Sunday, June 14, 2015

Six Tips for Glazing Clay in the Classroom

1. I keep the glaze on a table separate from the one used by the students. Spoons are kept on the table to facilitate refills as each class needs them. This job is usually done by me in the lower grades, but the middle school students do their own refills as needed.
2. Every glaze has a number assigned to it. This stays the same every year, since I use pretty much the same colors every year.
3. The glazes are put in six lidded cups that I get at the local Flower Factory outlet, one for each table in the classroom. Each cup is numbered to match the glaze that is inside.

4.The table is covered with a plastic table cover that I use throughout the entire unit. If it becomes too dirty to clean easily, I flip it over and use the reverse side. This really saves on clean up time at the end of each clay day.

5. Since different projects use either red or white low fire clay, there is a sample star for each glaze on both kinds of clay. The name of the glaze color and its number is carved into the back of each star.

6. Each table has rotating responsibility for clean up. Glaze cups are counted, refilled, and capped by two tables. Although each student is responsible for washing his or her brushes as they are used, one table makes sure that all have been cleaned and returned to the brush jars, bristles up, of course! The sink crew makes sure the sink area is dry and no brushes, paper towels, or other debris is left behind. Tables are wiped down, the floor is swept if necessary, and the small trash cans are emptied into the large one.

To be quite honest, it has taken me ten years of trial and error to come up with this system! My classes are often large, as many as 28 students, and we only have 40 minute periods once a week. This works for both large and small classes, and with a few modifications, equally well for all my grade 4-8 classes. Grades 1-3 usually use tempera paints, which I gloss with ModPodge, in order to keep the cost of materials down.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ceramic Architecture...Part 2...Success!!

This student is a fan of video games
Part 2 of my Ceramic Architecture projects was a more elaborate project with seventh grade art classes. Along with my fourth grade project, this  was funded by a grant from the Miami Valley Catholic Education Council. The students each chose a "client" to design for, researched a variety of architectural styles using their iPads and our classroom books as  resources, and decided on the best "style" to fit the chosen client. For the most part, the buildings were formed using slab construction, although a few students incorporated coiling to create rounded forms.  

Our Asian exchange student learned all about Sponge Bob!
I loved this cute little cottage for an artist!

Every gnome needs a good home!
Although many students had to deal with construction issues, mostly as a result of their high expectations and limited time (we have only 40 minute classes once a week), there were some excellent finished projects! 
Beach front property

Sponge Bob's retreat

Fairy tale cottage

Adobe desert home

Hey, Kate Spade...check out this retail outlet!

Smoothies, anyone?

Ice cream shop...

Useful as a little box, too!

Just a house

Log cabin in the woods

Pet the paw prints on the roof!

Although I love this project when it is over, and the students almost unanimously enjoyed the work, it isn't one I would do every year simply because it takes the better part of a semester to complete.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ceramic Architecture, Part 1...What WAS I THINKING?!?

The fence was made from small sticks of wood after the piece was fired.
 Have you ever started a project...gotten part way through...then began wondering, "What WAS I THINKING?" That pretty much sums up my Ceramic Architecture projects for this year! I had done these two projects with grades 4 and 7 before, but I guess enough time had passed (about four years, I think) to make me forget just how much time, mess, and effort were involved!
Back in August, when school was just beginning and I felt fresh and ready to tackle just about anything, I wrote a grant proposal titled "Art and Architecture in America". My plan was to have the fourth grade students create relief sculpture buildings showing just the front and to have the seventh grade students use slab construction techniques to create three-dimensional buildings. The proposal included requests to fund clay, glaze, and several reference books for my classroom. I typed it up and submitted it to the Miami Valley Catholic Schools Office...and waited. In November, I received a check, ordered supplies...and waited a bit more. Finally in January, we were ready to start! 
After a read aloud session with the book Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty, the fourth graders spent a class period looking through the new reference materials, then drew the sketch for their building design in an 8-inch square of paper. Early finishers got out the crayons or markers to plan out their color scheme. During the next two art classes, the students rolled out their clay, traced the outline of their building, cut it out, and learned the importance of "score, slip, smooth" when attaching pieces of clay. The project requirements were simple: include a door, windows, a roof, and any other identifying details for your building. 

A muffin shop and bakery
A house for a bunny cute!
Of course, as with any art class that meets only once per week, there is bound to be a glitch...or two...or three! In this case, it was a string of snow days in late January and early February. Combine that with more than a few absences due to winter illness, and the actual construction process ended up taking three class periods instead of two for some students. 

Finally, the first pieces were up from the kiln and the glazing began! This was the first experience many of my fourth graders had with glaze, but the students did well and there were very few color surprises when the glaze firing was completed.
This drawing was done after the clay project was finished.
Haunted fun house!

During our post-project discussions, many students said that they loved the project, but that they discovered that transforming an idea from paper to a 3-dimensional form was harder than they had expected. So for a final drawing challenge, the students used geometric shape forms to create a new idea for a building design. Many of these turned out really well, but unfortunately, I forgot to take photographs before the work went home and only have this one of the haunted fun house!

Cement much fun!

What a great way to end the school year! My co-advisor, Sherri, and I took sixteen members of our Muse Club arts group to K12 Gallery and TEJAS for an all-day cement sculpture workshop with one of our local artists, Ann Ruef. The process is similar to working with plaster gauze, just a little bit messier...which always adds to the fun!
When we arrived, Ann had already prepared the base for each sculpture by pouring the cement mixture into yoghurt containers and inserting a few pieces of thick wire. The students then used a variety of thick and thin wires to create the armature for their sculpture. Once the armatures were complete, Ann mixed up cement, paper pulp, and water until it was the consistency of thick syrup. The students saturated strips of cotton fabric with the mixture and wrapped their wire armatures to create the final form.


 Not everyone had time to finish embellishing their sculpture with beads, but there were plenty back at school in the art room, along with a can of spray glitter for those who like a little sparkle!



There were so many interesting sculptures and everyone agreed it was a great way to spend a school day in May!