Back to Recycling!

Just like last year, my Foundations of Studio Art classes are saving the planet with recycled art projects!

Here you can see what we have begun calling our “trash island”. It is an ever-growing pile of stuff that has potential as art supplies. However it kind of explodes each class, and has to be re-sorted at the end of each class period. Thank goodness for 80 minute class periods!20160224_125520

This time around we have expanded the number of attachment materials available to the girls. My classroom has recently gotten more basic tools, including an electric drill and a hand saw, as well as a sewing machine. This has opened up more possibilities for my students.













Here is my classroom at the end of a crazy whirlwind day of creating and making. You can see examples of Louise Nevelson, our inspiration for the day, on my television screen. I know you can’t tell much from our progress photos, but just wait! These recycled art sculptures are going to be amazing!



Deco vs. Nouveau

What is the difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco you ask? Think Titanic vs. Gatsby. (The Leonardo DiCaprio movies obviously.)

This was the aim of our ceramics jewelry unit. I wanted all of my students to know the difference between Deco and Nouveau. As we travel back in time through the movements I want my students to have some exposure, not only to fine art, but to the decorative arts as well.

This was a new unit this year, I decided to replace our unit on vessels with  a jewelry unit. For this project I purchased porcelain clay so that our results could be smaller and more fine. I also showed our students work from the beginnings of the Tiffany Company and a particular designer named Clara Driscoll.  (Louis Comfort Tiffany had claimed some of her designs as his own, but thanks to the discovery of some personal letters Clara has now been recognized posthumously.) We also looked at beautiful examples of these two schools in architecture, furniture, and of course jewelry.

Once the differences, similarities and influences had been totally explored each student chose which style they liked best. They then had to use our engineering design process to create a piece of jewelry that embodies that particular style. It could be a necklace, a bracelet, earrings or a ring. I brought in all of the jewelry making supplies they would need and did a few demonstrations so that they could get a grasp of the possibilities and limitations. Then we began…
















Testing them out:













And our final display:





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, 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!


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.










As I’ve mentioned we are moving back in time through the modern movements. In addition to keeping a living timeline in our sketchbooks we are also looking for connections in the philosophies of each movement and their techniques. It has been incredibly rewarding to hear them making connections from pop art to surrealism. This week we explored DADA or Dadaism.

We looked at the mama of dada Beatrice Wood and focused on the elements texture and form. Some important things to consider when creating ceramic work.






Building off of last week we created some not quite automatic poetry inspired by the Dadaist Tristan Tzara:

  • Take a newspaper.
  • Take a pair of scissors.
  • Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
  • Cut out the article.
  • Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
  • Shake it gently.
  • Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
  • Copy conscientiously.
  • The poem will be like you.
  • And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.



We then looked at Duchamp and created our own ready-made art inspired by Duchamp’s Fountain.






It was quite a non-sensical week. DADA! Below are the final products that resulted from our week of dadaism. All of my students had the option to create a ready-made sculpture or a ceramic work, and all of them chose to return to ceramics.




(photo missing)


Finished Ceramics

Finally we got what we had be waiting for… OUR FINISHED PLATES AND CLOCKS. Those girls who had requested the clock mechanisms got the chance to instal them in their clocks, and they actually worked! Also, a lot of careful and hard work with the new glaze payed off. Our plates and clocks turned out beautiful.

Our final step in this long process was to write about our process and have a class critique. Bellow our pictures there is an example of the worksheet that my students filled out and turned in for their final grade. It is a rubric along with some written responses about their piece. I give them the final grade but our rubric acts as a way for them to evaluate their own work, before I do.








Click here for an example of our Project Rubric.


Smash-Crash Course in Ceramics

This past week in my Foundations of Studio Art class we began an experience with clay. Since I am determined to expose my freshman girls to as many techniques and materials in art as I possibly can I figured why not take advantage of our schools amazing resources and create some ceramic pieces.


There were some initial challenges. Number one being that unlike the ceramics studio down the hall, we are seriously lacking in clay storage space. So I decided why not just use the same drying racks we’ve been using. These were clearly meant for paintings and other 2D work, but I knew that if we kept our projects mostly flat, it would work. So out of this dilemma our project was born: Ceramic plates or clocks. And then came the challenge of finding clay, but luckily our amazing ceramics teacher had 40 pounds of low-fire clay that she was not planning on using.


Students began with a sketch of what they wanted based on some research. They then sketched out their idea, and added color. I showed each of my students how to roll out slabs of clay using rolling pins and spacers. I also demonstrated how to cut, shape, attach, and texturize their clay. With those basic skills I turned them loose to learn through experimenting on their own. (Obviously I was floating around the room to offer advice, but I did keep my distance when it came to the major decision-making.)


Below are some pictures of the ongoing process.





First Day Back- Clay Attack!

Today was my first day back at Glen Echo, a national park and partnership for the arts that hosts a variety of children’s and adult’s classes in the arts. Today I focused on sculptures and preparation for our color wheels. How amazing are these  sculptures that we made by a few of the young 6-8 year old boys.

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Flashback/Flash Forward

It is getting close to summertime and I am experiencing nostalgia.  I have now worked for 8 years as a summer art teacher at one of the most beautiful national park cites in the US, Glen Echo Park in Maryland. Here are a few gems from last year.






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