Artist-in-Residence program for Alki Elementary, Fall 2013
Theme: Patterns in Nature
Photo credit: Karen Hinkey
In this all-school ceramics series, students grades K – 5 explored clay through three classroom sessions. We looked at photos of patterns in nature for inspiration. The petals of a dahlia, the veins on a leaf, an intricate spider web, the ripples when you drop a pebble in a pond. This theme is an easy link to science and the study of the natural world.
In the first session, students learned reductive techniques such as stamping and pressing tools into the clay to make patterns. Grades 3 – 5 also learned additive techniques, using “slip & score” to attach clay to clay and create shallow relief.
In the second session, while the tiles were drying and being fired in the kiln, we worked on a different clay project, learning hand-building techniques to create 3-d creatures and gargoyles.
Students learned to create and combine pinch pots to create a hollow vessel for the creature’s body. Then they practiced using slip and score to make wings and other details. This lesson is very much about the process over the product, as we used an air dry clay. Here is a terrific discussion on process vs. product by Ann Wynne at A Room for Art.
This clay is nice because it’s a soft, malleable clay, which makes it easy for little hands to explore. And they love, of course, that they get to take it home right away (YAY!) instead of waiting for a couple weeks while it dries and is fired in the kiln. We talked about how air dry clay is not as strong or long-lasting as kiln-fired clay, and we worked on making our sculptures as sturdy as possible. (No skinny little wisps that will break … ) This lesson was about the experience of plunging your hands into a ball of mud, squishing it, squeezing it, trying some techniques, and transforming it into something imaginative and wonderful.
Finally, in the third session, students glazed their bisque-fired tiles and all 400 tiles were schlepped to Seattle Pottery Supply for the final glaze firing.
Many thanks to Alki PTA, Principal Shannon Stanton for her tremendous support, Karen Hinkey for making everything run smoothly, and Pam Naspinky Bigatel for running the kiln, and to all the many parent volunteers who helped in the classes. Thank you for supporting the arts in public schools!