Thursday, October 16, 2014

In the Art Room: A One Class Clay Project

So I've got this super fun group of kids that hang out in my art room every Tuesday and make stuff outta clay. It's a class of about 15-ish first through fourth grade kids. We have a glorious hour of art makin' together and this here is one project we busted out in one of those classes. It's a project that I used to do all the time with my second grade kids until I just got so tired of it, I couldn't do it anymore. You know what I'm talking about, right? Howevers, it is one of those everybody-loves-it/they-always-turn-out-fab/personalized-and-thusly-awesome project that bears repeating (gah, I do love that saying as it always puts the image of a buncha repeating bears in my head).
This is also one of those fire-it-once type of projects which is always a plus. Most projects I do with the kids usually require both a bisque and a glaze firing. Which is tiresome for a super lazy art teacher like myself. Without sounding like an old lady, does anyone else experience a little back aching from leaning over the kiln whilst loading and unloading? Please tell me it's not just me and my whiny/gripey personality.
So just how were the bad boys completed in under 60 minutes? Well, lemme show ya.
I gave each of the kids a hunk of low fire (Cone O6) clay the size of  a large orange. I have a variety of doilies, pieces of burlap and lace that we use for texture. The kids pick one and place it on their clay mat.
The lump of clay is then dropped onto the doily covered mat and pounded flat. This is usually when my left eye begins to twitch and the onset of a headache begins. A room full of 15 kids pounding the daylights outta clay is just a lil holy-crap-this-is-my-life?! inducing. Thankfully it ends rather quickly as the kids know to stop the pounding when their clay is as thick as a cookie.
The clay is then pealed off the doily and placed right-side-up on the clay mat.
I then gave the kids a variety of templates to trace for their wall hanging. Some are flower shaped, square, round, whateves. When tracing with a skewer, it's key that the stick stand tall and vertical ("like a soldier") so that it can cut all the way through the clay. Otherwise, you'll get that unappealing shark's tooth edge and, like I always tell 'em, it's not Shark Week in the art room.
Then the glazing begins. Now, we used Stroke and Coat by Mayco for this project. Normally, I'd only use that kind of glaze after a bisque fire. However, for this project, the glaze had double duty (OMG, do your kids also loose their sh%% if you say the word "duty"? Make it stooooop, y'all!) by not only acting as a colorant but as glue. 
See? Roll a coil, shape it into your initials, a shape, whatever you like and press it into the wet glaze. 
Most kids opted to also paint their letters and add a lil decoration to the background. I used the back of the paint brushes to create two holes to hang the masterpiece.
When they came outta the kiln, the kids were given a piece of Twisteez wire cut in half and the chance to dig around in my big ole bucket of beads.
So I was gifted this giant stash of beads which is cool because the beads are super unique. There's dolphins and cat beads, flower and sparkle beads. You name it, there's a bead for it. However, I warn you, if you unleash the kids on beads, it's like a piranha attack (P.S. never EVER image search "piranha attack". I can't unsee what the interwebs just showed me, waaaahhhh!). Just place a handful of beads on a couple plates on the tables and step back. I did limit the kids to only 10-ish beads so they could pick the ones that meant the most to them...and save some for the rest of the kids on the planet.
We have a lotta school pride at my school. This dude showcased the school initials and used school colors. 
So often our clay projects take many sessions. With this quick lesson, the kids were thrilled to be able to take their creations home and share them with their families. And who can blame 'em? They're pretty rad.

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  1. These are super and something we could do in one class...amazing idea! I'm always looking for clay projects. As an art major and not an art ed major, there are clay tricks I just don't know. Thanks for the glaze as glue trick!

  2. I know some kids who would really enjoy this….thanks for sharing in great detail!!!!

  3. Thanks for sharing this idea! I'm going to use it this week for my after-school art club. A couple of questions: Did you ask the kids to use three coats of this glaze on the wet clay, or is it pretty opaque with one coat? Also, how did you dispense the glaze for each table? I always end up putting either too much out, and then it dries and is wasted, or too little and I spend the whole class running around refilling the cups. Thanks!

  4. Is there a way to make this type of project without firing it. Our park district does not have a kiln.

    1. Anonymous3/17/2016

      I've done it with the Crayola Air Dry clay with my after school students (we've no kiln either). We do it in two pieces…the background and their initial. Once dry we just glue the initial onto the background real well, let dry, and then paint with tempera or watercolors. They've come out awesome. Hopes this helps.

    2. Anonymous3/17/2016

      oops…we actually paint the two pieces on their own and THEN glue.

  5. Anonymous3/16/2016

    Love this idea- it will also be a great end of the year project to get rid of any extra clay that wouldn't make it until next year!
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas- you are my idol!

  6. My long comment suddenly disappeared under that G+1 Redbox. Under that blue writing that says Cassie Stephans and at Thursday October 16, 2014. Also says Share in a dark blue box. My comment did not appear with all the other comments. Did you ever get my comment?

  7. Cassie, I have been wanting to glaze while the clay is still wet, thanks for the idea because this will expedite things!! Goodness knows, iI only see these kids every 6-8 days and they do love art...thankfully!!

  8. Hey Cassie! What kind of clay do you use? Is there a kind of glaze you'd stay away from when firing on wet clay?


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