Geneseo tile extravaganza update

May 25, 2010

Well,  lots of great work has been done in Mrs. Offords 4th grade class over the past few days and weeks–(probably great work has been done all year, but I can only write about the Buy Local part).  Since the last time I was in the class room with the students, I have been busy drawing a usable silhouette of the Geneseo bear which I then cut into 17 very random parts.  I have labeled the pieces by the Greek Alphabet so that I can “crack the code” when it comes time to reassemble the puzzle.  Today in class I handed out the paper puzzle pieces explaining to the students that there ceramic tile will be in that shape and when finished, all of the pieces will assemble into the bear shape.  Again the students amazed me in their eager acceptance of the game.  No one gripped that their piece was not equal to their neighbors or that they “had” to know which piece they had in order to sleep well tonight.  Clearly, these kids could teach many adults about the art of trust, patients, and delayed gratification.

Before starting into the clay, we met as a group and discussed some of the tools we will be using, their names and use, and defined basic terms such as clay, green ware, bisque ware, kiln, firing, etc.  In order for the puzzle to work each tile must be as exact as possible, so todays’ task was for the students to help me cut a chunk of clay from the big bag of clay, roll it out so that the paper shape would fit, and cut the shape with straight, smooth edges.  Having the students each help in cutting the clay gives me an early clue as to how confident or timid they are in working with someone and something new.  In order to help cut they have to put their hands on mine–this tactile step is one that some approach very hesitantly and others with much force.

After they rolled out the clay and cut the tile, we then had them start work (on paper) designing what the tile will look like based on the subject they have been assigned.  There are lots of creative ideas floating round, so I look forward to seeing what makes it onto the tiles.

May 26, 2010

Last night I worked on each piece at home making sure that the pieces matched their paper patterns as well as possible, checked to make sure each tile was within an acceptable thickness and dried them to the soft leather-hard state.

Today we met again to talk about some more tools and terms, I showed them a sampling of ways to engrave, texturize and carve into the clay.  Then the students got to work on their tiles using all kinds of tools to create their designs. It was fun to watch them work and to see them concentrate on the task at hand.

June 1, 2010

Over the weekend I went over each tile checking for sharp edges, and other possible problem areas.  I also dried them and bisqued them to be ready for today’s class.

Today was underglaze day.  I brought in 7 different colors for the students to use and talked to them about what an underglaze is (vs. a glaze or overglaze).  I spent some time with them showing them different effects they can create with different brushes and explained what to expect with the coloring process.  (Because a bisqued piece is very dry and porous, the underglaze gets sucked up very quickly, therefore, you can’t get much per paint stroke nor can you do a lot of blending in the colorants.)  The hour of  underglazing was lovely.  Mrs. Offord put on some music and poetry on tape and dimmed the lights so that there was a peaceful and restful environment for the kids.  They did, of course, talk and share with each other, but they remained focused and dedicated to the project at hand.  By the time we get to this stage, I have already spent hours with each tile at school and at home working them over, bisquing them, etc, so I have the pieces pretty memorized in the raw clay state.  To see them wake in color is such fun for me and a thrill every time.  The underglazes are very matted looking at this time and not in their finished glossy state, so I (and the kids) will have sill another color-shock after the final firing.

June 2, 2010

Two students were absent yesterday.  One will be gone the rest of the week, so Mrs. Offord had a friend underglaze her piece.  The other student was back in class today, so I returned to school with her tile and the underglazes so that she could complete her tile.

The rest of my day/night was spent waxing and glazing the 17 pieces and loading the kiln.  Every time I finish loading a kiln I feel like doing a victory dance–especially when the kiln is full of such exciting and unique pieces.  I will fire all day tomorrow and will be able to see the results on Friday.  The students, however, will need to wait until June 22 to see their artwork, as I will be out of town all of next week.

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