Category Archives: Ceramics

Ceramic Slab Boxes

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Our first big unit in beginning ceramics class was to build a slab box that had texture, a lid, a handle, and a few added embellishments.  A fellow ceramics teacher, Jen,  was kind enough to share her lesson.  I tried it out for the first time last year.  I thought the kids did well, so I did it again this year.  I think it is a good intro to the hand-building technique of the slab.  Also, it brought in texture, a favorite aspect of mine, by use of texture rollers, adding a usable handle, and adding embellishments.

The students learned a lot about slabs.  The state of leatherhard is one they all know now.  Some really did understand the state, while other just never got there and didn’t heed advice to cover the slabs they weren’t working on at the moment, thus letting things dry out too much to use.  A couple kids did find out that you can mist way too much.

But, I did hear good conversation about using the stilts (in our case made of paint stirrers) to help keep slabs even, how much pressure to use when using texture rollers, and reminders to put in reinforcing coils.

I am pleased with the results of the boxes, even though more than one handle was either not scored/slipped right or was too fragile and broke off–unfortunately, usually by me.

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For the surface treatment, I wanted them to learn a technique that would enhance the texture created by the texture rollers.  I asked them to choose 2 glaze colors–a dark and a light.  They learned how to pour in a glaze and roll it around to cover the interior of the box.  They did this with the dark.  After that, they used the dark to brush into the texture.  Once dry, they washed off the excess leaving the color in the recesses (and as a slight stain on the flat surfaces.)  Then they brushed on the lighter color to the outside of the box, going over everything–including the dark in the texture.  The theory is that the dark will show through the light, creating an interesting surface with a bit of depth.

Not everyone followed instructions, and that is okay.  But, the ones that did created some wonderful looking boxes.

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Test Tiles Are Where It’s At

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The last 2 weeks of the marking period are always hard to come up with something meaningful to do–especially in a ceramics class.  It is not enough time to start a new project.  Luckily though, we have been working so hard on building and learning basic building techniques that we can take a break from building and focus on surface treatments.

One thing we are focusing on is creating test tiles.  Beginning students each cut 12 test tiles.  The took 6 of the tiles and left them smooth.  The other 6 were imprinted with a texture stamp.  They labeled one set 1-6A and 1-6B.

Now that they are bisque fired, they are trying different glaze combos.  They are laying 1-3 glazes on each tile.  And, what they do to 1A, they do to 1B so after glaze firing they can see how the texture could possibly effect the glazes and how it breaks, if it breaks at all.

And, of course, they are taking notes on what colors they use and how they apply the glaze.  They are taking notes not only for themselves, but for their peers as well.  The plan with these test tiles is to have the class share tiles so they have many choices.  Maybe someone else created something awesome.  They will glaze their spheres from one of the group of test tiles.

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Rice, Panty Hose, and Soft Molds

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Intermediate and Advanced ceramic students are learning a new technique.  They are learning about hump molds, and in particular soft molds created by using a rice-filled panty hose leg.

I found the idea on pinterest and I followed the link to here. I thought this type of mold would be a wonderful addition to our ceramics studio.  They would provide much versatility and would prove to be much more inexpensive than plaster molds.

Today the boys filled the stocking with rice…40 pounds to be exact.  Tomorrow they begin to lay slabs on them.

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A Student’s Story about Problem Solving

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I wanted to take a moment to brag on one of my ceramic students.  Lately I’ve been talking so much about my art 1 and art 2 classes and how their immersion into TAB has been off the chain.  I feel like I’ve been neglecting my other classes…my ceramic classes.  They do make up half of my class load after all, they should not be looked over.

It has been slow going in the beginning classes as we were waiting for clay and slabs are getting to a working state that isn’t so floppy.  (I have to say I can’t wait until we are past the first project so kids have more than one thing to work on.)

My intermediate/advanced class is creating enlarged organic objects.  I asked them to bring in an organic object, but of course, only one student did.  Luckily I predicted this and found a ton of things for them.  One of the objects was the flower pod from the cactuses here in Texas.  Paul chose that object.

It started out fresh and bulbous and he jumped right in building it 5 times as big.  It was going to be an awesome piece.  However, over the course of the time we’ve been working, the pod began to shrivel as the moisture left.  Neither of us thought of this possibility.  As Paul was close to finishing, I told him if he wanted to just pretend the piece hadn’t shriveled, I was cool with that.  He said ok.

I went about my business and towards the end of class came back to Paul and saw that he had incorporated the shrivels.  His piece looked way more awesome than it did before.  There is now so much more life to his sculpture.  I am so proud of him.  This is his best work to date.  I love that he encountered a problem and instead of getting mad, he ran with it and brought his work to another level.

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Finally Having a Great Time

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And when I say I am finally having a great time, I mean that I love teaching and I love my job…every period, every day. While I struggle with the stupidity that comes with all the paperwork and administrative stuff, I do it with little complaint because the rest is awesome.

Why is it so good? Because I love teaching ceramics and because of TAB.

My ceramic classes are all working and learning and having fun. The clay is here. And the students want to be there and are eager to work and get messy. Finally all my non-ceramic classes have started working on their artworks for our Man/Machine theme.And I couldn’t be more excited by all the different interpretations and the enthusiasm in my students.

It is like my classroom is a whole new place. My eyes have been opened and I never want to shut them. I don’t watch the clock any more. I don’t surf the web anymore. I talk with my kids…about their art, about their process, about their struggles, about them. I know it’s only been a few weeks and perhaps I am still in the honeymoon phase with TAB, but I foresee us having a long and happy marriage.

Additive Texture Forms

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One thing that I love about working with clay is being able to add texture.  There are so many ways to add texture…stamping, carving, texture glazes, and additive texture.  I never had to be told to add more texture to anything I have created in clay.  I am very particular about it.  But, not all my students have it come so naturally.  So, our next project will be all about adding texture.  We will talk about repetition and how it can be used to create texture.  We will talk about what kind of textures there are–smooth (which unfortunately is not allowed on this project), bumpy, spiky, etc.  We will explore different ways of adding the textures; and we will talk what kinds of textures are created by the shapes or forms used.  Two people could use the same form to add, but the way in which they add it will make the over feel of the form different.

Students will create a form from any of the hand-building techniques we have learned and from there, add texture by repeating a shape or form.

This is my piece based on the lesson.  My students who have watched me work on it over the past 2 days have describe it as a sea anemone, a bunch of cereal like fruit loops, and a mop.  They all want to touch it.  It is fabulous to get them talking about it and asking questions.

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Link to grading rubric.  This is a new rubric form that I have been working with.  This is the second time I will be working with it.  I am experimenting with different rubrics to find one that works for me and my students.

Gruene Butter

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What is Gruene Butter?  (And for those of you not from Texas, it’s pronounced “green”, not “gru-en”.  Gruene Butter is a type of clay I can buy from the clay distributor I use, Armadillo Clay in Austin.  It’s a high-fire stoneware.  I purchased it to use for throwing.

Back story is that I had read a friend’s technical reader for her college classes and saw that she requires her students to buy both low-fire and high-fire clay.  As I read more, I discovered that she has them use the high-fire for throwing.  I emailed her and inquired as to why this is.  She told me that the high-fire is stronger and less porous.  So, that if the pieces are intended to be used hot hot liquids and be washed in the dishwasher, high fire is the way to go.  Learn something new every day.

Well, I tested it out today and let me tell you….I loved it!!!  It was sooooo nice to throw with!   It was easy to manipulate.  It was smooth.  It was awesome.  I think my kids are going to love it. Image