Thursday, February 2, 2017

Clay 1 Secret Garden (Butterflies)

Another class from our Secret Garden Clay 1 class for students in grades K-2 after school workshop. Here, we looked at butterflies and symmetry in creating yard art or, as I called them, Butterfly Kebabs

Outdoor Butterfly Art by different artists
We looked at many examples of outdoor butterfly sculpture by different artists. Some of the topics we discussed were:

a. What types of materials were used to create this piece?
b. What can you tell about the size of the work?
c.  Name differences and similarities between 2 works.
d. Observe symmetry in the butterflies and point out examples.
e. Discuss and name the shapes within the butterflies.
f.  Discuss how the artists chose to display the wings
g.  Ask students to id their favorite one and describe why that one appeals most to them.

Materials Needed

White low fire clay (8 oz or 225 g) for each student
Paper squares, 4"  (2 for each student)
Clay tools
Canvas mats
Mat board in 4" squares for storing work while drying
Boxes for storing work
Stamps (We made our own using clay from previous lesson)
Instructions on making your own stamps will be posted soon.
We prefer this to purchasing them, as we have a bigger variety and they are very cost effective


1. After looking at butterfly sculpture examples, we also took a peek at butterfly photos to get a better idea of the types of shapes seen on the wings and understand the concept of symmetry. Students were to choose a butterfly they liked, then point out a shape on one side and then to the corresponding one on the other wing.
 2. Students took a few minutes to make some butterflies in their sketchbooks to generate ideas for wing shapes and symmetrical designs on wings.

3. We took the 4" squares of paper and folded one in half. Setting it on the table like a book, they drew a capital "B" on it, without the center of the B touching the paper's fold. They cut this shape out and used it as a way to start with their clay.

4. Students watched a brief demo and then proceeded to press out their balls of clay. (Can be done with rollers or with heels of their hands.) Press out just large enough to lay the other 4" square paper on top. There should be barely any clay sticking out around the edges. We traced the square and removed the extra clay.

5. For the next step, students put their own patterns on the clay and traced around the shape to make their butterfly. All excess was rolled into a ball and set aside to use later.

6. Students then changed the shape of their butterflies' wings to whatever shape they liked (some were pointed, others rounded, etc). That way, each one looked unique in shape.

7. The extra clay was rolled out like a log, the diameter of a finger. We cut off a piece that was then added to the back. This would later be hollowed out (by the instructors) so the butterfly could later be displayed on a stick. One student decided to put her log shape on the FRONT of her butterfly instead of the back. Great thinking!! It looked wonderful and was a much better way of adding a support structure than on the back. Kids sure know how to think outside the box and come up fantastic variations of the original idea.

Special thank you goes out to Lynzey for her fabulous idea!!

We will do it this way in future classes.

7. Next, students used the home made clay stamps and clay tools to press designs on their sculptures in symmetrical patterns.

8. Pieces were then set aside to dry and will be fired and glazed in the following weeks. Stay tuned to see the final results.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Clay 1 : Secret Garden (Sunflowers)

Clay Sunflower
Just started a new Clay 1 workshop called Secret Garden, held after school and offered to students in Kindergarten through second grade. This class is 5 weeks long, with the first four classes for building in clay and the fifth one for glazing all the fired bisque ware. And as always, a big Art Exhibition and Reception held the sixth and final week.

Our theme for this session is Secret Garden. This week, we looked at examples of sunflower sculptures made by various artists.
Sunflower sculpture in sand, metal, and clay
 Many visuals of sunflower sculptures were displayed and students had opportunities to discuss things like what medium was used (sand, metal, mixed media, metal, etc.), the sizes of the works, distinguishing characteristics of sunflowers, use of shape, detail, color, etc.

Materials Needed
Small sketchbooks
White low fire clay, about 8 oz per kid
Canvas mats for working surface
4x4" cardboard bats to set work on for drying
Scrap paper for names to accompany clay piece6.
Clay tools
Bit of water for attaching parts


1. After examining visuals of sunflower sculptures and actual blossoms, students spent a few minutes making quick drawings in their sketchbooks to generate ideas for the own clay sunflower.
2. Students watched a brief demo on one way to begin making their flowers. We pinched off about a third of the ball of clay and set it aside. The rest of the clay was flattened to about the thickness of a pinky finger. Going any thinner might result in lack of stability and lead to breakage later. 

3. Using a clay tool, we put little cuts around the outside of the flattened clay. Lifting the bits, we shaped the boxy edges into rounded or pointed petals. The petals could then be lifted, alternating with petals remaining flat.

4. We pinched off small bits from the extra ball of clay and shaped individual petals, adding to the main piece in a circular fashion. Overlapping added interest.

5. Things to consider when using this additive method of  making a clay flower. 

* Turn piece in all directions to ensure it looks great from all angles
*Check for cracks and weak spots. Smooth with fingers or tools
*Add details, such as seeds in the center or lines on petals, with clay tools.
*If desired, add facial features and give the flower an expressive face.

6. Set aside all flowers on cardboard pieces, with name papers on them. Add names to bottoms later after they have dried a bit. 

7. Final bit...gather students around finished pieces and discuss features that make each flower unique...addition of stems or leaves, facial features, types of petals made, details, 3d effects, strength of piece, etc. Also, how do students feel as they look at the completed pieces?

Pieces were set aside to dry for later firing.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Clay 1 Pinch Pot Critters Art Reception

At the conclusion of each of our workshops, we hold an Art Exhibition and Reception for the students, their families, and friends.

This event is self curated by the class participants. They carefully arrange their completed work along with name plates, sketchbooks, and certificates of completion. Students look forward to this event as it provides them an opportunity to share their work in a "gallery" type setting. Families can focus on each child's work and discover what each young artist learned in the class.

Clay 1 Pinch Pot Critters Glazing

Intro to Clay : Art of the Pinch Pot : Glazing

This was the final production week of our pinch pot workshop for students in grades K-2. Having completed creating mouse families, fish, and nesting birds, we spent our last session focusing on color and design.

Materials Needed
Fired clay projects (mice, fish, and birds in nests)
Low fire non-toxic glazes in a variety of colors
Brushes, various sizes
Shallow cardboard boxes, one for each student

1. Each week in this course, we looked at various artists' interpretations of mice, fish, and birds. Creatures were made in a variety of media and we explored the ways color was used to add interest to the work, whether to make the animal in a more realistic looking way or something more based on fantasy and imagination.

2. I gave a brief demo on using glazes and to avoid wasting any, we set up glazing stations around the room. Each of the five tables had 2 colors of glaze, 4-6 brushes of different sizes for each color, and a little clay biscuit that showed how the fired version of that particular glaze looked. This helped students get a better idea of how their color choices might look after their projects went through one last firing.

3. Each student had a shallow cardboard box holding all three of their projects, which they carried from station to station, adding their favorite colors. Emphasis was on layering glazes to create richer color and also using tiny brushes to add patterns such as dots or stripes onto base layers of glaze.

Work will be fired again and next week, the students will curate their own work for a group show. Tune in next week to see the final results.