Irish Fairies, Elves and Goblins

We read a traditional folk tale about a small elf and a lonely boy getting his wish to have a friend. It was one of the short stories in the Golden Books Treasury of Elves and Fairies, by Jane Werner. It was a very old copy that I had found while digging around in my Grandmothers basement. I think it might have been my mothers. I absolutely love collecting childrens books, and to add a few Vintage ones to my collection is absolutely cool.

So after attempting to go to Spain last week and being ransacked by Pirates we attempted to hop on a plane, but due to unexpected turbulance we had to make an emergency landing in Ireland. We landed in a small town out in the Irish country side, filled with fairies, elves and golbins! (I am now on a mission to see how many countries I can put between us and the order of air dry clay I am still waiting for i.e. Spain) So once we read our story it was time to become the magical creature of our choice. I wasn’t surprised that the boys became goblins and every girl wanted to make wings. This week we focused on using a stencil and cutting out our traced shapes along the line. I eventually put our crayons then watercolor, because I had plans for us to use it again the following week.

What was most important was getting our shapes well traced and cutting along the lines we had drawn. There were wings and masks with pointy ears that students could choose from to trace.

Almost Perfect

This is an example of why it is important to spend time teaching 5 and 6 year olds how to clean up.

When I said, “put the scraps on this chair” I didn’t realize how may scraps we actually had… Oops. At least they were following my directions, and it is OK for teachers to make a small mistake every once in a while. After a super messy day I was really impressed at how well my second class of Art Around the World, cleaned up the whole classroom.

See here you can see that after a super messy day with watercolor painting, oil pastels and lots of cutting meaning lots of paper scraps, we still did an almost perfect job cleaning up. OK no one tucked in their chair, but the floors and tables have been cleared and cleaned and all the art work has left with its proper owner. All-in-all I would declare this an almost perfect day.

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.

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.

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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