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children's clay classes

updated fri 31 jan 97


Roeder on fri 10 jan 97

Hello all,

There was a recent post asking for input on children's classes is clay.

I teach two back-to-back classes in Potters Wheel 4-6 grade (at the
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts School). They are identical...we had to offer
two classes, since it's popular.

The class is one and a half hours long. The object is to teach them the
potter's wheel. I use a skills-oriented approach, rather than a
project-oriented approach. By the end of the session most can independently
wedge, center, and throw, collar and belly-out, trim and do attachments.
They use sponge, ribs, pointed stick, cut off wire, pin tool, etc. properly.
They understand chuck trimming, and prefer to leave it attached and trim
upright, in those cases.

They are shown how to throw bowls and cylinders (and plates, for some), and
what things you can make from those shapes. They can throw a bottomless low
cylinder, and alter it into whatever shape they want, and attach a slab base
the following week ( see a lot of heart shaped dishes). They are shown a
candlestick holder (saucer type) and some make a bigger version, which
becomes a chip/dip dish (or french fry and catsup dish).

We do texturing, sgraffito, wax resist decoration, on glaze
decoration...trailing, angle dipping, working with shop glazes, terra sig
and slips.

I usually do a sawdust or saggar firing or raku firing once a semester.

The kids are encouraged to work at the wheel the whole time...some get
frustrated and go to the table to hand build. I have a couple students, who
continue to make an open abdominal cavity..don't ask me why.....fill it with
organ shapes and flood it with water. Makes a mess and uses a lot of
clay...I never see them start just is always to the point of
flooding when I take notice. I don't save it! Some kids start clay fights,
or play in the slop bin up to their elbows, but for the most part it is
controllable and enjoyable.

The KIA is considering having a prerequisite "introduction to clay" class,
that would be all hand building. Showing how to cut and join clay, slab,
coil, sculpt, wedge...with maybe a day or two on the wheel at the end of the
session just for a teaser. As it is now, we start from
experience necessary.

We have 12 brent wheels. The kids come in, find splash pans, set up their
own wheels, get their tools and get started on their own. Some days I do
demos. I bring the things from the previous week out of the damp room, and
take them into the damp room after class. I also retrieve the bisque from
the shelves in the kiln room. We don't want any probing fingers to ruin
somebody elses work, so it's an adults only thing in some studio areas.
They clean the wheels and splash pans after they're done and must be
"checked out" by my teen volunteer or myself before they're allowed to leave.

The classes are 12 weeks long. The kids program is a popular one in the
school. We have preschool and early "el" programs, 4-6 grade, and teen
(7th - 12th grade) in painting, drawing, jewelry, sculpture, photography and
papermaking. Some classes are parent/child together, but only a few. The
little kid programs are project oriented, with a different cute thing to
take home each week. In my class, they may only bring home 2 or 3
not-necessarily-cute things. Some parents may not like this, but the skills
they will take with them.

Some days, kids just wreck everything they make (so do I), and some days go
well. They may have a great bowl one week, and trim through it or have it
fly off the wheel and crash, the next. They may do a really funky glaze
job. No success guaranteed.

Frequently, on the last day of class, I'll have a clay olympics.
Blindfolded throwing, team throwing (one person is the right hand, one the
left, the other, the foot pedal), biggest pot, tiniest pot, etc.

I enjoy it a great deal. I am the lucky one.

Candice Roeder