Saturday, March 8, 2014

Clay, clay and more wonderful clay

Here I am at a new school and happily playing in clay!  I will be at Latrobe Junior High for the next 20 days and our projects will include clay tile sculpture and large murals for the hallway.  As always, I am overwhelmed with the positive influence of the arts in a school system that still values the art department.  In this residency one of my primary goals is in setting up each student for the success of an art project in which they take personal pride in a job well done.

Communication between Lindsey Page (the art teacher) and me has been really a positive experience.  She does these wonderful presentations at the beginning of class that revolve around a little history of art, questions and even little mini sketches the students keep in their sketch pads.  These are 9th grade students and their interest level in this Art Exploration class seems evident to me after just a few short days.

So, I donated some stoneware clay (it has been in my basement not being used) and used my slab roller to roll out clay tiles for 75 students.  Each student will make two tiles, one to remain as part of a larger scale mosaic and one they can choose to keep.  I initiated the subject matter by asking them to select 5 adjectives (positive ones only:) to describe themselves.  I have a really cool worksheet with related bird, animals, flower, insect and tree imagery that can then related back to symbolize themselves.  For instance, Maple leaf means "courage......" etc

Our process this week involved a day to create two 4 by 4 inch sketches related to the images they chose to represent self.  We then looked at some wonderful artwork on a large screen visible to all students to show Low Relief clay sculpture both past and present day work.  Lindsey provided little tidbits of information about the history of sculpture as a way to show different cultures and how they represented themselves through clay works.

In this first week, we have accomplished one clay tile completed by most of the students along with a few thoughtful writing responses to their clay tiles.  Problem solving has been so great to see as they learn the process of Additive and Subtractive Sculpture (a requirement) of each piece.  They are learning to use tools and to self critique this first sculpture piece.  Here are some students thoughts about what they like about clay, what they might change or improve on their second tile etc.:  (these responses are a mix of two classes)

"  Getting the right shape or take the right form....I would like more detail in my next tile."

"using the clay calms me"

" the clay was easily altered and you have to be extremely careful."

"  Trying to get a good shape with the clay.  Sometimes it won't go as planned."

"  working in clay is relaxing."

"  Putting what you drew with detail into the clay because it is not as easy to add as much detail to clay.  Working with clay makes me feel kind of frustrated because it is difficult to get it how you want it."

" I think the most challenging thing about working with clay is not doing it for so long and then to forget what to do.  It is very relaxing."

"What I like about the project is that I can take an image that is in my head and turn it into a work of art.  Also it is is a good way to express myself.  What I would like to change is to make it look more real."

"  My clay sculpture of an otter shows the playfulness of an otter.  With the otter on top of the huge  stone it sits and waits to play in the water.  For my next clay sculpture I would like to make more detail."

"  I like my first tile because it shows who I am and we got a lot of free way with the design.  Bur for my my second tile I'm gonna try and make my object and  everything in general smoother."

These are just a few of the written responses of the students to this residency and art project so far!

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