Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to school.

All but one of the camps with which I interned were full day, which means that in addition to assisting student and teachers, I was also responsible for facilitating snack times and lunch. This meant walking the children outside or to the lunchroom. I was also responsible for behavior management and sometimes discipline. Best of all, it was part of my job to play with the children and keep them occupied.

The teachers were a great wealth of knowledge for me. Some of them were from MICA's MAT program, of which I am a part. Some of them taught in public schools, some of them don't, and some of them don't even work with children regularly. It was interesting to see how the teachers who work in public schools structured their lessons and how the teachers who don't did not place the same limitations. I learned some good tricks and tips and also how I do not want to be as a teacher. The great part was working with so many teachers let me see a variety of teaching styles. When else will that kind of experience happen?

I also helped to glaze work and load kilns with student work. I learned how to make minor repairs with glaze and how much glaze was needed. With loading kilns, I gained more experience stacking shelves and firing the kilns. I also learned to keep an eye out for work that may not be able to be fired, for example, if it is made too thick or if it is too tightly packed with newspaper. With children’s work, there are frequent kiln mishaps, but that experience informs my teaching and studio methods.

Part of my studio experience came from cleaning and minor maintenance. I was responsible for laying down compound and sweeping the room. I also ended up mopping some due to a leaky air conditioner. I also cleaned tools and refilled underglazes, and I was impressed with their organization systems for these items. Putting underglaze into condiment bottles helps control the amount of underglaze students use and makes dispensing much easier. Along this line, most teachers limited the number of colors students could use. This led to more cohesive looking projects, less waste, and less muddy colors in case they were mixed.

Working with children forced me to think about the ceramic studio on a much different level. With children, things are simple. In fact, I would generally say the simpler the better. Art is not about great concepts, it is about whatever idea strikes at the moment, and those ideas are wonderfully original and joyful. If you are lucky those ideas fit with your lesson plans. The studio challenge is maintaining the joy of art while meeting the technical requirements of clay.

Some of it is not that tough, you just have to repeat, “scratch and attach” endlessly. The harder parts are making wet slabs stand or keeping big sculptures hollow. I made newspaper balls to help cups and hollow creatures keep their shape, and also taught the students how to gently handle their clay because, as we found out earlier, there can be too much newspaper stuffed inside the sculpture. The challenges are simple fixes for 10 sculptures that need help now. In one instance, I created cardboard triangle supports to keep slabs straight up, looking like seated owls without slumping. Cardboard was a simple material, used on many occasions. I even used it last minute to make some looms for students to weave while others finished working.

Some challenges need to be addressed before building or by teaching techniques for building. I started to think about how to communicate information in ways student could understand. The kiln is what we call a super hot oven for cooking clay. The walls of clay must be as thick as your pinky. Anyone who has worked with children and clay knows the thickness of clay is a constant issue. Big sculptures often need hollowed, but for every big thick sculpture you get an animal with tiny ears and skinny legs. I learned to address this problem by showing the students to pinch the animal, legs, head, tail, and all, from one ball of clay. This avoided skinny legs made from coils rolled too thin or squashed too thin by students dutifully scratching and attaching.

Overall it was a good experience for me as a teacher and as an artist. As a teacher, I learned classroom management techniques and picked up a lot of project ideas. As an artist, I learned how to keep a community studio clean and organized. I also learned that ceramics does not have to be complicated. There are simple ways to build and add design. There are simple ways to support your sculpture. It is these simple tried-and-true ideas that can apply to anyone’s studio. After several years in art school, children’s approach to art is a breath of fresh air. I do not know if I can recapture that spontaneity or childlike charm, but I can certainly return to the simplicity of joy of making.

August 3-7: More Modern Masters, ages 6-9

Day 1

Matisse relief- Students learned about Matisse, then sketched designs using shapes or copied one of Matisse’s compositions. Using slabs, students cut out shapes and created a relief of their composition.
Claus Oldenburg food sculptures- Students learned to build hollow using newspaper armatures and pinch building to create sculptures of food.

Picasso cups- Students learned how to build a vessels using slabs and decorating them after Picasso’s style.
Press bowls- Using compression and coils, students molded a bowl within a bisqued bowl. I do not recall the artist for this lesson.

Day 2
Matisse relief- This day was troubleshooting and restating as the slabs had dried out from the previous day. Students used slabs to recreate their compositions, and then the slabs were rolled into cylinders and made into vessels.

Surrealism houses- Students created their dream homes by slab building a structure and furnishing the interior with pinched out forms.

Picasso masks- Students sketched out their masks, and rolled out slabs. Then they carved into and decorated their slabs using bisque stamps and scratching and attaching features.
Magritte hybrid words/play on words- After sketching several ideas, students learned to build hollow and pinch forms to create sculptural illustration of their ironic play on words.

-- My internship ended early this week because I had already logged 160 unpaid hours.

July 27-31: Storybooks Come to Life, ages 6-9

Day 1

Cat in the Hat- Using slabs, students created a hat, and then pinched out a cat head for a lid. Later in they day they underglazed these pieces

3D books- Students chose a book, read it, and wrote down a favorite excerpt. Then they used slabs to mold a clay book around a real book.
Paper making- Using leaves gathered from outside, paper pulp, and screens, students made paper for the book they were making later in the week.

Day 2
Egg baskets- Using bisqued bowls as press molds, students created a basket for holding “magic eggs.” They had to compress the clay very well, scratch and attach a handle, and decorate it with stamps.
3D book- Students continued to work on these by making a 3D illustration of their chosen excerpt through pinching, relief, and scratching and attaching.
Students also cut images from National Geographic magazine for collage in their paper books.

Day 4
Students were underglazing and glazing much of their work.

Owl- Using cut out slabs, students made owls based off an excerpt from Harry Potter.
Relief tile- Students made decorative tiles using relief images.
3D book- Students finished building and underglazing their clay books.

Book- Students continued to work on writing and illustrating their story with drawings and collage.

Day 5
Students finished underglazing and glazing their work. They wrote their stories into their paper books and finished collaging. They also learned different book folding techniques.

July 20-24: Native American Cultures and Civilizations, ages 10-12

Day 1
Navajo Pottery- Students used bisques bowls as press molds for their own version of Navajo pottery. They learned to compress the clay and scratch and attach decorations.
Dream catcher beads- Students made and underglazed beads for their dream catchers.
Weaving frame- Using a slab, students cut out a frame for a weaving project.

Day 2
Okarina- Using a newspaper armature, students created hollow okarinas, which are a type of whistle, and scratched and attached features to make it look like an animal. The teacher, Miss Dina, did the technical work to make the mouthpiece work.

Storyteller dolls- Students used Pinch building and newspaper to create hollow sculptures. They then scratched and attached smaller animals to the sculpture.
Organic shaped pottery- Students coil built pottery in natural shapes.
Spirit animal mugs- Using slabs, students created mugs and cut out animal shapes to decorate them. They also decorated them with undersglaze.

Day 4
Students underglazed and glazed projects. They also used acrylic paints to paint their beads and weaving frames.

Day 5
Students finished underglazing and glazing their work. Students strung beads on their dream catchers. They also wove into their weaving frames as well as weaving god’s eyes.

July 6-10: Arctic Animal Adventure, ages 6-9

Day 1
Students watch a movie and cut out National Geographic images for collage.

Bowls- Students molded their own bowls inside of bisqued bowls. The learned how to scratch and attach and compress clay to make it hold together.
Beads- Students made and underglazed beads themed around an arctic animal.

Day 2
Bear on Walrus vessel- After rolling their own slabs, students cut strips and molded them around a newspaper armature to create a hollow walrus or whale. They then pinched out bears to scratch and attach onto the walrus/whale.
Painting and collage- Students began making a book by painting papers and using them and pre-cut images for collage.
Pots with animals- Using pinch and coil methods, students created a pot and scratched and attached a cut out of their favorite arctic animal.
Hybrid animals- Students sketched several ideas for combinations of two or more arctic animals. They then created these animals using pinched forms and scratching and attaching. Some students needed to hollow out their sculptures.

Day 4
Students were glazing and underglazing this day.
Animal scene vessel- Using pinch, coil, and slab methods, students built vessels and created an arctic mountain scene, complete with pinched animal forms.
Book- Students wrote in their stories and collaged and drew illustrations for their storybooks about arctic animals.
Watercolor- Students learned how to watercolor by drawing and painting their favorite arctic animal and its environment.

Day 5
Students glazed and underglazed their projects
Necklaces- Students strung their necklaces with beads made and fired earlier in the week.

(Learning how to use the slab roller)