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.
The Joy of Clay
Things are not difficult to make; what is difficult is putting ourselves in the state of mind to make them. — Constantin Brancusi.
Happy February! This month, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, Black History Month, and Clay. We have some extraordinary tips for you to get started. Coiling, rolling, hand building, and throwing clay are among some of the techniques used to create beautiful pieces of ceramics. Adding texture and glaze always gives them that extra touch.
Just a bit Tracy Fortune, one of our regular “Tips” contributors, from Lakes High School, Lakewood, Wash., suggests that a great way to keep in-process projects moist or to rejuvenate slightly dry clay is to use a spray bottle filled with water. Tracy sprays a bit of water inside the bag the clay is being stored in and then she wraps it up tightly. She keeps the bottles hooked on the cart that holds the clay tools.
Nancy Williams, from St. Louis Catholic School in St. Louis, Mo., also uses a spray bottle. She sprays the clay when she feels it is getting too dry. After having taught art for over 45 years, she has learned to give students just a bit of clay to start with and allow them to get more out of plastic buckets when they need it. Thus, there are no large amounts of dried-out clay that no one wants to use!
lip Up—It’s Okay! When I first start a clay unit, I have my students make their own slip. They hate it because they don’t like to get dirty, but after a while, they do get used to it. It takes what seems like forever to make, so after the first batch, I get an older blender, and teach the kids how to make it in that. Blenders these days are pretty easy to find since most people are using the new and modern professional blenders that do everything but wash your car! I asked a few friends if they had any old blenders and I got three right away (barely even used).
Once you have your slip, put it in a plastic zip-lock bag, seal it, cut a small hole in a bottom corner, and use it for slip trailing. You can also purchase plastic containers used specifically for this. Applying slip to leather-hard clay creates beautiful lines and designs, leaving a visual texture.
DO-IT-YOURSELF Tiles: Great 3-D Project Sandy Bachmann, from Ramblewood Elementary in Coral Springs, Fla., enters her fourth- and fifth-grade Art Club project into the Martin Luther King Art & Literary competition every year. They were ecstatic about winning the “Best In Show” title recently—for the second year in a row! The competition’s theme was “Living the Dream Through Service.”
After enlarging a picture of the American flag, Sandy cut the paper into grid sections and each student received one piece. Students rolled out and cut their own clay tiles. Two layers were made for each tile. The base layer was the American flag and the students etched the lines into the wet clay.
On top of that, each student attached a clay image of a someone engaged in service—a police officer, a firefighter, an aide helping a physically handicapped person, helping hands, and so on. The students then scored and slipped the service pieces onto the top of the flag pieces. All pieces were glazed and fired one time.
With the help of her students, Sandy took all the tiles and glued them onto a large piece of plywood and used caulking to fill in the uneven edges. It was clear that these tiles were made by hand—but that was the beauty of it!
Their project, along with the “Best in Show” ribbon is now proudly and permanently on display in the front office of her school for students, staff and visitors to see.
Use that Brayer, Dowel or Paper Towel Roll Applying texture to clay is as easy as 1, 2, 3. First, find something that is cylindrical, like a brayer, thick dowel, PVC piping, or a heavy paper or cardboard tube. Next, add texture to it. You can add lace, wire, yarn, or anything that is three-dimensional. Next, roll it on your clay slab. You will have beautiful textures in minutes.
Happy Birthday to Norman Rockwell (Feb. 3, 1894), Grant Wood (Feb. 13, 1891), Constantin Brancusi (Feb. 19, 1876), Winslow Homer (Feb. 24, 1836), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Feb. 25, 1841), and Honoré Daumier (Feb. 26, 1808). Be sure to check out this month’s Study Print, Constantin Brancusi’s The Kiss, on the flip-side of this page.
Thank you Tracy, Nancy and Sandy for sharing your incredible 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.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: [email protected]