Clay, Hurray!

So our second to last structured assignment this year is vessel construction in ceramics. As promised, I am giving my students a taste of each material they could potentially sign up to focus on next year. This is important because for a rising sophomore, which my girls are soon to be, Stone Ridge offers Media Arts, Ceramics 1, Photography 1, and of course, Studio Art 2. Once they are juniors and seniors they have the option of continuing into AP for ceramics, photography, and studio, but not media arts. It is important me that the empowerment of our students in their creative endeavors continues, so I try to get them hooked on visual art, but also find their specific talent and passion. My hope is that they end up in the right art class next year.

To began this project we started by talking about the concept of a vessel as something that holds, and what we might want to hold. We spoke about what was precious to us. Each class listed adjectives that described these precious objects. Then, using this list as inspiration, and pinterest.com, too, we sketched our ideas for ceramic vessels that could hold these precious objects or memories in, and how they would reflect our object or memory, keeping in mind the adjectives we had listed.

The things some of these girls choose were amazing. One student said sleep is precious to her, and essential, so she wanted to create a vessel that held her sleep essentials. Another wanted to hold a photo of her as a child that was sentimental, because it had been the first photo her parents saw before they adopted her. So she created two small hands that held this sentimental object. There were many more amazing ideas and I was blown away!

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After this class of drawing, came time for exploring the properties of clay. This was important in establishing what each student would realistically be able to do or not do with the material. So we had a competition.

Each girl had a baseball sized lump of clay, a spray bottle filled with water to keep the clay workable. We used a low grog, high fire white ceramic clay body.  The first competition consisted of giving everyone 10 minutes to build the tallest standing piece of clay that they can. With a measuring stick I determine the winner. (Everyone is a winner in my classroom, but this gave students who are always the most dedicated and enthusiastic artists a chance to shine, by leveling the playing field.) For the second competition the girls used this same piece of clay. Each student had 10 minutes to roll out the skinniest, and longest rope of clay they could. The winner was determined by vote. I had all of the girls walk around the room and stand next to the piece of clay they thought was the longest. And finally, the third competition. With this same piece of clay, each girl had 10 minutes to make the most perfectly round sphere. The winner was again determined by vote. I had all of the girls walk around the room and stand next to the piece of clay they thought was the most perfectly round sphere, with the fewest blemishes and bumps.

As you can image the contests got everyone excited about using the clay. It was a high energy day  with lots of yelling and many faux tragic collapses. All in an upbeat and spirited way.

Finally, I asked the girl to begin their vessels. I handed out two pounds of clay to each girl. Our element that we chose to focus on was TEXTURE. We also thought about the principle of BALANCE, either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Texture would serve the purpose of enhancing our high fire glazes, but also enhance our vessels reflection our object or memory, and the adjective we were focusing on.

Once the construction was complete we left our clay out to dry, and began our next project. We will return to our ceramics, and take a break from collaging, once I’ve managed to get everyones piece fired.

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