Janet H Walker on thu 11 apr 96
I've done handbuilding projects with kids in Grades 3 & 4.
Bottom line: it was fun and they loved it.
To avoid the ashtray syndrome, I decided to focus on making figures
from clay and to connect what the kids were doing with what other
people have done with clay figures through human history. I copied
photos of clay figures from books, from 6000 B.C. China through
Picasso 2000 A.D. France. To keep it in bounds, I just chose
anthropomorphic figures for the pictures. (For other sessions, you
could start from things like the bird vessels.) Starting from
those, we talked a little about clay and then dived in. Skip long
boring demos. Have some slabs ready and show them how to wrap a
slab around a coke can in order to form the basic body.
For another session, we did "sea creatures". That fit with the
science study in the class at the time so I didn't even have to come
up with inspirational pictures! That time I demonstrated how to
make a clay fish and quite a few of them took off from there. How?
Start with a "slize of pizza". Curl it around into an "ice cream
cone" and pinch the edges shut. (There's your top fin.) Now pinch
a little hood of ice cream over the top (for the fish head) and away
they go with the decorations.
Miller 10G was a very satisfying clay for this project. Strong,
forgiving, fires a nice light color. We bisqued the pieces to 04
and then painted on non-firing ceramic "stains". (These were Amaco
I think, acrylic based paints really. I've also just used acrylic
paints, particularly the gold, silver, and copper metallic ones,
so-called "micaceous" but I found the ceramic stain colors to be
more intense and the surfaces more fun.)
This turned out really well because (a) no exposure to even vaguely
toxic anything [but watch the labels because a few of the metallic
stains do have health labels] (b) what you see is what you get
color-wise (c) easy color mixing (d) water cleanup (e) it only takes
one coat (f) you can do it the last session and no one has to worry
about coming back later to pick things up after a firing. Also, you
can buy AWESOME colors, with sparkles and everything. And in spite
of what you might think, the neon pink sparkle was as popular with
nine year old boys as with the girls.
To keep things from getting too complicated, I got about a dozen
colors and poured out a tablespoon or so of each into the pools in
those little round plastic palettes. Everyone had a brush and a
group of about four kids shared a palette. Younger kids might need
a different arrangement for that! (Black gets into everything!)
1.5 hours was about right for 4th graders (and for the adults
involved). Dunno about the younger kids -- although my own son
would sit banging on clay for hours starting when he was barely
three years old.
Fun & Functional Arts
Cambridge MA USA
Jean Lehman on sat 20 apr 96
I have a group of five 10 year old pre-boy scouts (wee-belows, I think they
are called) that meet for 1.5 hours once a week for six weeks.
The first session we made pinch pots the usual way, then made elbow pots
(using the elbow to open the form), and finished up with semi-pinched
animals or people. They loved the garlic press for hair. I gave them a
homework assignment to find textures to decorate with.
The second week they spent most of the time on very elaborate masks, and
then had time for making a quick coil pot. I knew nothing about making
masks, but their imagination knew plenty. Great success.
They had forgotten the textural materials so we put that project off til
The third week we rolled out clay, textured it and found drape molds of
their choosing (anything they could find around the studio). Then, because
they were SO anxious to try the wheel we did that. I sat first and let them
feel centered and not centered until they could easily feel and see the
difference. Then I thinned the walls and they took turns doing the shaping.
Ended up with a halfway decent group effort. I only had three at a time on
the wheel (the mom made the sixth).
The fourth week we will make small castles. They were asked to think about
what a castle looks like and what they want theirs to look like.They will
also trim the things they made on the wheel.
The fifth week we will begin decorating and maybe make something easy...
don't know yet.
The sixth week they will finish their glazing.
It really has been great fun. The time period is about right. A couple of
them do not have the attn span for that much time, but they generally just
go out and play in the yard to get rid of steam and don't disrupt the
others. They are SO much MORE creative than adults. I don't know why I
resisted it all these years. I did used to be a public school teacher and
loved it, but really didn't want to teach kids in clay. I dunno. Anyway, I
will definitely do it again.
Jean Lehman, in Lancaster, PA
j_lehman@ACAD.FandM.EDU (that's an _underscore_ not a hyphen)