Classroom Ceramic Art Education Ideas

Putting four clay balls together in a cross and then smoothing them into a face will form an anchor-shaped mouth and nose for animals like dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals which have a line beneath the nose which curves out into the mouth. You can teach the students to build eyelids from coils. Pinch pots can be shaped by hand to push out areas where shoulders and thighs are and coils can be smoothed into pinch pots to build up muscle areas or details. Don’t forget to show the students how to add air vents to their sculptures so that they don’t explode inside the kiln (paper towel balls can be used as stuffing and removed through the air vents before firing). Legs can be formed of clay wrapped around wires. Texturing can be achieved with combs and hairbrushes.

Modeling food items is another enjoyable and instructive classroom ceramics project for middle and upper school students. The models don’t have to be realistic – in fact it can be more fun to make them in a pop art or cartoon style. You can show the students pop art paintings by Claes Oldenburg or Wayne Thiebaud to give them the idea. Gourmet magazine photos can be used as models and the students should make sketches to develop an overall plan. Food items can be modeled from pinch pots for rounded objects, or built up from rolled-out slabs of clay for flat or square ones. Make sure the students know that the models should be hollow to avoid blow-ups in the kiln. For example, balls of ice cream can be hollowed out from the bottom, or formed from pinch pots with a straw hole where they are fused to the plate or bowl.

Underglazing is done first and fired then shiny glazes are painted on over the fired underglaze. The students should be instructed in not painting shiny glazes on top of unfired underglazes, and not applying underglazes over shiny glazes. They should be reminded that underglazes must be fired in ceramic kilns separately and before applying shiny or matte glazes. Some surfaces, such as pie crusts and brownies, can just be fired with a matte underglaze. Other items such as a brown fudge sauce or cherry-red fluxing require an underglaze first and then a specialty glaze to make whipped cream. It is also possible to apply glossy glaze over an unfired underglaze and then just fire once, which produces interesting effects and cuts down on the number of firings necessary.

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