Author Archives: missjaybar

Damp Boxes: Classroom Clay Game Changers

Standard

I wanted to share a clay storage system that will change the way you can store in progress clay pieces. It’s called the damp box. I had heard about these quite some time ago, but for a myriad of reasons, I never got around to making some. My recent clay exploration camp kind of forced my hand on the issue, and I’m so glad I finally made them.

Basically they are plastic containers with plaster in the bottom. The plaster is damp and when the box is closed, it creates humidity in the box, which helps keep the pieces workable for extended amounts of time.

For years when I had around 100 kids working with clay, I had to wrap up pieces. I tried different methods each time, but always had kids pieces drying out too much each time due to several factors. This time, kids pieces remained malleable, even if they were absent for a day or two. And, I didn’t have to worry about making sure the boxes were closed. The kids did all the work. It helped to make the week go much more smoothly.

How do you make a damp box? Here is a video created by Tim See, a professional potters who I “met” on a clay Facebook group.

I ended up making 3 large, flat boxes and 2 smaller ones. I plan on making a few out of taller bins for bigger pieces. But the shallow ones worked out well for the clay exploration camp as most pieces were just a few inches tall.

These boxes are a game changer for me, and I hope they can be for you as well.

A Week of Clay Exploration

Standard

I’ve been a TAB teacher now for more than half my teaching career, and even I still struggle sometimes with creating exploration camps for my students that are open enough to give kids a taste of “new” mediums. One of these that I struggle with is clay. I know, I know, I teach ceramics, how could I struggle with this one? Giving students a week and a half to explore a medium that takes practice to understand is hard. I wanted to give them as much freedom as I could, but still limit some things due to practical aspects such as the amount of clay I have and the many students I have.

I had planned just on letting 2 of my 4 classes explore, but then decided I was too lazy to have 2 different explorations going on at the same time. And, I’m glad that I had all of them explore. Out of my almost 100 students, I had 95% engagement all week. I had about 3 kids decide they never want to touch clay again and I had several kids say they are signing up for ceramics next year–kids that I thought would stick with our 2D path. So, bonus for me and my program.

How did I run the exploration camp? I showed 2 quick demos on Monday, pinchpot and coil, with lots of finished examples of pieces created using those methods. Then on Tuesday I showed slab building. We talked about the term vessel, a hollow container, and how I was very open to how they could interpret that term. Then I let them go. They were to build a vessel of their choosing with any hand-building technique or combination of them they wanted.

If you have a lot of kids working at once, I would advise creating some damp boxes to help store as the kids work all week. See this post on how to create a damp box. It was a game changer on storage and keeping 90+ pieces workable all week. And, over a weekend for the handful that needed/wanted more studio time. I had been wanting to make some for my ceramic students, but never had time. This week forced me to make them. So glad I did.

I don’t have many pictures to share this time as we were having so much fun, I got caught up and forgot to pill out my phone.

What If We Didn’t Grade Artwork?

Standard

How to grade artwork is a topic that comes up often in groups populated by art teachers.  I am sure that not one art teacher really wants to grade art, but unfortunately for most of us, it’s part of the expectations those in higher pay grades at central office place upon us.  But, if we really thought about it, is grading the artwork itself really a good measure of a student’s artistic growth, learning, application and understanding?  And, isn’t that the point of school–growth, learning, application and understanding?  I mean, school is the best place to “screw up”–to fail at something, reflect on it, and learn from the process/what went “wrong”.  No big merger or client’s money is really at stake here, so why not take risks.20180914_073706.jpg

Risks are huge in creating artwork.  All the masters that so many teachers use in their classrooms are great because they took risks and experimented.  For every artwork that was successful, they had at least 3 that either sucked and were failures or just were meh.  (Just for the record, I am making that number up.  I am basing it on my own journey as an artist.)  If that is the case, why are we holding our students to different standards that working artists don’t hold to themselves?

If we grade artwork on how many lines students used, or if they incorporated X# of organic shapes and X# of geometric shapes, then how do we as teachers know what are they really learning.  I don’t know many artists that work like that?  Why are we telling them they need to have this or that?  Shouldn’t the artwork dictate that?  Whose work is it anyway?  Letting the students figure out where and what to use or not use in their work will help them learn how to grow as an artist.  Having conversations with them will help them reflect and grow.20180828_135406

BUT, what if we just decided NOT to grade the artwork and grade their engagement in the process instead?  What could that lead to?  I’ll tell you what it could lead to.  It could take the pressure off students to be “perfect” in their work.  It could tell them that they are in charge of their  work, not me, the teacher.  It could lead to students taking risks in their artworks.  It could lead to students trying new media and techniques.  It could lead to experimentation that otherwise may not have happened if they are just trying to have X# of shapes in their work.  It could lead to failure, which in turn with reflection leads to learning.  And all of this leads to the students learning to behave, think, and become artists.  And, isn’t that what one of our end goals of art education should be?

 

What A Raku Firing Taught Me

Standard

In 2017, I applied for a grant with our local educational enrichment foundation, TEEF, to get a Bracker Raku Kiln and all the needed pieces that go with it. I was one of the lucky few whose grants were funded or partially funded. It was an amazing feeling. I have been waiting since May 2018 to introduce the fun of Raku to my upper ceramics students.

I have a small group this year, which was great for our inaugural firing. The students all made at least one piece out of the special Raku clay. We had a local Potter come and talk to us about Raku firing. Several of the students had witnessed Raku firings at the Texas Clay Festival. We picked a date, set up a rain date, and informed all the people who needed to be there. The students watched video several times and made diagrams. We were ready. It was the perfect time before we were taking g a week off for Thanksgiving.

One thing we did not expect in Texas at this time of year was that it was going to be 32° this morning. Thanks Obama. We decided to press on. We worked in the cold, checking, listening, comparing. It was cold, and windy. But we pushed on. We were able to pull one firing off. It didn’t go perfectly, and we have much to discuss tomorrow in class when we do our group reflection on the process. The second firing didn’t get up to temp. Did I mention the wind? I finally called it during 5th period and we shut it down. The kids understood.

Looking back on today, we learned so much as a group…about the bracket kiln, about how to fire (I haven’t run a Raku firing in over 12 years), about combustibles, and about all the technical things that go with Raku.

But, the most important thing that I learned today came from my students. I was disappointed. I wanted their first Raku to be amazing. And it wasn’t, at least in my eyes. But for them it was a great day. They taught me it was all a learning experience. They weren’t bummed by the wind and the fact that we messed up timing. Or that we called the second firing. They knew we could do another firing; we could finish firing our pieces tomorrow. We have more clay. There’s a whole other semester. They had so much fun today. They came together as a group. I forgot what all this was about. I forgot what I have been preaching in my tab studio for years–that it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to make mistakes and that’s how we learn. And they reminded me of that. And I am thankful for that, and for them.

Working with “The 10”: Ceramics Packet Reflection

Standard

My friend, Ian Sands, developed a system called “the 9“.  They are packets based around the basics of subjects of art that artists create.  It’s not about content, but more about category that art would fall into.  The packets include: the object, architecture, nature, landscape, figure, portrait, imagination, non-representational, and conceptual.  He introduced them to me some time last school year, and I thought they were wonderful.  I’ve been successfully using them with my art 1 students this year.  They are a great introduction to art categories, while allowing my TAB students to make lots of meaningful choices.

I tested them out last year with one of my classes, and thought that they would be a great tool for working with my ceramics students as they move along their artistic journey.  Sometime last spring, I began planning how to use Ian’s model for my ceramics program.  I began researching and decided that for the most part, ceramics artists’ works fall into most of the same categories.  But, I discovered that there are 10 categories, instead of 9.  They include: nature, animal, architecture, “figure”-ative, functionality, imagination, non-representation, portraiture, the object, and conceptual/installation.

Following Ian’s template, I created consideration questions for each packet, changed up the suggestions and geared the planning around requirements I have for my students.  I am very happy with the development of my packets.

Now, here’s where I am dissatisfied with “The 10”.  I rolled them out in a way that I find isn’t working the way I hoped.  I thought it would make my students more independent, so I introduced it with my intermediate and advanced students.  (They meet at the same time.)  I think this was my mistake.  I should have used it with my beginners after we completed the “have-to” portion of our class.  Seeing how my art 1 students are growing using “The 9”, helped me to see this.  Currently with my beginners, we do ceramic artistic behavior units right after finishing our “have to” section.  We just began our first unit, Ceramic Artists are Inspired by Nature, but I think that after this unit, we will pass out sketchbooks and move onto the next packet.  Nature is one of the packets after all.  We will continue through the rest of the year going through packets, picking up next fall with where we left off.  Then we will dive into deeper meaning with Ceramic Artistic Behavior units.

I will continue with my upper ceramic students in the way we are working. With the exception of one student, they are all seniors, and I’m not too worried about it.  They are working and learning and growing.

They say it takes 3 years to really build up a program.  Like I previously stated, this is the 5th year of the program.  I’ve been playing around with it, trying new things each year to replace things that weren’t working.  I feel I finally have a great grasp on the program and the progression it should take to truly have my students behaving and thinking like artists.  The timing of “The 10” was the final piece of the puzzle that finally fell into place.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 9.05.55 AM

Example of “The 10: Nature Packet”

 

The Teacher-Artist Balance

Standard

The question arises often about how to find time to create one’s own art. And to that I respond, if it’s important to you, you will find the time. As I type that sentence, I can hear all the usual responses…I am so tired after work. I have to write lesson plans. I have little kids. I have to make this exemplar for my students. I have grading to do. There just isn’t time.

And again, I respond to these statements with, if it’s important to you, you will find the time. I have lesson plans. I have 2 young kids. I have grading. I’m exhausted after all day arting with my amazing high school artists. And yet I make art at least 3 days a week, if not daily. (And no, I don’t make exemplars, but I am a TAB teacher, so there are no exemplars to make.)

I decided when my daughter was a baby, 6 years ago, that art making was important to me and my mental well-being. It was also important to my role as an art teacher. If I am going to teach how to behave like an artist, then I needed to be an artist. When my daughter was little, I wore her while I created. As she grew older, I worked in the kitchen while both my kids slept. Now she is old enough to work along side of me. Sometimes my son does as well. My family knows how important creating is to me. My students do as well. I often show them my work or talk of my processes.

I do want to finish that I know not everyone’s top outlet is going to be creating. Some like to garden or read or exercise or fish or help protect turtles. And those things are wonderful. The art teachers I know who do these things don’t complain they don’t have time to create. But, that’s because they decided these things were important to them, so they find the time for them.

In the end, it’s your choice. I choose to spend my free time arting. It heals my soul and makes me a better teacher.

Defining Realism and Adding Style

Standard

Realism is a word that is often used to describe artwork.  And, for whatever reason, if something looks realistic, the work is considered good.  But, what is realism exactly?  How should we define it.  What do people actually mean when talking about realism?  And how does style come into the equation.

I think first we do need to define what we mean by realism.  I think when most people talk about realism, they are talking about photorealism or hyperrealism.

kandy-kane-rainbow-1994

“Kandy Kane Rainbow” by Charles Bell

1ef225e44d37f3d4ae8c894577bf97df

“Golden Thoughts” by Mike Dargas

I think this distinction–so realistic it looks like a photo– when using the term “realism” needs to be made, especially when we are teaching our students about artwork and how to talk about artwork.

The next word we need to define is style/stylized.  For me, this means the artist’s personal “twist” on how they present their work.  They can make their work look realistic…proportional, recognizable, three-dimensional…but they’ve added themselves in how they do this.

Most artists work with a sense of realism, but they add their own personal style to their work.  Some artists are very tight. Others works are very free and flowing.  Then you’ve got those that work in a sketchy-like manner.  Style can add interest and evoke feelings in ways that maybe a photorealistic work can’t.  Style is what makes an artist unique.

 

 

TAB, Modified TAB, and Other TABby things

Standard

TAB is a huge buzzword these days. I see it thrown around in many Facebook groups. But what is TAB exactly? TAB is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behavior. It is a philosophy that has three core values. It asks “What do Artists do?” It believes the child is the artist. And, it believes the art room is her/his studio. It is these three ideas that drive a TAB teacher’s curriculum…how they run their studio.

That brings me to my next topic, Modified TAB. This isn’t really a thing. A teacher either believes in the philosophy or doesn’t. They don’t really pick and choose which of the values they want to believe. What confuses people is the misunderstanding that being a TAB teacher means you are balls to the wall full choice, all day long. Like I said…this is a misconception of the philosophy. When running a TAB studio, no matter the level, there is a spectrum of choice. The amount of choice a teacher will allow has several variables.

  • Campus/district expectations
    • Some teachers are expected to do x, y, and z. And most of us do like to be in compliance.
  • How “on board” a principal is with the change in the art program.
  • Bootcamp vs studio time
    • bootcamps are short amounts of time where the full class will explore a specific topic such as acrylic paints and color theory or copyright. Bootcamps should last a few days to a week tops. Studio time is where the students create their artwork.
  • Needs of the child
    • Each child is different in their learning styles and how comfortable they are with freedom. TAB is differentiation at its best.
  • Have to’s
    • There are certain things that teachers believe every student needs to know. This could be doing an attachment test to be able to use the sculpture center or biweekly drawing tests that have kids focus on the eye/brain/hand connection.
  • Teacher comfortability with giving up control.

Basically, a TAB teacher utilitizes varying degrees of choice throughout the year, for various reasons. But, they don’t utilize varying degrees of the philosophy.

Teaching in a “TAB-like” way isn’t a thing, but using varying levels of choice is. You can offer choice without being TAB, but you can’t be TAB without offering choice. You are a TAB teacher or you are not. There is not a formula as to how to run a TAB studio. There are as many ways to run the studio as there are TAB teachers. That’s the beauty of it. Believe the philosophy and do what works for you, your population, and your admin…as long as you have student Artistic autonomy as a goal for your students.

For more information about Teaching for Artistic Behavior, visit teachingforartisticbehavior.org

20171027_1535122129426906.jpg

A High School TAB studio with multiple mediums being worked on at the same time.

Talking With Students

Standard

Teachers like to say that they talk to their students.  Secondary art teachers especially like to say that.  But, what does that mean– talk TO your students.  Furthermore, shouldn’t that say talk WITH your students?

In a TAB classroom/studio, it is very important that we talk with our students.  Talking TO them is like me just going on and on and on and not making any sense or relating to them in any way.  That’s a monologue…not a conversation.  If we talk WITH  our students, so much more is going to happen.

So, what does it look like to talk with our students

  1. You get to know your students…what they do outside of your room, what teachers they like, whom they are dating, what they do in their free time, what their home life is like, etc.  This is really important if we want to help them to create meaningful artworks.  Knowing these things can help spark ideas when they are stuck in an artwork or getting started.
  2. Asking questions that don’t have an answer.  The open-ended question gets them thinking about things on a deeper level.  It can be about their art or it can be about society or some other issue that you think has nothing to do with art.  You never know how the way a student contemplates answers to those questions is going to show up in an artwork.
  3. Art history on the back-end.  When we talk with students about what they are creating, it can open up the student to artists they may have never know about.  Hey, I see you are into drawing patterns–let me show you the work of Britto.  Your work reminds me of an artist named Mondrian.
  4. Relationships are built by talking WITH someone.  This means listening as well.  We like to think of the art room as a safe place for students, a place where they feel comfortable.  Well, to build that type of environment, we want to build relationships.  We want to build trust.  Trust can lead to some amazing things happening in our classrooms.
  5. Letting them have opinions on their artwork and the work of others around them.  Yours, the teacher, is not the only authority on artwork.  Giving students an equal footing helps to validate what they are thinking.  They need to know their opinions matter.
  6. Making the students feel comfortable to ask questions.  If the students feel you are unapproachable, they will never ask questions and their artistic growth will more than likely be stunted.

I would be amiss if I didn’t list a few things that talking WITH doesn’t include.  It doesn’t mean telling them not to do something, like a corner sun.  It doesn’t include telling them their artwork doesn’t meet your expectations of how much contrast or values it should have.  It doesn’t mean only saying hello to them or just talking about the day’s assignment.

I love to build relationships with my students.  I love having open and real conversations with them.  I love getting to know them and having them get to know me.  I love when I can show them new things because I listened to what they had to say.  And I love when I can see that they thought about things we talked about because it shows up in their artwork or their other conversations they have.  Talking WITH them is so important because the art studio is about so much more than just making art.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
~Rollo May

2018 Texas TAB Lab

Standard

One would think that by now I would be sitting in the sun, sipping margaritas and enjoying my summer.  One would think that if one didn’t know me.  I have 2 kids and the Texas sun is way to hot to sit under all day.  Now sipping margaritas…that’s another story for another day.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 2.06.10 PM

My third week off for summer was spent doing some very important and exciting professional development–the Texas TAB Lab (#TxTABLab).  Lori Wallace and Julie Bates20180613_0938451693010827.jpg honored me months ago by asking me to help out with this year’s mini-conference, by heading up the secondary portion of the conference.  This year was our second event.  At our first meet-up, there were about 30 of us tops in this small conference room in a hotel in Waco, TX.  Ginger Tapia set the whole thing up and it was wonderful.  It was there that an event was born.  This year, TAB Lab was definitely the place to be, as we more than doubled the attendance with 67 teachers.  And, I am happy to say that the secondary peeps went from about 7 or 8 to almost 20.  It’s a good time to be a Tx TAB teacher.

20180613_0952401374525972.jpg

Let’s get to it.  Our main meeting hall was the Frank Fickett Center  (FFSTC).  The hotel suggested it because the conference room was not going to hold us all.  It was a wonderful space to be in for 2 days.  The conference kicked off with one of our keynote speakers, Katherine Douglas.  She was unable to make it to Austin, so she spoke via interwebs.  Among the many fabulous things Kathy spoke of, she told us in regards to child art that “adult eyes need to learn appreciation for it”.  She also shared her 7 goals for her TAB studio and her students.

  1. Have an idea20180613_100200859648563.jpg
  2. Get materials and tools to explore idea
  3. Explore/Make idea, with false starts, change directions, mistakes
  4. Know when it’s finished
  5. Put away materials/tools properly
  6. Reflect/Share ideas
  7. Think about what’s next

Thank you Kathy so much for joining us.

That afternoon we went to visit some classrooms.  The elementary teachers broke into 2 groups–visiting both Julie’s and Lori’s classrooms in Pflugerville.  The secondary teachers made the long drive to Taylor to visit my classroom.  I am so happy they made the journey.  In spite of the 80+° room temp, it was an amazing experience.  I talked briefly about my journey, then we toured my room and how it was set up.  We talked about daily activities and classroom flow.  There was much conversation…conversation that lasted well past when I thought we would leave.

 

We went to dinner at Rudy’s BBQ and went back to the FFSCT for some more art chat and some Paper Smaché with the one and only Clyde Gaw.  Paper smaché is like paper maché, but Clyd-i-fied.

 

Our second day opened up with our second keynote speaker, Clyde Gaw.  I bet you thought he was just here for Smaché.   He was also here for the cardboard. In 20180613_092720-1358794459.jpghis presentation, he told us of his journey–his life journey–from the train tracks by where he grew up to his current job as a high school TAB teacher in Indiana.  It was interesting to me to hear how and when he met people I know (or know of), like Clark Fralick, Diane Jacquith, Kathy, NanHathaway, and John Crowe.  My biggest take away from Clyde that morning was the rhizome.  He likened things to it and called us rhizomatic. (def 1 def 2).  If you were’t at TAB Lab, but you are meeting up with Clyde at some other TAB event this summer, I’m sure he’ll talk about it.

 

The rest of the day included a working lunch, small group sessions, mini-presentations from attendees and 2 guest speakers, Priscilla Lamb and Manuel Gamez.  Priscella presented on Autism and Special Ed.  Manuel is the Fine Arts Director for PfISD.  It was interesting to hear the perspective of a non-teacher, someone in admin.  He very much supports the arts and really likes TAB.  Bonus for Lori and Julie. We ended the day with some gelli printing with Lori and some faux screen printing led by yours truly.  Unfortunately, after testing the screen the night before, I didn’t wash it fully and the prints weren’t as clean as I would have liked.  But, my fellow teachers were cool with it and didn’t complain.

 

After dinner, many of us met back at the hotel conference room and had some cookies, milk, chat, and arting.  It was a fun way to end the day.

 

20180615_1215441732492350.jpg

Friday was our last day and Lori had set up a great activity at Austin Creative Reuse.  ACR is a store that is supplied by donations.  It is a TAB teacher’s dream.  Well, and it’s the dream of artists and crafters and people that are into reuse.  We met in the classroom at ACR and split into 2 groups.  Those with the late birthdays went to the store first.  I have already been to ACR, so I knew what was up.  The others were new and were in amazement.  After shopping time, we went back and we participated in what was essentially like “Chopped”, but with art materials. We worked in groups of 4/5.  We were given a theme of “represent”.  And we went from there.  I was fortunate to get with a group where we all just flowed and worked well together.  Our sculpture was called “Bond”.

 

All in all it was a fabulous conference.  I am so glad that I was able to go and that I was enable to pass on my knowledge to others.  I know that I didn’t provide much of what I learned at Tx TAB Lab, but if you are curious as to what was shared, visit out Padlet.  It has links to almost everything.  I look forward to next year when I hope we go even bigger…it is Texas after all…Go Big or Go Home!  Until then, I have Facebook to be able to talk to my new TAB friends.