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Tried & True Tips / February 2016 | Arts & Activities
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Jan 2016

Tried & True Tips / February 2016

Tried & True Tips / February 2016

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. 

Celebrate Clay

“When I think about how I want to reach an audience, I just wanted to make pieces that were inspired by something that gave me so much pleasure.” 

— Shepard Fairey

Contemporary artist Shepard Fairey expresses his feelings like very few artists I have read about. This month, celebrate what inspires you and your students. We can do this with all the events that are happening this month. February brings with it many multicultural celebrations such as Black History Month, Chinese New Year, and of course Valentine’s Day,  and President’s Day.

It is always a great time to celebrate your students and their successes and also get them ready for Youth Art Month next month. We proclaim February as “Ceramics month,” so get your clay out, clean out your kilns, and get those tools ready to make some amazing pottery.

Cleaning Up 101
When Keeli Singer from Trojan Intermediate School in Potosi, Missouri, is creating with clay, cleanup can be difficult—especially when switching to classes that are not using clay that day.

To speed up the process, Keeli uses inexpensive plastic table clothes. She collects old birthday party table clothes (you can even get the leftovers from your book fair). They work very well because you don’t have to clean the table. Just fold up the cloth really quickly and shake it out when you get a break. When the next class walks in they won’t be able to tell you even used clay!

Speaking of clay, the use of the end of a marker cap makes outstanding “eyes” when pressed into clay.

In the beginning … When retired Chicago art teacher, Geri Greenman, was teaching high school, she always loved working with ceramics.

She would start her beginning art students with a project of creating a bowl shape. Using an existing bowl face down, she would have them cover the form with plastic wrap or something similar. They would roll out coils and wrap the base/bottom of the form. They would continue covering the bowl form with the coils. Creative design comes in as the form grows. As it gets close to being leather hard, it can be smoothed on the inside, keeping the texture on the outside for an interesting effect.

She also loved doing food sculptures with her students: hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, all with textures that indicated the actual garnish. She also made tiny little seeds for the buns. Geri’s students then painted the fired sculpture with acrylic paints. It was always a fun project and the pieces always looked great.

Making Textures Personal
Students can make their own personal textures by gluing buttons on a wine cork. They can also make their own stamps by creating a texture on a small piece of clay with tools, the sole of their sneakers, or anything that has unique texture. Once fired, they can glue these on to a wine cork, as well. They can use these as a signature or for stamping texture on their clay (see Mark It! on page 30). Another way to make texture is to build it up on a piece of heavy board using Sculpey or molding paste. Once dry, these textures can be pressed into clay.

Test Run
We all like to glaze small tiles or pieces of clay so that we know what the glazes will really look like when fired. Use an underglaze pencil to write a code on the tile. Make sure to keep a notebook with the codes: for example SG3 for Spring Green 3 coats. Once the tiles are fired, glue them to a piece of wood and write the information below the tile. This will help your students understand the science behind the glazing process.

Tagging your clay?
Pasta is a great way to add texture to your clay. It is especially great for having great lettering in your clay, so you can add a tag. It is also so easy to do! Buy a bag of alphabet pasta (or get your local store to donate a few bags) and use it to tag or write words in your clay pieces. Don’t worry if you can’t get the pasta out from the clay. It will burn out in the firing.

Happy Birthday to Norman Rockwell (Feb. 3 1894), Grant Wood (Feb. 13, 1891), Shepard Fairey (Feb. 15, 1970), Constantin Brancusi (Feb. 19, 1876), Winslow Homer (Feb. 24, 1836), Pierre-August Renoir (Feb. 25, 1841), and Honoré Daumier (Feb. 26, 1808).

Thank you, Keeli and Geri, for your wonderful 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]




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