jugs have a contemporary twist, the students enjoyed learning about the history of this craft from the following sites before designing and creating their own art work. 

Jim McDowell is a North Carolina potter who is carrying on the tradition in honor of his ancestors, who survived, or did not survive, the Middle Passage, a journey that led to a life of slavery for so many.

The Kuehn Pottery website features the work of potter Karl Kuehn. His site includes YouTube videos showing him at work creating his face jugs and other ceramic pieces. It also includes a link to a PBS video detailing the history of face jugs and the Middle Passage, which my students found very interesting. 

Although the glaze was a little thin, this little Fish Face Jug is so cute! 

 Up next, I'll be posting ceramic work from my sixth grade students, who have been studying ancient Greece. Our Greek urns are almost ready for their debut!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's Clay Time!

Of course, there is an Olaf...or two...or three!

Last year and the year before were years with "kiln troubles", mostly caused by power outages and broken water lines spewing water all over unfired work and the controls on the kiln. Fortunately, this year has proven to be a much better year for clay, so all my students in grades 1-7 have had at least one clay creating experience this year. 

I can't resist using artist Jim Dine as our inspiration for a Valentine themed clay project in first grade. We make our "Jim Dine Valentines" in a single class period. The students learn to roll clay, cut out shapes, and add decorative touches with simple tools. This year we added a few snowflakes in honor of both the snow that wouldn't quit falling and the popularity of "Frozen" with my younger students!

Getting ready to demo with my "teacher cam"

Every student has a spot for his or her clay pieces

Getting ready for the kiln

Unfortunately, I failed to photograph the finished pieces in our rush to get them home by Valentine's Day. Too many snow days slowed down our progress! The students use tempera and glitter paints, which I seal with a coat of ModPodge, then assemble their necklaces, door hangers, and other assorted treasures to take home for this special day.

The classic this!

The second graders learn to make pinch pot snowmen and use glaze for the first time. Along with the pinch pot technique, they learn to "score, slip, smooth" to keep the pieces together, and also to make sure there is an air vent so their snow creations survive the heat of the kiln! We use underglazes for the color. After the students finish, I dip their work in clear gloss glaze before firing. This takes care of the problems that can arise when students forget to keep the bottom of the clay piece "free and clean" when gloss glaze is used. 

Thinking outside the box...a snow crab!
My third graders completed their clay projects last fall. Our Jack-o'-lanterns have become a tradition for third grade and older students often inform me that theirs are still displayed at home for Halloween. We only missed one year out of the last ten, so that's a lot of pumpkin creations! For these, we use acrylic paints for the ease of use, color options, and budget consideration. 

Black cat, pumpkin, and a colorful owl

The mini-me makes this one so cute!
I love when students add a few props!
Since these projects were completed, the fourth through seventh graders have been working on their clay projects. I had the "brilliant idea" of doing them simultaneously...what was I thinking???? But I'll save that for another post as more of them come out of the kiln!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

K12 Gallery Exhibit 2015

March was a very busy month in the art room! Our school has an Open House/Learning Fair on the first Sunday of the month, which means lots of artwork up for display. Fortunately, I had a lot of work ready to go since some had just come back from the Cross Point exhibit, so this was an easy show to hang at school. Adding some fresh art completed during the winter months gave me plenty of student work for this final exhibit of the school year at K12 Gallery & TEJAS

Twelve area Catholic schools are participating in the exhibit, which runs through the month of April. At the opening reception on March 25, several of our students won awards, which is always fun! I especially like that the gallery staff doesn't use traditional "first, second, third" place awards Instead they award Creative Thinkers, Colorful Design, and similar such compliments directly related to the art work. There are "Best in Grade" but other than that, it's all about the art.

The evening also included performances by various musical groups, including a trio from my school's band. All in all, a special evening for many talented young artists!