Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Pojken

Want To Try Pottery With My Students...

Recommended Posts

Hello,

 

I am a "new" middle school Art teacher coming from a design background. I was called in to substitute for an Art teacher who was sick and soon after passed away. The school liked me enough to keep me and I appreciate that, especially not having had much in the way of pedagogical training. I preface with that because I have limited experience with the Arts, actually, never having painted or sculpted - my background education is in Architecture/Interior Design.

 

That said, I know nothing about pottery aside from the very topical research I've done. However, I want to try it with my older students - age 14 or so. However, we have no kiln and money is limited. I have read on here about BBQ grill kilns, pit kilns, brick kilns and such. If I may, here are some questions I have:

 

1) How dangerous is it to work with pottery? Aside from possible burns due to improper handling, are there any dangers one must consider? I am sure explosions is a major one. How can one prevent these dangers?

 

2) How can one make an affordable, easy kiln? What is the best recommendation for the typical "weekend hobbyist"? Is a decent option a BBQ kiln? Imagine only having money to purchase paper clay.

 

3) What techniques can I successfully introduce to them in a short period of time? I don't need them to know *everything* about pottery - an introduction to get them started is fine. Are there cheap, but beautiful techniques one can use to create nice pieces? I read in an article, just covering green clay in newspaper and aluminum foil or masking tape can produce a nice effect.

 

4) What is the minimum time that I can fire clay to make it durable enough to take home. It needn't be a work of perfection. It needn't even hold water (though that would be nice). It is highly unlikely that I can have things run over night - at most maybe 8-9 hours.

 

5) Any other bits of advice for a novice who is trying to teach novices? (In other words, the blind leading the deaf.)

 

Before this thread degrades into a discussion about my education abilities, let me add that I am trying my best to give the students an introduction into the arts that I didn't have. I am learning and fully admit that I don't know everything that perhaps pedagogically trained Art teachers do. I believe the students enjoy my class because I take these kinds of risks - learning things that I don't know in order to teach them. I am hoping and trying to create varied, though economically limited lesson plans, one of which is pottery.

 

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

 

Tien

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having read another thread dealing more with high school students, I guess I should add a bit more information. I want to teach them the most basic of techniques - how to use natural materials that are easily found to create their pieces. The more basic the better. I really want them to see that they can create nice, long lasting pieces without needing a kiln, a pottery wheel and a slew of glazes. I love the idea of limited resources in order to foster innovation. (One of my lessons, for instance, teaches the method of dorodango - Japanese mudballs. It's not assessed, but teaches them patience and pride in craft.)

 

The pieces I want them to create wouldn't be very big - not much bigger than an ashtray or a sake bottle. It would be for around 30-40 students. I have them 1.3 hours a week and can extend this project to however long or short I want, though ideally it wouldn't go beyond four weeks.

 

As to how I will link this academically, I am not yet sure. I will have the summer to try to think of some connection. Perhaps I could discuss a cross-curricular activity with the humanities teacher. Any high school teachers out there willing to share their lesson plans?

 

Thanks again,

 

Tien

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First.. I wish to congratulate you on getting hired, Tien.

 

I personally find it difficult to address your questions directly as, to me, it implies so much knowledge that one should have at a basic level in order to be teaching others (especially early teens) if your desire is for them to truly learn. I admire your courage and willingness, none-the-less.

 

A question here... are you still living in Malmö or have you returned to the U.S.? blink.gif ha ha.... We've discussed other issues on other forums .... I just figured out who you were. Welcome to this forum!

 

Reason for my question.... if you are in Malmö, the best ceramic (keramik) supplier of clay, glazes, tools, BOOKS, etc., is CEBEX (located at Erlandsrovägen 3). My personal recommendation would be to purchase one or two of the books from them (listed below) that should answer probably all of your questions (plus more) and give you a good idea of what this pursuit may involve.

 

----The first book ALTERNATIVE KILNS & FIRING TECHNIQUES is in English and costs 268 SEK. It would give you a good idea of many different firing methods, with insightful information and also what can be done on the cheap.

 

----The second book could be either HANDBUILDING- Ceramics for beginners, @ 270 SEK or PRISMAS STORA KERAMIKBOK @ 261 SEK if ordered on the internet from BOKIA, otherwise it is an expensive 510 kronor at CEBEX. My personal thoughts would favor PRISMA'S book (which you may find at the library in Malmö- as I've checked it out from my Skåne library as well), it is filled with beginner's techniques and advancing a bit further, plus it is written in Swedish. Thinking that if you will be teaching mostly Swedish teens or 'invandrare' (that might be learning the language), it would be more helpful for you and them to learn what the technical/vocational terms are in Swedish which could aid you/them if a higher pursuit in the medium was desired later.

 

I hope this can steer you in a good direction on your undertaking and again.... Congratulations .... and good luck! Maybe others can jump in and will explain some of your specific concerns, if not you can PM me for other specifics.

 

---rick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well as the moderator of this forum, I have to say your questions are simple to answer. I believe getting a degree in Art Education would serve your students well and you can then obtain knowledge relevant to ceramics and other media you should be teaching. No offense, but it does sadden me that they would hire someone they "liked" and not some one who is actually qualified for the position. I find it very strange that someone could piece-meal their lesson plans off of the internet. You can find these questions to be easily answered by many people on this forum. Sorry this may have degraded quicker than you would have liked but I feel you should get an art education degree, otherwise you may be cheating your students out of the education they deserve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First.. I wish to congratulate you on getting hired, Tien.

 

I personally find it difficult to address your questions directly as, to me, it implies so much knowledge that one should have at a basic level in order to be teaching others (especially early teens) if your desire is for them to truly learn. I admire your courage and willingness, none-the-less.

 

A question here... are you still living in Malmö or have you returned to the U.S.? blink.gif ha ha.... We've discussed other issues on other forums .... I just figured out who you were. Welcome to this forum!

 

Reason for my question.... if you are in Malmö, the best ceramic (keramik) supplier of clay, glazes, tools, BOOKS, etc., is CEBEX (located at Erlandsrovägen 3). My personal recommendation would be to purchase one or two of the books from them (listed below) that should answer probably all of your questions (plus more) and give you a good idea of what this pursuit may involve.

 

----The first book ALTERNATIVE KILNS & FIRING TECHNIQUES is in English and costs 268 SEK. It would give you a good idea of many different firing methods, with insightful information and also what can be done on the cheap.

 

----The second book could be either HANDBUILDING- Ceramics for beginners, @ 270 SEK or PRISMAS STORA KERAMIKBOK @ 261 SEK if ordered on the internet from BOKIA, otherwise it is an expensive 510 kronor at CEBEX. My personal thoughts would favor PRISMA'S book (which you may find at the library in Malmö- as I've checked it out from my Skåne library as well), it is filled with beginner's techniques and advancing a bit further, plus it is written in Swedish. Thinking that if you will be teaching mostly Swedish teens or 'invandrare' (that might be learning the language), it would be more helpful for you and them to learn what the technical/vocational terms are in Swedish which could aid you/them if a higher pursuit in the medium was desired later.

 

I hope this can steer you in a good direction on your undertaking and again.... Congratulations .... and good luck! Maybe others can jump in and will explain some of your specific concerns, if not you can PM me for other specifics.

 

---rick

 

 

 

Although I agree with what has been said here, I am not entirely pleased with your hire. There are so many trained art teachers graduating from accredited schools with knowledge to meet the challenge ready at hand. The fact that you were hired means that one of them will not be. In this day of budget cuts and tight fiscal policy I find the fact that a district is buying out of hiring a qualified teacher by hiring one with a smatter of knowledge unconscionable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well as the moderator of this forum, I have to say your questions are simple to answer. I believe getting a degree in Art Education would serve your students well and you can then obtain knowledge relevant to ceramics and other media you should be teaching. No offense, but it does sadden me that they would hire someone they "liked" and not some one who is actually qualified for the position. I find it very strange that someone could piece-meal their lesson plans off of the internet. You can find these questions to be easily answered by many people on this forum. Sorry this may have degraded quicker than you would have liked but I feel you should get an art education degree, otherwise you may be cheating your students out of the education they deserve.

 

 

While I understand your concern, I had hoped to avoid open critique of me and my job. That was why I tried to lay it all out. What I came here for is knowledge and it is unfortunate that some choose to withhold it for whatever reason.

 

I am a middle school teacher - like it or not. Prior to that, I gained a degree in and was a commercial Interior Designer working in both international firms to small studios. I have freelance experience in graphic design and product design. I am creative and analytical - enough so that I kept the job I have. I have had parents come to me and tell me that their child wasn't as interested in Art before my class. I have students coming early to my class eager to help set up. I have students who stay late in order to get more one-on-one time with me. I go beyond my job description by taking the time to teach parents how to photoedit so that my students can have access to photoediting software at home. I teach a vast array of abilities from drawing to sculpting to computer illustrating. Forgive me if I haven't mastered all of them and clay as well.

 

People come to teaching through various routes, I believe; especially with the Arts. I just read about Maria Martinez's fascinating black-on-black technique she learned through experimentation. In fact, her story isn't unique - others have fallen into making pottery and are now world renown - eagerly teaching their techniques to others.

I was merely looking for a fun lesson to introduce my students to clay making. I wasn't looking to usurp the local potter who has 30 years experience. I simply felt bad that my students only had oily plasticine or brittle green clay to keep as tokens of their childhood learnings. I have a limited budget - read that as almost no budget - so I looked into finding ways to explore this medium safely without a kiln. (Thank goodness there are kind people like Sumi von Dassow, who wrote the article on BBQ kilns, who can actually answer my questions without passing judgment.)

 

Yes, I would love to go back and learn these crafts in a university setting, but can't at this moment. I can, however, ask questions, experiment, learn from small courses, explore the Internet, and create my own projects. I am not trying to haughty - I know I have much to learn - but I was hoping to not be confronted with such a closed mentality as was present in other threads. What saddens me is that I was genuinely excited having found this forum. Instead of helping, I am told I stole a job from someone more qualified than me. Why is it that this forum is so narrow minded?

 

Tien

 

p.s. If it's of any concern, I am not in the US so I am not stealing an American job from "someone who is actually qualified for the position". There is a poor Swede out there ruing the day I was born, however... Me, who has a BS in Interior Design from the School of Architecture, NCIDQ qualifications, and 7 years job experience.

 

p.p.s. By the way, you know what I gathered in piecemeal off the the Internet to teach my kids? Google pysanky, dorodango, toro nagashi... Tell me, did you know how to make any of those? Probably not. I learned these and taught these techniques to my students.

 

p.p.p.s. Here is some of my student's work ages 12-14. I sat at the back of the class staring out the window the whole while. It's horrible that they learn nothing from me. :rolleyes:

 

19927810150108739943443.jpg

19609810150108738683443.jpg

20722110150151916138443.jpg

 

 

 

199278_10150108739943443_634528442_6494114_2214240_n.jpg199278_10150108739943443_634528442_6494114_2214240_n.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tien... if you want to PM me, you'll have to do it via Amerikanska, as this site doesn't have that function I believe! I'm vejbystrand. biggrin.gif

 

 

Thanks, AmeriSwede. I'll do that as it seems I don't think I'll be getting much help from others on here.

 

Tien

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tien... if you want to PM me, you'll have to do it via Amerikanska, as this site doesn't have that function I believe! I'm vejbystrand. biggrin.gif

 

 

Thanks, AmeriSwede. I'll do that as it seems I don't think I'll be getting much help from others on here.

 

Tien

 

 

Don't be disheartened. I understand both sides of this issue however because you will be teaching the children art, then let's make it as safe as possible.

 

If you want to make a good start with non-firing ceramics go to Amaco.com they have a section just for Teachers with lesson plans, product suggestions and information on safety. They also have an International office that you can contact if you need to. There are a lot of different kinds of materials you can use to have an enjoyable arts experience with your students. Also I would recommend you go to dickblick.com and look at the many materials that are available they also have lesson plans. Be sure to read all of the safety information and data sheets that are available. I understand that you are not in the USA so obtaining the supplies may be costly through these sources, but the ideas are abundant.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ignore the criticism and celebrate your new job by having fun learning while you teach. If your heart is in it and you care about the kids, you’ll probably do a good job. By far, the best teachers I’ve known were the ones without a degree in education. As a matter of fact, if I were about to take a class in, for example, metal sculpture and had a choice between two teachers and the only thing I knew about them was that one had a degree in art education and the other one didn't, I wouldn't hesitate to pick the one without the degree.

 

 

 

 

Jim

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for that, both of you. I am relatively new to teaching, but I have had this job for two years and am moving onto my third next year. The first year was a beautiful disaster, the second a more controlled disaster and the third... I'm expecting an organized disaster. I've learned quite a bit from the hands on experience and am constantly learning. I love that I can make mistakes and own up to them with my students. To answer them, "I don't know, but I will find out" or "I don't know what will happen. Let's try it and see." is very liberating. However, safety comes first, so I ask the following...

 

I asked Sumi about her BBQ grill method in an email (her method), but will ask here in case she doesn't reply:

 

1) Is there any risk of explosions using your method? I mean, the pieces themselves, not the grill. What causes pieces to explode? I am guessing it is pockets of air, but if the pieces are thin, as you suggested, it is it less likely to occur?

 

2) How long does it take to fire a piece before it is strong enough to keep? Your instructional mentioned 30 minutes, but I wanted to make sure.

 

3) How did you get that beautiful black finish in your article? (http://ceramicartsdaily.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/barbecue_13-150x113.jpg) I would like to learn methods of finishing that do not require glazing. Would your hair method and newspaper/foil method work or do they require a base glaze? I am especially interested in Maria Martinez' black-on-black method, though I am only topically familiar with the method. Is that something that could be done with this method of firing?

 

4) Have you tried extrusion methods with this? I read something about silicone clay - adding silicone rubber to clay to make ropes of elastic clay that would eventually harden and then be fired. It seems that this might be within your thickness suggestion.

 

5) I am using paper clay which is supposedly stronger when it comes to thin pieces (per my research on the Internet). Your article says that is a good option. What about the basic red clay? Or a mix of both?

 

Any help in answering my questions would be appreciated. I want to know these before I search for or create a proper lesson plan. Again, thank you for any help that is offered.

 

Tien

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×