|This absolutely charming wolf has a turtle on his back. It reminds me of a story, but I can't quite remember how it goes.|
Last week I went to a local elementary school to run a clay project with some 3rd Graders. My class was involved in the project in a couple of ways. I had several students who prepared clay shapes using molds that I use in my own work. These shapes were for the students to use in their own projects.
|a box of student projects on their way to a kiln|
I've been doing clay projects with some of these kids since kindergarden, so I thought it would be fun to introduce them to the idea of a mold. I brought in some of my plaster molds and each table of kids worked together to press clay into the molds.
|one of the molds we used, with a layer of wet clay inside|
I explained that the molds are made of plaster, which has little tiny air holes inside of it. The holes in the plaster suck some of the water out of the wet clay, and the clay dries out a bit and can be pulled out of the mold in the shape of the mold. I forgot to tell the kids that this is how toilets are made. I thought they'd enjoy that.
I only have about six half molds, and it takes a bit of time for the clay to come out of the mold, so the shapes prepared ahead of time by my adult students were essential for all the 3rd graders to have a piece to make their own, but they also all got to use the mold with wet clay so see that first step in the process.
|I'm not sure what this is, but I like the symmetry. It reminds me of a fluffy rabbit with long ears, but I may be way off.|
I also brought an adult student with me to the school so that I could have some help instructing the students. There are 27 kids in this third grade class, and they had a sub that day, so it was helpful to have another person who knew how to help with clay.
|This cat came to the box very wet. the student brushed water on the back to create a fur texture.|
Of course the project went really well. The students barely needed to be told some of the rules for using clay, given a few tools, and they were off. I always love to see what kids come up with when you give them some clay and let them experiment.
|This guy has strong legs (attached well to the clay) and lots and lots of spikes.|
This time around, unlike the bells projects I have sometimes done, the students had a slightly stiff, organic shape to build onto. When the kids work with wet clay (as in the bells projects), there is some risk of the form squishing when they push on it. With these forms, the risk was significantly reduced, though it was not impossible for the forms to squish.
|This piece became a little squished during building, but the horns, especially the middle one that reminds me of a hat, give this creature a lot of character.|
The kids made a wide range of forms, with some clustering of type based on the table they were sitting at. Several cats happened at one table. Another table had a couple of legs-up shapes that were brought to me on their backs.
|The two cats were made by students at the same table. I can't tell if the face or the feet are more fun.|
Overall, there was more variety than similarity, given that they started with fairly similar shapes. The molds my students used to prepare forms for the kids varied in size, so some of the creatures the kids made had smaller bodies than others.
|This student certainly had worked with clay before. She chose one of the smallest forms to start with, but carefully and patiently attached a whole cluster of different sized spikes to the back and fun feet and ears.|
We also talked to the students about making feet and attachments that were strong and secure. Some kids even remembered the terminology from previous years' clay projects, like slaking, scoring and slipping, and kiln.
|The eyes stick up on this animal and the student rolled some texture on the creature's back like fur or even scales. It reminds me of a dog now, but once it is colored, the artist will let us know.|
|This student was patient and determined. She had a plan, she got some help, then she just went after it. She spend most of her time cutting out and attaching those huge frog feet.|
I was a little concerned about transporting some of the pieces, because some kids found it hard to resist the urge to attach skinny legs or horns or tails. The problem with the skinny bits is that they dry faster and when wet, dry, and even after firing, they are much more likely to get bumped into and broken off.
|This one scared me with that skinny tail and the skinny horns. It made it to the kiln, and through the firing, but I'm not sure it will make it back to school.|
I talked with some kids about attaching the tails back to the bodies for added security, or making shorter fatter legs, but some of them chose to express themselves without the constraints of building stable appendanges.
|This student had heard the lesson about connecting the tail to the body and she even used the tail as an additional support to help the feet hold up the weight of the cat.|
|Yeah, she's my kid, so she gets a extra picture of the cat from the front.|
I also found it interesting that nearly the entire class chose the small end of the form for the head. Only one kid, as far as I can tell, put the head on the larger side. That form turned into a fish or whale creature. Before the project, I wondered if any of the students would try to stand the form on its end. I was actually considering how I could help them if they chose to do that, since the forms we provided were all open on the "bottom," but no one tried it.
|The whale may have lost a piece in the front, but it looked good without it, and I wasn't sure it belonged there, so I didn't reattach it.|
We spent a little over an hour with the students in the first part of the school day. The kids had an enormous amount of energy. It seemed to be a combination of the time of day, the fact that they had a substitute, the fact that it's the end of the school year and, of course, the fact that they were doing a clay project.
|After firing, the grey clay turned white. The pieces are all hard and ready to go back to the kids.|
After the project, I took the work with me to fire it. I plan to bring it back this week and the kids can paint it either during class or on their own. The nice thing about the white clay we used is that it can be painted with acrylic paint or watercolor, or even markers or colored pencils can be used. I usually glaze my work, but since the pieces aren't functional, there's no need for them to be glazed.
|We only found about two pieces broken off of the sculptures. They are packed up now and ready for the trip to school.|