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This project started as an after school program for youth-at-risk. Nadine Smith and I team-taught a 13-week program in drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, and mosaic for students in grades 1 – 5.
Using the students’ work as a starting point, we created a design featuring orca whales (the school mascot) and an underwater scene of Puget Sound. The kids made clay seashells, fish, and starfish, and we incorporated these ceramic pieces into the design to add some texture and dimension into the mosaic.
We did the tile-work in our studios, and now we are installing panels of tile-work onto the column. Once all the panels are up, we still have a lot of work to do, seaming, cleaning it up, and grouting.
It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished.
2010 Artist residency in collaboration with Nadine Smith and 7th graders at McClure Middle School, Seattle, WA
Students were led through a ceramic series, in which they each created a clay tile. Exploring bas-relief sculptural techniques, students learned additive and reductive techniques such as slip and score, in which clay is added and carved away to create a dimensional effect to the tiles.
Thank you to the Queen Anne Community Center for donating the use of your kiln so we could bisque-fire all 200 tiles. After the tiles were bisque-fired, students glazed their tiles with their choice of 3 colors of raku glaze: white crackle, copper penny, or blue dolphin, which isn’t really blue at all, but rather a rainbow effect resembling an oil slick.
Eric, the raku master of Seattle Pottery Supply came to the school to do an on-site raku firing in the school parking lot. What an exciting and memorable event! The kids had the chance to watch as the door to the kiln is lifted, and the pottery inside is glowing white-hot. Tongs reach in, and pull out each glowing piece, which is carefully placed on a bed of crumpled newspapers in a metal can.
I had the awesome job of manning a can. At Eric’s direction, I tossed newspapers into the can to buffer the pottery & catch fire. When a few pieces and newspapers are flaming inside the can, a lid is placed on it, and wet towels draped over the top to create & trap smoke inside. The oxydation from the smoke inside the can activates the metallic properties in the glaze, and creates the beautiful, irredescent colors that spontaneously happen on the pottery, depending on heat in the can, and proximity to other pieces, amount of smoke, etc. Fascinating!
Once all the tiles were fired, cooled, and cleaned of ash, Nadine & I were ready to start assembling the mosaic. We had the math and engineering class install our backer boards to the reception desk in the school office. Once that was done, we were ready to adhere our tiles to the backerboards. Along with the students tiles, we mixed in a random pattern of solid color tiles to unify and balance the overall design and color scheme. What a dramatic transformation of the school office!
Thank you to Sarah Pritchett, Lisa Fitch, Carolyn Grane, McClure PTA, and countless volunteers for your support of arts programs in schools.