Canadian Colligraphs


Printmaking is inherently messy. Especially when you are conducting a printmaking lesson with young children. Young children are inherently messy even when there is no paint involved. This week, in my “Art Around the World” class, we embarked on a journey to Canada to make colligraphs. All I have to say about clean-up is that even though I had the children help me clean up, I still ended up staying twenty minutes after class was over. (See “Cleaning Up”)

We began class with the story Henry Walks by B.D. Johnson, which I choose because of the artwork. The illustrations are mostly of a bear surrounded by forest. The bear, the flora, and other fauna are all rendered using geometrical shapes. I would describe the style as cubism meets the Beranstien Bears. Since we were creating colligraphs using pre-cut, paper circles, triangles and squares, I thought this was very important as an inspiration for the kids. I wanted to show the students how one artist can use simple shapes to create an animal, which is what we were about to do.

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Pinchy Animals

This project involves measuring out a  pound of clay and then creating an animal without ever detaching any piece. The objective for the student is to learn more about the possibilities of the clay and its physical properties and limitation. So what I did for this lesson was disguise the objective as a challenge to each individual student. I told them that they were being asked to make an animal as best they could without making any new attachments, only by pulling and pinching and adding texture, could they make their animals. I think they came out fantastic!

Pueblo Indian Pinch Pots

I am enjoying my day off this Veterans Day, and taking time to reflect on lat week’s project: Pueblo Indian Pinch Pots from New Mexico.

This was the first time my “Art Around the World” after-school class has made it back to the United States since we started our imaginary journey. (We’ve come close with Mexico and Cuba.)  We read the story Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott. The artwork in this book is just absolutely amazing! And following the story I reviled that the Pueblo Indians are actually from… New Mexico! This was confusing for some of the children who asked me why we were still in Mexico, “didn’t we go there last week?” But, after some clarification it was exciting to tell the kids that this seemingly strange culture was in-fact that of their own country. Hurray USA! The air dry clay that we used to complete this project didn’t dry quite as fast as I had hoped but hopefully each student’s piece made it home safe and sound.

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s information on the Puebloan Peoples.

Cleaning Up

Cleaning up can be a pain, for both the teacher and the students. Still, cleaning up is just as important to understanding the material as using it during work time. I recently made the mistake of not having the 4-5 year old students in my “Art Around the World” class clean up after they had finished a collage project. I realized later that this had been a huge mistake. First, because I had to stay after class much longer than usual in order to sweep up all the small pieces of paper, and second because I realized that I had robbed them of the complete collage experience. Collage is not just something you can start whenever you please, cutting and gluing willy-nilly. If one embarks on a mission to collage one must anticipate the mess. Cleaning up is always something I have incorporated into my lessons, but simply out of necessity (I can’t possibly clean 21 brushes and pallets) and principal (it is an important part of maintaining discipline and respect for materials). Now I realize that it has yet another purpose: education, and information about the material.

^ The photograph above is an example of how wonderful having a sink in the classroom can be. Here, my 10-12 year old ceramic students clean up their own materials after a day of glazing.

Gambian Masks

Every week we travel to a new place in my “Art Around the World” after-school class, that I teach for Private Picassos.  Ever since I can remember African mask making has been a constant go-to for art teachers everywhere. (O.K. maybe not in Africa, I would have to check) My only problem with this is that since I am stamping my students passports every week with the actual name of a country. Stamping “AFRICA” seemed a little bizarre because even if my students don’t know better I know full well that no one visits an entire continent all at once, nor does one have “EUROPE” stamped into their passport as soon as they arrive in say, England. So I thought I would pick and stick with a country in Africa. I had no idea where to start so I decided on Gambia, because my good friend Ami is from Gambia. After some light research I realized that Gambian does have a tradition of mask making. I felt better about having chose a specific country and from there I began my lesson planning.

Glazing

Glazing can be a tricky thing to explain. Sometimes the color of the glaze is not the color it will be, and sometimes it kind of is. Sometimes you can mix colors together and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you dunk and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes…

I decided that since I value the process of trial and error, and feel like learning from your mistakes is one of the most powerful ways to learn something, and remember it forever, that I was going to do my very best to explain which glazes did what and how to use them, but then just let the ten, eleven and twelve year old students I am teaching ceramics to, go ahead and dive in. I decided I was going to step back unless I saw someone who was about to do something totally disastrous or someone asked me for help.

Lucky for them I am not a cruel teacher, who revels in saying, I told you so. So, I did my best to make the glazing process fairly fool proof. I set out under-glazes in squeeze bottles (it basically is the color it says it is, and you can mix it with other colors) a bucket of solid yellow glaze for dunking (looks gray before it’s fired, slightly confusing) and a bucket of clear (looks blue before it’s fired), also for dunking.  I am excited to see the results next week.

I have my fingers crossed that the bottom of each piece is not currently stuck to the shelf of the kiln either. I checked and double checked the bottoms but you never know with glaze.

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