Thursday, December 19, 2013

Clay Case Day at New Artists

For one of our New Artists classes at Phillips Elementary, we had a chance to use Clay Cases! The Clay Case is an innovative ceramic kit produced by the Union Project, an arts and community center. The Union Project donated 25 cases to be used at our afterschool program. This was the first time Clay Cases had been used in a classroom setting, as well!

Each student in our Fourth and Fifth grade class received their own Clay Case. They couldn't wait to open the boxes, and were so excited to each have their own. The concept behind the Clay Case is that it contains everything you would need to make a ceramic project, and is especially designed for children and families. It includes 2 pounds of clay and an ample workmat, which is printed with illustrated instructions on basic handbuilding techniques. It also includes tips and inspirations for how you can combine the techniques to make fun projects!

For our lesson using the Clay Cases, we set about making clay desk organizers. We learned three different handbuilding techniques (pinchpot, slab and coil) to make compartments to store pens and paperclips and any other odds and ends.

The Clay Case also comes with an array of tools tailored for the ceramic arts. You get a neatly organized tool sleeve, which helped us to learn about each tool: the wire clay cutter, wooden rib, metal rib, wooden knife, ribbon tool, loop tool, brushes and stylus. Each kit also has a sponge and water dish.

The students enjoyed learning the basic building techniques, and then swiftly took off on adding their own sculptured elements and decorations to personalize their projects. For example one of our students Crystal, above, made an exquisite miniature bowl of fruit, which she attached to her organizer. I encouraged them to add decoration using attachment and incising techniques.

Once our students finished forming the clay, they had the option of painting it. The Clay Case comes with three primary colors of underglaze, which could be painted on before the pieces were fired. And on that note, each case comes with access to the Union Project's kiln.

We definitely got our hands messy while working with the clay. But when it came time to clean up, the neat organization of the box encouraged the students to put their tools away in the same manner. I think giving each student a kit of supplies is an excellent tactic for streamlining a creative project. It saves time on passing out materials, so the chunk of lesson and work time is much more concentrated. Amazingly, most of the students were able to finish their projects in just an hour! They also took more pride in cleaning up their workspace and keeping their case tidy.

Special thanks to the Union Project and Jenna Vanden Brink, the Ceramic studio manager, for making our experience with the Clay Cases possible. Learn more about how we first found out about the Union Project and Clay Case, in my recap about the PAECY Un-Conference. And if you are interested in having your own Clay Case, they are for sale on the Union Project's website.


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