This week was a Ceramic-stravaganza! Check out my favorite ceramics lessons and management tips posts in the links below:
Ceramics Management Tips
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. Each 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.All 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:
Imaginative Model Houses & Architectural Facades
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.
I thought it might be useful for you to see how I organize ceramics tools for my classroom. I have nine tables in my classroom and each table receives a ceramics toolbox and a small water dish. Each tool box is a Rubbermaid storage box (shoebox sized) that includes a variety of tools that are only used with clay.
I include needle tools, wooden clay tools, a variety of found objects that can be used for stamping patterns or textures, and forks. Plastic forks. These are by far the most useful tools I have found, and they were completely free. Whenever they get broken I get new ones from the cafeteria. When students sit down to work at their table I ask them to pull all of the forks out of their tool box and leave them in the water dish (which only contains about half an inch of water). The forks are used for scoring clay before joining. We don’t use slip at all. Students just score both pieces where they will be joined, press the two pieces together, then weld to join the pieces securely. The picture above is misleading, as I have since taken out the sponges. I think it encourages students to dip the sponge in the water and use it to try to smooth the clay, which nearly always results in a mud pie situation, which I prefer to avoid. Second most valuable tools in the box are the math pattern blocks which were donated to me by the occupational therapist in our school. They were going to be thrown away but they make the best texture stamps. I include tongue depressors- also donated, which I like to use for welding in tiny places too big for fingers, and empty thread spools, donated by my mom, which we use for pattern stamping. Even my water dishes were donated margarine tubs. Please note that all of these were FREE. The storage boxes cost 94 cents at Walmart.
All of the storage boxes are kept in on cabinet in my classroom, along with the water dishes that I use for clay. I do not have to set them up for each use, I just open the cabinet and set up the tables, and have a student volunteer return them to the cabinet when we are finished.
Since I always have multiple grade levels and multiple stages of clay at ceramics time, I had to find a way to keep different classes work organized. When I moved into my fancy schmancy new art room, I was able to order a ceramics cart like this one which has made transporting and storing clay sculptures in progress much more manageable.
Even still, I usually have every single shelf of this cart full, plus the storage shelves in my kiln room, plus multiple trays or copy paper box lids of sculptures to be glazed or returned. In order to easily see which class of sculptures is which without picking sculptures up and flipping them over to find a class code, I made a set of class code tags that can be easily clipped to any shelf, box, or tray using a binder clip. I laminated a set that includes one tag for every class we have in our school, color coded by grade level of course, and I keep them in a bag clipped onto the side of the cart.
Inside the bag with the tags I also keep binder clips that are exactly the right size for the shelves. When it is time to store work on the rolling cart I clip the class code tag to the shelf and students know on exactly which shelf to store their unfinished sculptures.
After bisque firing I move the sculptures and tag to a tray that I can carry into my room, which leaves more room on the rolling cart for greenware. When sculptures have been glaze fired and are waiting to be returned to students I move the tag and sculptures onto a shelf in my kiln room until it is time for them to go home. This system keeps things organized and helps my art teacher colleague find her things if I have fired them while she was at her other school. Even if I had a sub and wanted to leave glazing for the day, all I would have to do is let them know which class code to look for.