Back in June 1994, Arts & Activities published one of my lessons titled “Drape-Mold Bowls: Elegance in Black and White.” In that lesson I explained how you could help students create a symmetrical clay bowl using a plaster drape-mold.
The students decorated their bowls with a black-and-white design based on Southwest Native American pottery. I still love doing this lesson, but I wanted to come up with a way to add color to the bowls that would fit the skill level of my students.
While driving in rural Wisconsin, inspiration struck in the form of colorful geometric designs painted on many of the barns. Some of them were square, like giant patchwork quilt blocks, while others were a circle shape, like that of a of Pennsylvania-Dutch folk-art hex sign. I immediately connected with the circle shape, knowing that it would work well with the circle shape of drape-mold bowls.
TO inspire my students back at school, we looked at and talked about many samples of Pennsylvania-Dutch folk-art hex signs. These circular designs were a way to decorate barns and bring a splash of color for all to enjoy. The most common images used in these designs include stars, compass roses, stylized birds, hearts, tulips or geometric shapes.
To boost students’ confidence when drawing their circular hex sign designs, circle graph paper was used (see diagram). A circle graph resembles a target, with a series of concentric circles of receding diameters, about an inch apart.
When the designs were finished and colored in, students were ready to draw their designs into their bisque-fired bowls with pencils. I was fortunate to have a potter’s wheel in my room, which enabled me to center the bisque bowls and, with a pencil, draw the concentric circles students needed to redraw their hex designs on their bowls.
The designs were then painted in with underglazes and, finally, clear glaze was applied to the bowls. The results were something to be proud of that would bring a splash of color wherever they were displayed.
Middle-school students will …
• be introduced to Pennsylvania-Dutch Hex signs and design their own.
• hand build a clay bowl using a drape mold.
• paint their own hex-sign designs onto their clay bowls
• select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.
• know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
• Pencils, color markers, circle graph paper
• Plaster drape molds
• Underglaze, clear glaze
Learn more about Pennsylvania-Dutch Hex Signs at the following websites:
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Recently retired, Hugh Petersen taught art at Phoenix Middle School in Delavan, Wisconsin.
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