Ceramics Lessons and Management Tips

This week was a Ceramic-stravaganza! Check out my favorite ceramics lessons and management tips posts in the links below:

Ceramics Lessons

IMG_5576 Ceramic Zoo Animals & Paper Habitats

IMG_4310 Cultural Animal Vessels

IMG_4389 Abstract Personal Interest Figures

IMG_3433 Imaginative Model Homes & Architectural Facade Tiles

Ceramics Management Tips

IMG_5232 Firing Multiple Stages of Clay at the Same Time

IMG_5221 Kiln Cart Shelf Tags

IMG_3172 Ceramics Toolboxes

IMG_3212 Ceramics on the Art Cart

IMG_5227 Glaze Trays

Ceramics Management Tip: Glaze Storage & Distribution

IN our county many elementary art teachers use paint stations at each table to manage tempera paint. I thought the idea of a station where students have access to multiple colors of glaze would be useful, so I created these small glaze trays for each of the tables in my classroom. We use Mayco Stroke & Coat glazes which can be mixed to create a wide variety of tints and shades.  IMG_5223 IMG_5224Each table receives one glaze tray that contains the twelve most requested colors and a water dish for rinsing their brushes. The tray has a lid that students can use as a palette for mixing. I purchased the trays/storage boxes at the dollar store. The cups inside that hold each color of glaze were also purchased at the dollar store and were originally designed for salad dressing.


On the center table in my room where I usually distribute materials I have a variety of paintbrush sizes available as well as a box that contains one bottle of each color of glaze, in case I need to do refills during class. If I were teaching from a cart I would set these materials up not he top shelf with the empty water dishes, and the bottom shelf would contain the bisqueware that is ready to be glazed in one large tray or copy box lid.IMG_5226All of these small glaze trays fit inside one of my art room cabinets. We just snap the lids on and stack them inside the cabinet for the next use. Over the summer they get dried out a little, but we just refresh them with more glaze and a little water if necessary. Occasionally someone will forget to rinse their brush before switching to a new color. If it isn’t a big glob the kids just stir it into the rest of the glaze. If it is a big difference in color (like a blob of black mixed into the white glaze) then I rinse out that cup and refill it, but that only happens once or twice a year. Overall we waste much less glaze using this method instead of paper plates or palettes, and I am able to afford to buy the stroke & coat glaze instead of the budget glaze that is stocked in our county’s supply warehouse.

I hope these ceramics tips were useful. If you missed any of the other ceramics posts you can check out the links below:

Ceramics Management Tips:

Firing Multiple Stages Together

Kiln Cart Shelf Tags

Clay Toolboxes

Clay on an Art Cart

Ceramics Lessons:

Ceramic Zoo Animals

Cultural Animal Vessels

Personal Interest Figures

Ceramic Gargoyles

Imaginative Model Houses & Architectural Facades

Ceramics Lesson: Imaginative Model Homes

I borrowed this lesson from a fellow art teacher in our county- Ashley Birkmaier. While discussing mixed results of ceramics and my worries over the coming ceramics art assessment, Ashley shared some photos of student examples of an imaginative home lesson she had written. Students were shown examples of unusual homes such as the Nautilus house designed by Javier Senosiain and an automobile shaped house designed by Markus Voglreiter  Each student then developed a list of their own personal interests, traits, or talents that could be used as inspiration for their own home. Students created multiple sketches to plan for their sculpture, selected their favorite sketch, then labeled their sketch to show which ceramic hand building techniques they intended to use when the began sculpting.

IMG_0244I have taught this lesson twice so far, and each year the model houses are more interesting than the last. I love how each house is completely different and by designing their own solution to the problem each student has to solve the problem of transforming a two-dimensional sketch into a three-dimensional sculpture. I am posting a few images from last year, and I will update next week as my current sixth graders houses are fresh out of the kiln from glaze firing.

IMG_3433IMG_3422Since this is my last ceramics lesson post for the week, I thought I would share an added bonus lesson by one of my art teacher colleagues from the past. She had an extra couple of weeks because we did not have as many snow days and decided to create ceramic relief tiles of architectural facades. Each artwork was inspired by a combination of classical and modern architectural elements. Here are some of her students beautiful work that we shared during our annual pyramid art show.

IMG_4936 IMG_4937 IMG_4938

Ceramics Management Tip: Clay on an Art Cart

I know that many elementary art teachers teach from a cart, so I thought it might be helpful to see how I managed teaching ceramics from a cart in a general education classroom. I used to share an art room with the other full-time art teacher at my first school, and while I avoided it as much as possible, I did have to figure out how to manage teaching ceramics on the cart. I actually came up with the ceramics toolboxes idea when I taught on the cart because I wanted a way to quickly pack up all the tools and have them ready to roll. Each of our classrooms has a small sink, so I could still use my small water dishes when I arrived in the classroom. Each group of student desks would receive a toolbox, just like one table in my classrooms. Students would work with clay right on top of their desk, and at the end of class I would collect their finished sculpture in the clay tray (or copy paper box lids if that was what I had.) I stuck with one-day-only sculptures since there was no way for me to store anything over a week, but at least the students still got to use real clay even though they were not in the art room. Now I have more storage space, so I would have students bag up their sculpture inside a ziplock bag, store it in the clay tray, and wrap the tray in a garbage bag to save any escaping moisture before the next week.  At the end of class each student used a baby wipe to clean up- one for their desk and a second one for their hands.


In this photo you can see how I would prep the cart for clay. On the top shelf there is a basket that includes grade level planning sheets/sketches as well as any instructional photo handouts (laminated to protect from clay). You can also see a spray bottle-for misting inside the ziplock bags before storing, water dishes, and at least one or two paper towels per student. students can build their sculpture on top of the paper towel to cut down on muddy clay sticking to the desk. The second shelf holds six clay toolboxes. The bottom shelf is empty- that is where the tray of finished sculptures would go when it is time to wheel everything back to the art room.


Ceramics Lesson: Gargoyles & Grotesques

One of my students favorite lessons is ceramic gargoyles. One year I even had a fifth grade teacher ask if she could come in and make one of her own while her students were at art! I have seen these done as fully freestanding sculptures, but when I learned how to deliver this lesson it was sculpted as a high relief gargoyle tile, which is how I have continued to teach it over the years. Students are presented with information about gargoyles and grotesques in architecture. They are fascinated to learn that there is a Darth Vader gargoyle on the National Cathedral in Washington, DC that was designed by a child their age. Once we have reviewed gargoyles and grotesques from a variety of cultures and time periods, students develop multiple sketches that incorporate animal features, exaggerated facial expressions, and cultural references to create an original gargoyle design. Students usually sculpt their small gargoyle sculpture in one class period, then we glaze them using Crystaltex glazes to create glossy, mottled sculptures. I don’t have any photos of our finished gargoyles after they were glazed, but here are a few that show the gargoyles after bisque firing.

IMG_2489IMG_2492My personal favorites are the one with the eye patch (center row far right) and the one on the bottom row far right reminds me of one of the door knockers from Labyrinth.