Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Clay All Around
“ … I am the ‘village potter’ — for the global village.” — Adrian Saxe
The month of February brings us Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras, and President’s Day. And, as with other months, there are quirky celebrations like Kite Flying Day, and National Frozen Yogurt Day (one of my favorites).
In February, we also celebrate clay, and everything we can do with it and some tips on how you can create some community connections.
Recycling Again and Again Is there anything you can’t do with a paper towel or toilet paper roll? I keep seeing commercials about tubeless toilet paper and I’m starting to stress … what will art teachers do? Paper towel rolls are great as armatures for making almost anything and when the clay is leather hard you can pull the roll off; if you can’t remove it, it will burn while firing.
And Speaking of Textures … Even students as young as 5 can have fun by adding texture to their clay. Students can add all kinds of noodles to their clay—alphabet, wagon wheels, or bow tie noodles make wonderful textures and designs. Noodles absorb water, so add them at the end. They can also be left in the clay to burn off during firing. Other objects to use as textures are Mardi Gras beads, seashells, and different nutshells. Have your students use a rolling utensil to impress lace or any type of textured fabric into their clay. The outcome is beautiful.
Helpful Hints and Tips Denise Schlawin from Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton, Wis., has found that Tyvek® is great for cover sheets for clay construction. It’s lightweight, waterproof, and does not break down over time. Denise got a “supply” of free scrap pieces from a contractor. Although Tyvek will last longer than tar paper, I just inherited scrap tar paper from a roofer. Anything that is FREE is GOOD!
Dry cleaning plastic is also a great free resource, but use with caution. It is very clingy so it sticks to the clay and doesn’t allow any air in, thus allowing your clay to stay moist for days. It works especially well with clay slabs, you can just put a layer of plastic in between each layer, fold under the edges and you are good to go.
Glaze This great tip comes from middle school teacher Karyne Molony from St. Lucie County, Fla. When dealing with lots of glaze options for students, take plastic cups and label them with the color of the glaze on them. That way no color gets mixed into the wrong jar at the end of the class.
“Clay Around the Room” is a segment that Cynthia Gaub, from North Middle School in Everett, Wash., does in her “exploring materials” unit. She sets up stations with a variety of tools and materials that are best for the type of project they are exploring. Students have one class period at each table to play and explore those skills and tools.
She previews each of the tables quickly with basic instructions for her smaller, more advanced middle- school mixed classes. With her beginner classes, she does a demo at each table and students write the vocabulary words. The following class period they start to work at the centers. After working at each center, the students can also decide if they would like to use clay for every themed project for the rest of the year.
Clay on a Cart Karen Haugeto Hoyack from King Robinson Middle School in New Haven, Conn., has a great tip for using clay on a cart. Karen suggests using multiple stacking cooking cooling racks to store and organize pieces before firing. She also says to have your students write their name and a draw a picture of their work on a small paper plate. These can be used to store their clay and be recycled.
Community Connections Get your students involved! Have them either volunteer their artistic talents in the community or have the middle and high school students organize art shows within the community. Try the local libraries, grocery stores, banks, restaurants, and local businesses. Having an art show and inviting the local dignitaries is also a wonderful way to get involved.
Happy birthday to Takashi Murakami (Feb. 1, 1962), Adrian Saxe (Feb. 3, 1942), Ansel Adams (Feb. 20, 1902), and Frank Gehry (Feb. 28, 1929).
Thank you Denise, Karen, Karyne, and Cynthia for these great clay tips!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.