Integrating Clay into the Classroom Part 3

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Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

MeANSsculptureclasssoftslabs

student slab works in progress

Work of Valera Baytsa

Work of Valera Baytsa

CERAMIC SCULPTURE  Week 2 . We got a late start with this class because students needed to apply and be approved to be enrolled. I wish we had enough room and time for everyone to participate. This week we expanded our previous work with soft slabs based on the work of Valera Baytsa a Russian Ceramic Artist whom we researched last class.   Baytsa investigates community and relationships with very simple strong figurative sculptures using textures, gesture, line, space, shape, volume and mass. After looking at the slides the kids couldn’t wait to get their hands in the clay. The techniques we are employing are slab construction, slipping, scoring, rolling coil reinforcements, relief, stamping and sprigging.

shrinkage bars made from clay samples from campus

shrinkage bars made from clay samples from campus

EARTH SCIENCE Week 3

This week we took the soil (clay) samples we gathered previously and started our testing process. We weighed out 100 grams of each sample that had dried out and the added water until the clay had a workable consistency or ‘plasticity’. We recorded how much water was required and then made shrinkage bars with each sample. We recorded our observations. Students learned how to use the gram scale, keep accurate records and measurements.

students recording and measuring clay samples

Our tessellating design in progress

MATH AND GEOMETRY  Week 4. Students worked diligently on finishing the remaining tiles for our project. We recognized the value of precision and craftsmanship in creating hand-made work so that it would fit in our mathematical plane. We solved problems when the edges of our tessellation needed to terminate and be cropped. Group decisions were made about the addition or need for a border and we will continue to make adjustments where necessary consulting principals and elements of design.  We began the discussion about color and the optical changes that may make to our plane. We had the good fortune to be able to work outside on the picnic tables and enjoy the fresh air.

SOCIAL STUDIES AND HUMANITIES Week 4

This week we prepared a pit for our firing experience. Students dug a hole approximately 18” deep and 3 ft wide. The location we chose

digging the hole for our fire pit

digging the hole for our fire pit

was in a small clearing near the Museum and greenhouses. We chose that location because of the proximity to water(future) and it’s clear but protected space. Weather and wind play a major consideration when planning a firing. We needed to minimize risk and maximize safety.  Because of the location near the trail system and the LC Bates Museum students will create a placard that describes the educational and historical experience of pit firing vessels made using traditional methods.  Our kiln was fortified with recycled insulated firebrick (not traditional) but effective in keeping heat in and supporting the walls of our pit for future firings. During last week’s class we watched a video of Maria Martinez using recycled metal school lunch trays to hold the heat in her pit firing and decided that recycling useful materials was sustainable practice and would be an acceptable adaptation.

The primitive kiln we will use to fire out clay vessels in

The primitive kiln we will use to fire our clay vessels

crushing clay before we mix it

crushing clay before we mix it

During Activity period students are given a chance to help with other tasks pertaining to processing and firing our local clay. There is a lot of busy preparation work that goes along with this kind of sustainable artistic practice. Over the last few gorgeous weeks we’ve been drying clay on the side porch. On this day we finished crushing the particles as small as we could get them so that we can mix some dry materials and then slake down with water to create our first batch of usable Good Will-Hinckley/MeANS campus clay.

If you are interested in more information or how to support these and other great programs please contact Malley Weber at hallowellclayworks@myfairpoint.net or contact MeANS at www.gwh.org

Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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